EUROPE/ITALY - Witnesses with a "burning heart". Sunday, March 24 "Day of Missionary Martyrs"

Friday, 22 March 2024 evangelization   pontifical mission societies   missionary animation   martyrs   missionaries  

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - A witness that "shines", that illuminates the spiritual path, that strengthens it. This is the testimony of the martyrs who are celebrated in Italy every year on March 24th on the occasion of the Day dedicated to them, established in 1993 by Missio Giovani, the youth section of the Italian National Direction of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Also for 2024, “Missio Giovani” has distributed materials and texts to promote the celebration of prayer vigils, liturgical celebrations and initiatives related to the Day, which this year coincides with Palm Sunday. The Day of Missionary Martyrs - recalls Giovanni Rocca, secretary of Missio Giovani until a few months ago, in the introductory text - "has its origins in the commemoration of Saint Oscar Romero, killed on March 24, 1980. Year after year, his figure embodies the symbol of closeness to the poorest and of tireless commitment to the cause of the Gospel. His commitment alongside the Salvadoran people, who fought against an elite regime indifferent to the living conditions of the most vulnerable and workers, continues to speak to young people and beyond, reminding them of the need for a Christian life devoted to prayer as much attention as caring for their sisters and brothers".
Among the various working materials distributed by “Missio Italia”, in addition to prayer suggestions, there are also eight videos about figures of murdered witnesses (from the Comboni missionary Ezechiele Ramin to the ordained layman Luciano Lanzoni, from the lay missionary Annalena Tonelli to the missionary Loredana Vigini) as well as illustrations of solidarity projects. The theme of the day is a “burning heart” and refers to the quote from the Gospel about the disciples of Emmaus. Angelo Fracchia, biblical scholar and religious teacher, writes about this in the usual thematic reflection that is attached to the material dossier, starting with the figure of Saint Stephen, the proto-martyr, the first of the Christian "witnesses".
“Stephen is not afraid to speak, to explain, if necessary with blunt harshness. But at the same time he does not become violent towards those who stone him, he does not insult, he does not accuse. He turns his gaze to Jesus and recognizes someone in him a guide who had already gone through what he is currently experiencing. And, strengthened by the closeness of the Father, he always remains in this love, without seeking revenge, without complaining about injustice, with a tender and clear gaze". (EG) (Agenzia Fides, 22/3/2024)