The Commission of the New Martyrs – Witnesses of the Faith, established by Pope Francis for the Jubilee 2025 , met for the first time on November 9, 2023, said a statement from the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints published on November 13. Created in July in light of the Jubilee of 2025, this commission has the task to catalog all Christians, from 2000 until today, “who have shed their blood to confess Christ and bear witness to His Gospel.”
“We are preparing to enter into the heart of the recognition of and encounter with these witnesses, whose lives and deaths are marked by the Gospel, love for the weakest, the search for peace, and the painful confrontation with multiple designs of evil, without, however, ever abandoning trust in the good,” the statement says.
“Currently, there are over 550 witnesses whose circumstances of death and their service to the Church and God’s people is known.”
The Commission’s 1st considerations
The Commission’s first phase of work will focus on looking into the lives of Christians whose lives were cut short or given in some way to bear witness to the Gospel, the statement explains. To look into these stories, the Commission is going to lean on research done by Fides (the news agency of the Pontifical Mission societies), by local bishops, and religious congregations, and by anyone else who keeps the memory of these individuals alive.
In this first meeting the Commission established the “lines of engagement and methodology” with a focus especially on possible external collaborators that can help reconstruct the continental, national, and regional contexts in which these martyrs may have given their lives. They in fact highlighted the contribution of many faithful from the Eastern Catholic Churches, especially in the Middle East and Asia.
The Commission also explains that they “recalled the ecumenical value of martyrdom in a broad sense and the need to take into account the richness of the witness offered by Christians of other confessions.”
These new martyrs “constitute a light of hope and a humble but eloquent voice that calls to the supreme good of life, to the unity of the human family, to the unarmed strength of Christians,” the statement concludes.
In the steps of the Commission for the Jubilee of 2000…
This Commission is lead by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, and has as president Archbishop Fabio Fabene, the secretary of the Vatican body, and as vice president Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Sant’Egidio Community. It is also made up of one secretary and 10 members who will help with the work.
Some of those involved had already worked on a similar project for the Jubilee 2000. In fact, the current Commission is modeled after the one created by John Paul II in the late 1990s. That body worked for two years in the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all’Isola in Rome and gathered about 12,000 files on the subject. In 2002 they then opened a shrine dedicated to modern martyrs within the Basilica, which was then amplified in 2023.