CASTEL GANDOLFO, AUG. 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II made an appeal this Sunday for the “full solidarity of the whole ecclesial community” with the faithful who “continue to be subjected to harsh tests because of their adherence to Christ and his Church.”
In his address, which he gave from the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo before praying the Angelus, the Holy Father recalled the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, which Christian tradition observes on Aug. 29.
St. John the Baptist “rendered to God the supreme testimony of blood by immolating his life for truth and justice” when he was decapitated “by order of Herod, to whom he dared to say that it was not lawful that he should have his brother’s wife,” the Holy Father said.
Speaking with clear diction, the Pope explained to the pilgrims that martyrdom is “a sign of the holiness of the Church” and the “culminating testimony of moral truth.”
Though few are called to this sacrifice, all Christians “must be ready to give every day” the “testimony of coherence” even “at the price of suffering and great sacrifices,” the Holy Father stressed.
In fact, “a truly heroic determination” is needed, “also in daily life,” to live the Gospel without concessions.
“John the Baptist’s heroic example makes one think of the martyrs of the faith who throughout the centuries followed courageously in his footsteps,” he continued.
Such is the case of the “numerous Christians who in the last century were victims of religious hatred in different nations of Europe,” the Pope said.
“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,” he noted.
“May these brothers and sisters feel the solidarity of the whole ecclesial community!” he exhorted, showing signs of exhaustion, while commending persecuted Christians to the Holy Virgin, Queen of martyrs.