Rome pays homage to Christian martyrs

 All Christians who have given their lives for their faith over the past 2000 years were commemorated at a number of events in Rome yesterday. At the Coliseum -the ancient Roman arena where so many of the first Christians met their death, a ceremony took place in which martyred 'witnesses of faith' from all over the world were remembered. They included victims of totalitarianism, communism, Nazism and Fascism. Those who gave their lives spreading the Gospel message in Oceania, Africa, Asia, and America were also named. At midday the Pope told an estimated 48,000 people in St Peter's Square: "The century which has just ended was marked by obscure shadows, but in the midst there were moments of splendid light." He said: "New generations must realise how much the faith which they have inherited has cost." To pay homage to them, he said was to prepare for the future. Reports in the Italian press last night said a list drawn up for the Millennium celebrations by a Vatican commission would name up to 12,000 20th century martyrs. These were rumoured to include more than 10,000 priests, bishops, religious sisters, and seminarians, and more than 2,000 lay people. These included those killed in the Armenian genocide of 1915, Martin Luther King, Archbishop Oscar Romero and 44 Hutu student priests killed in Rwanda in 1994.

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