MEMORY OF THE MARTYRS
The Church of the first millennium was born of the blood of the
martyrs: “Sanguis martyrum ― semen christianorum.”
The historical events linked to the figure of Constantine the Great
could never have ensured the development of the Church as it
occurred during the first millennium if it had not been for the
seeds sown by the martyrs and the heritage of sanctity which marked
the first Christian generations. At the end of the second
millennium, the Church has once again become a Church of martyrs.
The persecutions of believers ― priests, Religious and laity ― has
caused a great sowing of martyrdom in different parts of the world.
The witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become
a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and
Protestants. . . .
This witness must not be forgotten. The Church of the first
centuries, although facing considerable organizational difficulties,
took care to write down in special martyrologies the witness of the
martyrs. These martyrologies have been constantly updated through
the centuries, and the register of the saints and the blessed bears
the names not only of those who have shed their blood for Christ but
also of teachers of the faith, missionaries, confessors, bishops,
priests, virgins, married couples, widows and children.
In our own century the martyrs have returned, many of them
nameless, “unknown soldiers” as it were of God's great
cause. As far as possible, their witness should not be lost to
the Church. . . . The local Churches should do everything
possible to ensure that the memory of those who have suffered
martyrdom should be safeguarded, gathering the necessary
documentation. This gesture cannot fail to have an ecumenical
character and expression. Perhaps the most convincing form of
ecumenism is the ecumenism of the saints and of the
martyrs. The communio sanctorum speaks louder than the
things which divide us.
~ Apostolic Letter
Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 10 November 1994, § 37