(JNS.org) Pope Francis on Sunday announced the
canonization of new saints to the Catholic Church, including several hundred 15th-century
Christian martyrs who were killed for refusing to convert to Islam.
Pope Francis. Credit: Casa Rosada.
The “Martyrs of
Otranto” were 813 inhabitants of the southern Italian city of Otranto who were
beheaded in 1480 by Ottoman Turkish invaders after they refused to convert to
“While we venerate theOtranto Martyrs, we ask God to sustain the many
Christians who, today, in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer
violence and give them the courage to be faithful and to respond to evil with
good,” Pope Francis said before more than 70,000 people in St. Peter’s Square
in Rome, Reuters reported.
Since assuming the papacy in March, Pope Francis has
frequently expressed concern for the Middle East’s beleaguered Christian
populations under increasingly hostile Islamic rule. Pope Francis has also
called for dialogue with Muslims, though it is unclear how the canonization of
these Christian martyrs who refused to convert will be received in the Islamic