Witnesses of Faith

Benedict XVI's teaching on modern martyrs

«They witness that Christ's love is stronger than hatred.»

On August 7, the Church remembers St. Pope Sixtus II and his associates. Liturgical memory about these martyrs remembers us that even today, in the third millennium, numerous Christians are persecuted and discriminated.

Only after 11 months after his election as a pope, Sixtus II had been beheaded together with six deacons at Cemetery of Callixtus - it happened in year 258. Edict of the Emperor Valerian forbade to pronounce the name of Christ. Pope Sixtus considered that it's better to listen to God than to people. That's why he paid his life for his love towards Jesus. Today, 2000 years after this event which changed the history, Christians remain the most persecuted community in the world. Benedict XVI says about "chased, imprisoned, tortured, deprived of liberty and limited in their activity missionaries, priest, bishops, monks, nuns and faithful laity, just because they are pupils of Christ and apostles of the Gospel": he calls to pray that "human rights, equality and religious freedom would be acknowledged" for all Christians who are persecuted and suffering from discrimination (their number is about 200 million people). In the same time, Pope sees modern martyrs as a sign of hope:
"These missionary martyrs, as this year's theme says, are the "hope of the world", because they bear witness that Christ's love is stronger than violence and hatred. They did not seek martyrdom, but they were ready to give their lives in order to remain faithful to the Gospel. Christian martyrdom is only justified when it is a supreme act of love for God and our brethren."(Angelus, March 25, 2007)

"Love of one's enemy constitutes the nucleus of the "Christian revolution", a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power: the revolution of love, a love that does not rely ultimately on human resources but is a gift of God which is obtained by trusting solely and unreservedly in his merciful goodness. Here is the newness of the Gospel which silently changes the world! Here is the heroism of the "lowly" who believe in God's love and spread it, even at the cost of their lives." (Angelus, February 18, 2007)

Christian martyr transfigurates death into the act of love:
"What on the outside is simply brutal violence - the Crucifixion - from within becomes an act of total self-giving love. This is the substantial transformation which was accomplished at the Last Supper and was destined to set in motion a series of transformations leading ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will be all in all (cf. I Cor 15: 28). In their hearts, people always and everywhere have somehow expected a change, a transformation of the world. Here now is the central act of transformation that alone can truly renew the world: violence is transformed into love, and death into life." (Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at Marienfeld, Cologne, August 21, 2005)

Pope thinks "with special spiritual closeness... of those Catholics who maintain their fidelity to the See of Peter without ceding to compromises, sometimes at the price of grave sufferings":

"The whole Church admires their example and prays that they have the strength to persevere, knowing that their tribulations are the font of victory, even if at that moment they can seem a failure." (Angelus, December 26, 2006)

There is also persecution from the secularism side, where people want ever more to cut out Christians to the roadside of society, reducing faith to a private fact, considering it to be legal only if limited by the Church's scope and not influencing social life:

"How can we not say that everywhere, even where there is no persecution, there is a high price to pay for consistently living the Gospel? ... let us ask God for the grace to live our faith consistently, ever ready to answer those who ask us to account for the hope that is in us." (Angelus, December 26, 2005)

Pope calls again to "respond to evil not with evil, but with power of truth and charity":

"May Mary Most Holy, Queen of Martyrs, help us to be credible Gospel witnesses, responding to our enemies with the disarming power of truth and charity." (Angelus, December 26, 2007)