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Meeting of the student groups in the Villa Fatima on the Via Aurelia 2017

Christianity and Martyrdom



















The meeting of the two student groups of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI. took place in Rome from August 31st to September 3rd. Venue was the Villa Fatima on the Via Aurelia. This year the theme was "Persecution of Christians and Martyrdom". Christians are still the most persecuted religious community in the world. It is estimated that 200 million Christians in 60 countries are at risk of death because of their faith - a fact that receives little attention in the western media. It was all the more important to exchange experiences with persecuted Christians during the meeting and to delve deeper into the spiritual and theological dimension of martyrdom.

Three speakers were invited. The Coptic Bishop Dr. Cyrillos William von Assiut in Egypt, who had spent several years as a holiday assistant in Germany during his doctoral studies in Rome, reported first-hand on the life of Christians in an Arab country. Many Egyptians could not read and write and were therefore under the influence of the imams, who rejected any other religion. It is therefore more the educated who seek contact with the church and secretly become Christians. The cohesion of the Christians among themselves is particularly great because of the threat from outside and their identification with the church is strong and resilient.

The next day Bishop Dr. Manfred Scheuer von Linz gave a presentation on "Persecution and martyrdom between the ideology of death and the testimony of life." Precisely because of the history of the 20th century, in which many Christians were killed for ideological reasons, there is a "victimization of the concept of martyrdom" in public: he describes more the victim than the witness. In the Christian tradition, however, the testimony to Christ, the love sustained in faith in him even in suffering, is the decisive criterion of the martyr. In addition to the "red martyrdom" through the sacrifice of one's own life, there is also a "white" (through asceticism and self-denial) and a "green martyrdom" (through the proclamation of the faith in a foreign culture). So the suffering for Christ has many faces and is always a testimony of hope in the God who gives life to everything. Through this Easter dimension of martyrdom, some witnesses matured in the face of death to a deep insight into God's salvific will, so that their farewell letters are often filled with surprising happiness and serenity.

In the afternoon, Prelate Dr. Helmut Moll, member of the student group and as representative of the bishops' conference for the "German Martyrology of the 20th Century" (the sixth edition published in 2015), a proven expert on the subject, presents the church-historical and legal dimension of martyrdom. According to the Magisterium of the Church There are three criteria for the recognition of a martyrdom: violent death at the hands of others, hatred of faith as the motivation of the perpetrators, and the conscious acceptance of the divine will by the martyr. The third is also the most difficult criterion to prove, Moll emphasized, which is why the canonization processes often take a long time and have to be carried out very carefully until the relevant sources have been found and checked. "Martyrs" should therefore only be called the really canonized blessed and saints, while all others are to be described as "witnesses of the faith". Pope Francis recently brought a fourth criterion into play: the dedication of life, for example when caring for the sick.

As always, the presentations were taken up and continued in a stimulating discussion. The possibility of an ecumenical day of the martyrs was considered and the commemoration of the persecuted Christians was identified as a constant concern for prayer. One participant summarized the momentum of the conference as follows: "We need the martyrs to overcome our mediocrity."

In addition to the exchange of content, the organization of future meetings was also discussed, and new elections in the foundation board and in the new student group set the course for the future in terms of personnel. On the board of trustees, Dr. Josef Zoehrer P.Dr. Stephan Horn SDS and will gradually take over the tasks of spokesman for the student group. From now on, the new student group will be headed by Prof. Dr. Christoph Ohly (1st Chairman), P. Dr. Sven Conrad FSSP (2nd Chairman) and Pastor Dr. Rainer Hangler (treasurer) and has the legal form of a registered association. We would like to express our thanks to everyone who had been involved in the management and organization of the student groups.

A small delegation from the student groups finally visited the actual initiator, teacher and promoter of the meetings, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in the Monastero Mater Ecclesiae. He was very interested in the conference and will also select the topic for the coming year.

The meeting ended with the Holy Mass on Sunday morning in the private chapel of Villa Fatima and dismissed all participants so that they could carry on the theme of the days together in the testimony of their own lives.

Manuel Schlögl   



















Photos: Michael Hofmann

Trustee of entrusted talents
Persecution and martyrdom between the ideology of death and testimony of life
Content and form of Christian martyrdom in the 20th and 21st centuries century
A historical and theological discussion
Board of Directors and Board of Trustees der  
Josef Ratzinger Pope Benedict XVI Foundation
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