As John Paul II did in 2000, this new body will also have to deal with the drafting of an ecumenical Catalog of those who have given their lives for the Gospel in our time in view of the Jubilee of 2025. The previous Commission made an inventory of more of 1,700 martyrs in Asia in the 20th century. Among the members of the Commission is the Vietnamese Fr. Dinh Anh Nhue Nguyen.
Vatican City () – As in the year 2000, the Jubilee of 2025 will have among its central themes the memory of the new martyrs. And it will be the occasion to publish a new Catalog of the witnesses of the faith of each Christian confession who have given their lives for the Gospel in this first part of the 21st century. This was announced by Pope Francis in a letter published today, in which he announced the creation of the “Commission of the new martyrs – Witnesses of the faith” in the Department for the Causes of Saints, which will have the task of working in this topic in view of the Jubilee and to constantly update this list in the future.
John Paul II, on the occasion of the Jubilee of the year 2000, had already wanted a commission of this type to focus on the martyrs of the 20th century: the victims of totalitarian regimes (both Nazism-fascism and communism), but also the martyrs of evangelization and charity of all Christian denominations. The result of this work, coordinated by Professor Andrea Riccardi, historian and founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, was a list of some 13,000 names, including more than 1,700 martyrs from Asia and more than 1,100 from the former Soviet Union. His memory was the center of an ecumenical celebration that John Paul II presided over at the Coliseum on May 7, 2000 and constituted one of the most solemn moments of the Jubilee.
Now, therefore, Pope Francis proposes to also look to the 21st century, a time in which – as he has said repeatedly in recent years – “the martyrs are even more numerous than in the first centuries”. In the letter, the pontiff explains the meaning of this choice: “The martyrs in the Church – he wrote – are witnesses of the hope that springs from faith in Christ and encourages true charity. Hope keeps alive the deep conviction that good is stronger than evil, because God in Christ has conquered sin and death”.
Continuing the path begun in the year 2000, the Commission – chaired by the secretary of the department, Monsignor Faio Fabene – will have Professor Riccardi as vice-president and Mons. Marco Gnavi, who was already secretary of the Great Jubilee Commission in the year 2000. Among the members chosen by Pope Francis for the Commission is the Vietnamese Franciscan Fr. Dinh Anh Nhue Nguyen, secretary of the Pontifical Missionary Union.
Francisco specified that with the Commission “it is not intended to establish new criteria for the canonical verification of martyrdom.” With respect to the causes of beatification, therefore, the plans continue to be different, to promote a broader view of those who are still killed today because of the Gospel. In addition, the Pope also confirmed the intuition of the “ecumenism of blood”, which had already guided John Paul II. “The investigation – he explained – will not refer only to the Catholic Church, but will extend to all Christian denominations. Even in our time, in which we are witnessing a change of era, Christians continue to show, in contexts of great risk , the vitality of Baptism that unites us”.
In the letter, the Pontiff also indicated some types of these new martyrs: “Those who, despite being aware of the dangers they run, manifest their faith or participate in the Sunday Eucharist. Others are killed while trying to save the lives of the poor in charity, for caring for those discarded by society, for valuing and promoting the gift of peace and the power of forgiveness. Others are silent victims, individual or collective, of the vicissitudes of history. With all of them we have a great debt and we cannot forget them”.
Pope Francis specified that the Commission established in the Department for the Causes of Saints “must make use of the active contribution of the particular Churches in their articulations, of the religious institutes and of all other Christian entities”. And he concluded: “In a world in which evil sometimes seems to prevail, I am sure that the preparation of this Catalogue, also in the context of the upcoming Jubilee, will help believers to read our time in the light of the Easter, taking from the casket of such generous fidelity to Christ the reasons for life and good”.