On Monday 15 February Pope Francis sent a video message (scroll down) for the “Day of Contemporary Martyrs” organized by the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of London on the occasion of the commemoration of the 21 Coptic martyrs executed on 15 February 2015.
The initiative gathered in a webinar His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and His Eminence Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, as well as other participants.
The “Day of Contemporary Martyrs” is a commemorative event of thanksgiving for the lives of those who faithfully practised their Christian faith till the shedding of their blood, offering at the same time the opportunity to raise awareness of the ongoing tragedy of those who are still today persecuted solely on the basis of faith or belief.
In his message Pope Francis highlighted that the 21 Coptic martyrs were “baptised as Christians with water and the Spirit, and that day also baptised with blood. They are our Saints, Saints of all Christians, Saints of all Christian denominations and traditions”. The Holy Father then thanked “the bishops, the priests of the Coptic sister church which raised them and taught them to grow in the faith”.
In his address Cardinal Koch affirmed that the martyrdom of the 21 Copts in 2015 had enabled Christians to understand that “martyrs are not only people of the early Church represented on some ancient icons, but their very own contemporaries”. Referring to Saint John Paul II, who believed that “[i]n a theocentric vision, we Christians already have a common Martyrology”, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity expressed the hope that “martyrs of other Churches, like the 21 commemorated today, may also be included one day in the martyrology of the Catholic Church”.