08/29/2004, 00.00
VATICAN
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Pope: "Today's martyrs, the Church is close to you"

Castelgandolfo (AsiaNews) – In today's Angelus the Pope said that martyrdom was "the high point of the witness to moral truth", that all believers are called upon to resist any "compromises" and make "a heroic commitment" to live the Gospels in an authentic fashion. He said it on a day in the liturgical calendar that commemorates Saint John the Baptist.

The Baptist's martyrdom, the Pope said, reminds us of the "martyrs of the faith" and the many Christians "who last century suffered religious hatred in various European countries."

Today, the Pope added, there are martyrs still, "believers subject to hardships in many parts of the world for following Christ and His Church."

To these Christians the Pope pledged "the solidarity of the entire Church community."

Here is the text of what the Pope said in today's Angelus:

According to Christian tradition today, August 29, marks the memory of Saint John the Baptist's martyrdom, who the Messiah himself praised: "I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John (cf. Lk 7, 28).

He proved to God his supreme loyalty in giving his life in witness to truth and justice for he was decapitated on Herod's orders guilty of telling him that it was not lawful to take his brother's wife (cf. Mt 6, 17 – 29).

In the Encyclical Veritatis splendor, when I recalled John the Baptist's sacrifice (cf. Nº 91), I also noted that martyrdom is "an outstanding sign of the holiness of the Church" (Nº 93). It "represents the high point of the witness to moral truth" (ibid.). Even though relatively few people are called to make the supreme sacrifice, there is nonetheless "a consistent witness which all Christians must daily be ready to make, even at the cost of suffering and grave sacrifice" (ibid.). Indeed, something akin to a heroic commitment is needed to live the Gospels sine glossa (i.e. without any other interpretation) and resist the difficulties and compromises of daily life.

John the Baptist's heroic example reminds us of the martyrs of the faith who, over the centuries, courageously followed in his footsteps. I am especially reminded of the many Christians who last century suffered religious hatred in various European countries. Even today believers are subject to hardships in many parts of the world for following Christ and His Church.

Let these brothers and sisters feel the solidarity of the entire Church community! We commend them to the Holy Virgin, Queen of Martyrs, to whom, together, we now appeal.

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