ROME, NOV. 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A congress held for the close of the Year of the Eucharist pointed out the relationship that Church martyrs have always had with the sacrament of Jesus’ real presence.
The Pontifical Academy of Devotion to Martyrs organized a day of study Oct. 27, at the Teutonic College of St. Mary in Camposanto, on the theme: “The Eucharist: Strength of Martyrs, Source of Christian Witness.”
One of the congress’s speakers, Monsignor Pasquale Iacobone, a member of the martyrs academy and an official of the secretariat of the Pontifical Council for Culture, spoke with ZENIT.
“In antiquity, many martyrs were captured or killed during the celebration of the Eucharist, as for example the martyrs of Abitene, who were killed because they celebrated the Eucharist despite emperor Diocletian’s prohibition,” the monsignor said.
“Pope Sixtus II was captured on Rome’s Appian Way, together with four deacons, among them Lawrence, just when he was celebrating the Eucharist,” he added.
Another congress participant, Monsignor Lorenzo Dattrino, professor of patrology at the Lateran University, mentioned Ignatius, an early bishop of Antioch, as an example of Eucharistic martyrdom.
“Ignatius was a very well-known bishop,” Monsignor Dattrino said. “Emperor Commodus wanted to make a big spectacle by feeding him to wild beasts.
“During his trip to Rome, Ignatius wrote seven letters, and having learned that the Christians of Rome were moving to try to avoid his death, wrote: ‘If you really love me, do nothing, let the sun, which rises in the east, set in the west.'”
Gifted with a marked Eucharistic spirituality, Bishop Ignatius once wrote: “Given that, to make bread the wheat must be ground, and to make wine the grapes must be crushed, so I want my members to be broken and ground by the beasts’ teeth to become a sacrifice pleasing to God.”
“By nourishing ourselves with the Eucharist,” concluded Monsignor Dattrino, “we are ‘Christified’ because Christ is the first martyr and therefore we are martyrs in the school of Christ.”
Founded under the title Collegium Cultorum Martyrum, in 1879, the Pontifical Academy of Devotion to Martyrs promotes devotion to them, enhances and deepens the exact history of the witnesses of the faith, and monuments related to them, from the first centuries of Christianity.