Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Friday, January 15,2016, Gaudium Press) “The history of Christianity is full of stories of countless martyrs who, from the first centuries to the present day, bear witness with their blood to their unconditional faith in the Savior of mankind”, with these words the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Cardinal Orani João Tempesta, starts his article addressing the issue of martyrs who have given their lives for the defense of the Christian Faith.
“First of all, we ask ourselves: what is a martyr” the Crdinal writes “The martyr is a Christian who dies in the midst of torture because of his of Faith. We must remember that this Greek word means ‘witness'”.
“The martyr bears witness to his faith in Jesus, who is one Lord, excluding any other, even an emperor. The Christian does not seek martyrdom, although martyrdom may come his way. He defends his life and can escape persecution, but if it happens he gives witness of it imitating Jesus in his passion and death. Thus, the martyr is identified with Jesus” he explains.
The Cardinal writes: “Martyrs did not existed only during the early centuries, but we can find them in all times and places. The history of the Church is permeated by the witness of martyrs in every corner of the planet. However, when we speak of persecution of Christianity, nothing can be compared to the twentieth century and the beginning of this twenty-first century”.
“Only the martyrs from the great revolutions and the dictatorial regimes out weighted other times in history. The Russian Revolution (1917), for example, has killed about 17,000 priests and 34,000 religious. Communism spread around the world and declared religion as subversive and enemy of the state. Churches, convents and seminaries have been closed and destroyed. There are countless numbers of martyrs for various reasons in countries like the Soviet Union, Lithuania, Romania, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba. Even in countries with a Christian background, like Spain and Mexico, we find persecution and martyrdom” the Cardinal explains.
He adds: “martyr is anyone who dies in the name of faith. To them we want to ask the grace of having a mature and well founded faith on the rock which is Jesus Christ.”
“In these days when our Archdiocese celebrates its patron saint, martyr Saint Sebastian, let us repeat the invocation of the early Church: ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of new Christians'” the Cardinal Orani concluded. (LMI).
From the Editor’s Desk at Gaudium Press, with information from the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro