This is an initiative of the Missionary Youth Movement of the Pontifical Missionary Works. Last May 7, during the celebration of the witnesses of the faith of the different Christian churches and communities, John Paul II said: “How many Christians in the 20th century, in all the continents, paid for their love of Christ by spilling their blood! … Their memory must not be forgotten.”
March 24, the chosen date, coincides with the day of the 1980 murder of San Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed while celebrating Mass. The Pope remembered the archbishop during the May 7 celebration last year.
Between 1980 and 1989, at least 115 missionaries and Catholic priests were killed, according to the Fides missionary agency. Between 1990 and 2000, there were 603 martyrs counted, including 248 clergy and religious who died in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.