The 24th of March 1980 was the day of the assassination of Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, while he was celebrating Mass. Since 1993, this day has been dedicated to the celebration of the Day of Prayer and Fasting in memory of missionary martyrs and is promoted by the Youth Movement of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Italy.
For this year, to celebrate this day for the 29th time, the organisers chose the slogan “Intertwined Lives”. The martyred missionary in fact is a weaver of fraternity. His life intertwines his own existence with that of Christ, thus rediscovering the branches of the same vine.
“At the beginning of every mission, there is a vocation that reaches the ears of those who are ready to listen, of those who have a heart ready to welcome. The voice of the Lord reaches us together with that of all peoples who suffer from abuse and injustice – explains Giovanni Rocca, National Secretary of Missio Giovani, presenting the theme. “It is a call to a life of proximity that we celebrate on this occasion, the mandate that Christ has given us: to announce the Good News to the whole world. The sacrifice of the martyrs constitutes the tangible sign of the fact that the propagation of the faith does not consist in a crusade but in an encounter between cultures, peoples and religions, the total availability of oneself towards listening and reciprocal exchange, help to those in need. When hatred intervenes in these dynamics, the martyr makes his appearance in history. Martyrdom in odium fidei is the extreme consequence of a true, human and tangible faith. If we scrutinize the lives of missionary martyrs we often do not find heroic deeds but we discover gestures that overflow with hope, lived in ordinary daily life through words that console the heart and closeness that sustains”.
Remembering the missionaries who were killed is a practice now widespread in many countries, on different dates and circumstances. Many dioceses, parishes, schools and religious institutes dedicate specific initiatives to remember their missionaries and all those who shed their blood for the Gospel.