In these last few days, the Church celebrates the feast of several martyrs - 20th June the Irish Martyrs; 22nd June Saints Thomas More and John Fisher; 28th June St Irenaeus; 29th June Saints Peter and Paul, 1st July, St Oliver Plunkett. What all of them have in common is the courage that Jesus asks of us in this Sunday's Gospel. In this extract from a homily given at the Colosseum in Rome in 2000, Pope John Paul II commended the example of the martyrs to us today:
'In our century the witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestant Christians....Countless numbers refused to yield to the cult of the false gods of the twentieth century and were sacrificed by Communism, Nazism, by the idolatry of State or race. Many others fell in the course of ethnic or tribal wars, because they had rejected a way of thinking foreign to the Gospel of Christ. In the century and the millennium just begun may the memory of these brothers and sisters of ours remain always vivid. Indeed, may it grow still stronger! Let it be passed on from generation to generation, so that from it there may blossom a profound Christian renewal! Let it be guarded as a treasure of consummate value for the Christians of the new millennium'.
Pope John Paul II, 7th May 2000