New Martyrs Of Russia

Sunday 16th July 2000

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In a few weeks' time there will be in Russia, in Moscow, a Council at which a certain number of names, a few hundred names, will be proposed for canonisation: people who in the course of the last eighty years have given their lives for Christ and for their neighbour. It has taken a number of years to examine every name and every person with faith, with reverence, with love, at times with a sense of horror, knowing what they have gone through in order to remain faithful to their own human dignity and to their faith in our Lord and God Jesus Christ; and who so loved the Lord and so loved their neighbour that they were prepared, like Christ, to die for God and for their neighbour.

Some died for God because they refused to renounce Him. Some died because they believed in God, they believed in what God felt about man, they knew that God had so loved the world and man that He had created man, that He had become one of us, He had lived with us with all the horrors of life and that He had died for us, giving His life for each and all.

Some had died proclaiming their faith in God. Some had died proclaiming through their lives their faith in man. It is in their own human wholeness and dignity and faith in the fact that their role was to be with Christ, witnesses of divine love, if necessary at the cost of their freedom, of torture and of their lives.

Among them we remember the first martyrs of Russia, Boris and Gleb, who have already been canonised; the first ones canonised. They did not die because their faith in God was challenged. But they died because they believed in the God who so loved man that He had given His life for us. And when their brother sought to kill them, they did not turn to those who surrounded them for protection. And one of them said, 'If someone's blood is to be shed, let it be ours'. And without defending themselves they gave their lives to be butchered by the men sent by their brother.

They are an example for all rulers of Russia; but in particular of our last emperor and the imperial family. They chose not to escape as they were offered the possibility to do. They decided to stay, to stay with their people, to stay with their people whom God had entrusted to their care. However imperfect they were humanly speaking, their hearts were wide enough to embrace all those whom God had committed to their charge. And when danger of death, danger of destruction came upon them, they refused to escape their doom and stayed, as witnesses of their faithfulness and the faithfulness of God.

We will pray for them today in a last panikhida, because next time, I hope, we will celebrate a moleben for them and for those who may not be mentioned even in the act of canonisation, who chose to accompany them in the course of the long journey towards death, and who died with them because they were faithful to them and faithful to all human greatness and dignity.

We will pray also for all those who are the new martyrs of Russia, whether known or unknown, because there were millions who died, so as not to sell their integrity but to be worthy of being called human beings in the way in which Christ was called a man.

And let us ask them, even now before canonisation, to pray for us, that we may learn so to respect in ourselves the image of God, so to venerate this image and the integrity of our human calling, as to be able to give our lives to one another, even in things small, even on the scale of our common life in Western Europe.

Let us pray that they should give us through their prayers such love of God, such fullness of heart, that we should be true icons of the God crucified and risen for the salvation of the world. Amen.

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