Pope Francis remembers a woman beheaded for being a Christian
St. Bartholomew is one of the Eternal City's lesser known basilicas, but it was chosen by John Paul II as the place dedicated to present day martyrs.
Pope Francis also visited the church, and at the door the little ones welcomed him with great joy and enthusiasm. However, little by little the remembrance of the twentieth and twenty-first century martyrs created an atmosphere of respectable silence.
First, Pope Francis prayed for a few moments before a new icon with martyrs of the last decades, such as the murders of Monsignor Óscar Romero and other Christians, not only Catholics.
The ceremony began with a painful memory: the bishops and priests who have been kidnapped in recent years, of whom nothing is still known.
President, Community Sant'Egidio
"Today, by a significant coincidence, marks the fourth anniversary of the abduction of the bishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Gregorios Ibrahim, who have prayed in this church. For them, we ask for their release, together with Paolo Dall'Oglio."
After the Liturgy of the Word in memory of the so-called "New Martyrs," Pope Francis said that the Church is moving forward thanks to the testimony of those who consistently live their faith, whether they are martyrs or not.
He also noted that in that basilica was missing the icon of one martyr in particular.
"A woman; I do not know her name, but she looks at us from Heaven. I was in Lesbos, greeting the refugees, and I found a man around 30 years old with three children. He looked at me and said, 'Father, I am a Muslim. My wife was a Christian.'”
Pope Francis said that when the terrorists arrived, they ordered the woman to drop the crucifix on the floor. At her refusal, she was beheaded on the spot in front of her husband.
"This is the icon I bring as a gift here. I do not know if that man is still in Lesbos or if he managed to go somewhere else. I do not know if he's been able to get out of that concentration camp. Because refugee camps, many of them, are concentration camps, because oft he amount of people left there. The generous people who welcome them must bear this weight alone, because international agreements seem more important than human rights. This man had no grudge. He, a Muslim, carried forward this cross of pain without rancor."
Pope Francis then prayed at the remains of the twentieth and twenty-first century martyrs, in front of their liturgical or daily objects that have been preserved. For example, the breviary of Jacques Hamel, the priest murdered in his French parish by two terrorists in July 2016.
In fact, his sister, Roseylyne, was one of the people who participated in the ceremony.
At the conclusion of the event, Pope Francis met with a group of refugees. Once outside the basilica, he said the current civilization is facing a contradiction; children are not being born, yet people are closing the doors on migrants.