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Message of Pope Francis in memory of the 21 Coptic martyrs

16 February 2021 • Persistent link: iarccum.org/?p=3802

On Monday 15 February Pope Francis sent a video message (scroll down) for the “Day of Contemporary Martyrs” organized by the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of London on the occasion of the commemoration of the 21 Coptic martyrs executed on 15 February 2015.

The initiative gathered in a webinar His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and His Eminence Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, as well as other participants.

The “Day of Contemporary Martyrs” is a commemorative event of thanksgiving for the lives of those who faithfully practised their Christian faith till the shedding of their blood, offering at the same time the opportunity to raise awareness of the ongoing tragedy of those who are still today persecuted solely on the basis of faith or belief.

In his message Pope Francis highlighted that the 21 Coptic martyrs were “baptised as Christians with water and the Spirit, and that day also baptised with blood. They are our Saints, Saints of all Christians, Saints of all Christian denominations and traditions”. The Holy Father then thanked “the bishops, the priests of the Coptic sister church which raised them and taught them to grow in the faith”.

In his address Cardinal Koch affirmed that the martyrdom of the 21 Copts in 2015 had enabled Christians to understand that “martyrs are not only people of the early Church represented on some ancient icons, but their very own contemporaries”. Referring to Saint John Paul II, who believed that “[i]n a theocentric vision, we Christians already have a common Martyrology”, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity expressed the hope that “martyrs of other Churches, like the 21 commemorated today, may also be included one day in the martyrology of the Catholic Church”.

Full text of Pope Francis’ video message

Today is the day I have in my heart, that February of 2015. I hold in my heart that baptism of blood, those twenty-one men baptised as Christians with water and the Spirit, and that day also baptised with blood. They are our Saints, Saints of all Christians, Saints of all Christian denominations and traditions. They are those who have blanched their lives in the blood of the Lamb, they are those… of the people of God, the faithful people of God.

They had gone to work abroad to support their families: ordinary men, fathers of families, men with the illusion [desire] to have children; men with the dignity of workers, who not only seek to bring home bread, but to bring it home with the dignity of work. And these men bore witness to Jesus Christ. Their throats slit by the brutality of Isis, they died saying: “Lord Jesus!”, confessing the name of Jesus.

It is true that this was a tragedy, that these people lost their lives on that beach; but it is also true that the beach was blessed by their blood. And it is even more true that from their simplicity, from their simple but consistent faith, they received the greatest gift a Christian can receive: bearing witness to Jesus Christ to the point of giving their life.

I thank God our Father because He gave us these courageous brothers. I thank the Holy Spirit because He gave them the strength and consistency to confess Jesus Christ to the point of shedding blood. I thank the bishops, the priests of the Coptic sister church which raised them and taught them to grow in the faith. And I thank the mothers of these people, of these twenty-one men, who “nursed” them in the faith: they are the mothers of God’s holy people who transmit the faith “in dialect”, a dialect that goes beyond languages, the dialect of belonging.

I join all of you, brother bishops, in this commemoration. To you, great, beloved Tawadros, brother bishop and friend. To you, Justin Welby, who also wanted to come to this meeting. And to all the other bishops and priests, but above all I join the holy faithful people of God who in their simplicity, with their consistency and inconsistencies, with their graces and sins, carry forth the confession of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is Lord.

I thank you, twenty-one saints, Christian saints of all confessions, for your witness. And I thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for being so close to your people, for not forgetting them.

Let us pray together today in memory of these twenty-one Coptic Martyrs: may they intercede for us all before the Father. Amen.

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