The Memorial of the New Martyrs of the 20th and 21st Centuries was inaugurated on Thursday, 23 March, at 6pm at the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island, an exhibition space in the crypt below the Basilica, which dates back to the year 1000. The exhibition space will allow pilgrims and visitors to learn more about the stories of our contemporary martyrs.
The inauguration was attended by Cardinal Blaise Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago and titular of the Basilica, Prefect Fabrizio Gallo, director of the Fondo Edifici di Culto del Ministero dell'Interno, Cardinal Vicar of Rome Angelo De Donatis, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, and Professor Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Comunità di Sant'Egidio, will take part in the inauguration.
Maximilian Kolbe's prayer book and Father Pino Puglisi's stole, the catechism of three nuns killed in Burundi and Father Jacques Hamel's breviary are among the relics kept in the Memorial of the New Martyrs.
"This Memorial represents the completion of John Paul II's decision to recognize this Basilica as a shrine to the martyrs of the 20th century," said the founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, Andrea Riccardi, noting that the Polish Pope "had known martyrdom at first hand and wanted it not to be forgotten. The past century opened with the great massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, yet the martyrdom of Christians in the former Russian Empire began in those same years. Today we discuss the role of the Moscow Patriarchate in the war in Ukraine but we have to remember - underlined Riccardi - that it was a Church of martyrs".
Cardinal Vicar Angelo De Donatis said it is important that the memorial is in Rome so that “every pilgrim who comes to pray at the tombs of the martyrs St. Peter and St. Paul will have a reminder that there are still people giving their lives for their faith today.” Monsignor Fabio Fabene, secretary of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, announced, in preparation for the Jubilee 2025, that a commission has been set up to collect "names and testimonies of people of the 20th and 21st centuries who by their example and shed blood edified the Church".
The event was also attended by Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, whose archdiocese financially supported the realisation of the Memorial."The martyrs," the American cardinal pointed out, "have the power to build fraternity among all peoples." Prefect Fabrizio Gallo of the Fund for Buildings of Worship, who supervised the restoration of the crypt that now houses the Memorial, was closing speaker of the event.
The Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island is a living place of prayer and meeting. In 1993 it was entrusted to the Community of Sant'Egidio. Young people from high school and university attend it, animating liturgies and prayers, using the adjoining premises for activities in favour of the poor. After the Great Jubilee of 2000, St John Paul II wanted the Basilica of St Bartholomew to become a memorial place of the New Martyrs. Since then, the Basilica has been collecting about a hundred relics and testimonies, and it has been visited by pilgrims and believers of all Christian denominations. The Memorial displays relics and testimonies, from all the continents, including those of the martyrs of Communism, Nazism, of those killed while serving the poor, and the cause of peace, dialogue, and justice, of missionary martyrs, of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, starting with the Armenians and Syriacs killed in the massacres during the First World War, as well as of martyrs of the Mafia.