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Lay leader says terrorists are not martyrs

The founder of the Rome-based St Egidio lay movement has taken exception to the use of the term "martyrs" in connection with Islamic terrorists.

One of Europe's most prominent lay Catholics, Andrea Riccardi said the word martyr "is used too often in our language today".

He argued that suicide bombers are engaged in a bloody activity that is the direct opposite of Christian martyrdom.

In the Christian understanding, Riccardi said, a martyr is someone who testifies to the faith, even at the cost of his life. But the Christian martyr does not desire death in itself, nor would he ever desire the death of others.

He was speaking yesterday at a Rome press conference for the unveiling of a comprehensive new study of the European martyrs of the 20th century.

The book documents efforts to suppress Eastern-rite Catholic communities in Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, and Ruthenia.

Cardinal Igance Moussa Daoud introduced the massive new volume at the press conference.

Meanwhile Fides news agency, run by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, has released statistics indicating that 35 Catholic missionaries lost their lives in the service of the faith during 2003.

The greatest number of victims was recorded in Africa, particularly in Sudan and Uganda, where rebels continue to combat the established government, and in war-torn Congo. Notable in Burundi was the killing of Archbishop Michael Courtney, apostolic nuncio.

Terrorists are not "martyrs," Catholic leader insists (Catholic World News 23/3/04)
Dramatic account of Eastern Catholic martyrs (Catholic World News 23/3/04)
35 Catholic Missionaries Killed in 2003 (Zenit 22/3/04)

The Martyrology of the Church 2003 (Fides) - more detail and recent updates in Italian version.
Cardinal Ruini on Christian Response to Muslim Terrorism (Zenit 22/3/04)
Community of Sant'Egidio
Andrea Riccardi: Think Locally And Grow Globally (Time Europe Heroes 2003)

24 Mar 2004