Heroes of Faith Bring Tears at Synod

Latvian Prelate Recalls Those Who Died for Bible

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Heroes of faith who gave their lives for having or reading the Bible were remembered today at the world Synod of Bishops.

Bishop Antons Justs of Jelgava, Latvia, spoke about these martyrs before the general congregation of the synod, which is dedicated to «The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.» His address brought tears from some of those present.

His speech, delivered in the company of Benedict XVI, was dedicated to the martyrs of the 20th century who were killed in the Soviet Union: «priests, men, and women who died by proclaiming the Word of God.»

«I remember our Latvian priest, Viktors,» he said, according to the summary of his address provided by the Vatican, «who during the Soviet regime in Latvia was arrested for possessing the holy Bible. In the eyes of the Soviet agents the holy Scriptures were an antirevolutionary book. The agents threw the holy Scriptures on the floor and ordered the priest to step on it. The priest refused and instead knelt down and kissed the book.

«For this gesture the priest was condemned to 10 years of hard labor in Siberia. Ten years later when the priest returned to his parish and celebrated the holy Mass, he read the Gospel. Then he lifted up the lectionary and said: ‘The Word of God!’ The people cried and thanked God. They did not dare to applaud him, because that would be understood as another provocation.»

The bishop noted that during the Soviet era, no religious books were allowed to be printed.

«Our Latvian people did what the first century Christians did,» he said. «They learned the passages of the holy Scriptures by heart. Still today in Latvia there is an oral tradition alive. We stand on the shoulders of our martyrs to proclaim the Word of God. Our grandchildren remember their grandfathers and grandmothers, who died for their faith and they like to be, in their turn, the ‘heroes’ of faith.»

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