Martyrdom is a “Sign of the Holiness of the Church”

John the Baptist Gives Heroic Example

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, AUG. 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II's address at midday on Sunday, before praying the Angelus with several thousands of pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.



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1. Today, August 29, Christian tradition recalls the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist "the greatest among those born of women," as the Messiah himself praised him (see Luke 7:28). He rendered to God the supreme testimony of blood by immolating his life for truth and justice; he was, in fact, decapitated by order of Herod, to whom he dared to say that it was not lawful that he should have his brother's wife (see Matthew 6:17-29).

2. In the encyclical "Veritatis Splendor," 1993, John Paul II, recalling John the Baptist's sacrifice, I noted that martyrdom is "a sign of the holiness of the Church.” In fact, it represents the culminating testimony of moral truth. If relatively few are called to the supreme sacrifice, there is, however, "the testimony of coherence that all Christians must be ready to give every day even at the price of suffering and great sacrifices. One needs, at times, a truly heroic determination, also in daily life, not to give in to the difficulties that push one to compromise, and to live the Gospel "sine glosa."

3. John the Baptist's heroic example makes one think of the martyrs of the faith who throughout the centuries followed courageously in his footsteps. In a special way, I recall the numerous Christians who in the last century were victims of religious hatred in different nations of Europe. Also today, in some parts of the world, believers continue to be subjected to harsh tests because of their adherence to Christ and his Church.

May these brothers and sisters feel the solidarity of the whole ecclesial community! We commend them to the Holy Virgin, Queen of Martyrs, whom we now invoke together.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims present in several languages. In English, he said:]

I warmly welcome the English-speaking visitors present at the Angelus. May Almighty God bless you and your families with joy and peace!