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Rome Reports

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Rome commemorates martyrs from the first persecution

Each year on the last day of June, the Catholic Church remembers these protomartyrs of the Roman Church with the Feast of the First Martyrs of Rome. The Pontifical Academy Martyrdom Cultorum celebrates this day with a Mass and a procession through the Vatican streets where members of the Order of Malta and Knights of the Holy Sepulchre participate.

Protomartyr is the name given to the first martyrs of the Church in Rome. It is unknown how many died and what their names are.

Msgr. Pasquale Iacobone

Pontifical Academy Martyrdom Cultorum

“Tacitus and others historians talk about thousands of victims. It is impossible to count them. But we know that at one time among the victims there were not only adults but also elderly, women and children.”

At the time Emperor Nero blamed Christians for the fire that destroyed part of the Roman city in July of the year 64. But according to historian Tacitus, in reality it was Nero himself who ordered the fire to destroy a popular neighborhood in which he built his new palace: the Domus Aurea.

After that first persecution, more followed: sometimes locally, sometimes in all of the empire.

Msgr. Pasquale Iacobone

Pontifical Academy Martyrdom Cultorum

“They were massacred. Some were dressed with animal fur and others burned with torches, to light up the night. They suffered indescribable torture.”

Among these martyrs are St. Peter. His tomb, on which they built St. Peter?s Basilica, is in the cemetery of the Vatican hill, which you can still visit under the grottoes of the Basilica.Centuries later, these martyrs continue being an example for all Christians.

Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi

President, Pontifical Council for Culture

“Actually there doesn?t exist a good or bad feeling, we don?t have them, we have become gray. We have turned into stones, we have become cold. Martyrs are here to remind us that this is one of the major sicknesses of the spirit.”

One day to remember all of these people who, for a long period of history, were persecuted and tortured simply for being Christians and to remember those who are persecuted today just because they believe in God.