Down to the Wire: Just $9,218 left to match to win our Challenge Grant. Your gift will still be doubled!
Click here to advertise on

Pope canonizes 800 martyrs slain by 15th-century Islamic forces

Catholic World News - May 13, 2013

Pope Francis presided on May 13 at the canonization of 800 people who died for the faith in Otranto, Italy, in 1480.

The "martyrs of Otranto"-- whose names are not known-- were beheaded by the forces of the Ottoman empire when they refused to renounce their Christian faith. Their deaths came after a siege of Otranto by the Ottoman invaders. In his homily the Pope noted that European and Ottoman powers had clashed for decades. But the martyrs of Otranto were killed after the battle had been decided, because they refused to abandon their Christian faith. Without underlining the conflict between faiths, Pope Francis gently alluded to the continuing trials of Christians living under Islamic power:

While we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain the many Christians who, precisely at this time, now, and in many parts of the world, are still suffering violence, that He give them the valour to be faithful and to respond to evil with good.

"God will never leave us without strength and serenity," the Pope assured the congregation. The martyrs of Otranto drew strength from their faith, he said: from the Word of God. "It is a Word that has invited us to faithfulness to Christ, even unto martyrdom."

Also canonized during the same May 12 ceremony were Mother Laura Montoya, a 19th-century Colombian religious who became "the spiritual mother of the indigenous peoples in whom she instilled hope." She is the first canonized saint from Colombia.

Also canonized was Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, a Mexican religious who worked with the sick and sheltered priests during the years of anti-clerical persecution before finally dying in 1963. The Pope remarked that she had "renounced a life of ease-- and how damaging the easy life, well-being, can be; the embourgeoisement of our hearts that paralyzes us-- to follow the call of Jesus, who taught her to love poverty so that she could love the poor and the sick more."

With this mass-canonization ceremony, Pope Francis suddenly became the modern Pontiff who has canonized the largest number of new saints. (Pope John Paul II, during his long pontificate, canonized 91 saints.) It is highly unusual for the Vatican to canonize a large number of martyrs in a single ceremony; more typically, a single person and a number of unnamed "companions" may be beatified together. The decision to canonize the martyrs of Otranto, approved by Pope Benedict XVI before his resignation, was widely interpreted as a gesture to honor the many Christians who have fallen to the forces of militant Islam.

Additional sources for this story
Some links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($62,263 to go):
$150,000.00 $87,737.12
42% 58%
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: chady - May. 14, 2013 9:21 AM ET USA

    'Happy are those who die in the is the rightful inheritance of the one who proves victorious; and I will be his God and he a son to me' Rev.14:13b and 21:7

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - May. 13, 2013 6:13 PM ET USA

    I don't understand why there would be any question about canonizing all 800 of them. They were all martyrs, they all died for the faith and all on the same day.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - May. 13, 2013 1:33 PM ET USA

    Cf. today's earlier headline, Saudi Court Sentences....

Fall 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on

Recent Catholic Commentary

Art and theology, beauty and truth, work together in the New Evangelization November 21
Anatomy of Conversion November 21
Anatomy of Conversion November 21
It is a failure of mercy to deny sin November 20
Yesterday's news, tomorrow November 20

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days