Pope Francis canonizes the Martyrs of Otranto, slain by Islamic invaders

Today Pope Francis conducted for the first time the venerable rite for the canonization of saints.

Among the new saints are the Martyrs of Otranto.  In his sermon, Francis said:

Today the Church proposes for our veneration a group of martyrs who were called together to the supreme witness to the Gospel in 1480. About 800 people, who survived the siege and invasion of Otranto, Italy, were decapitated on the outskirts of that city. They refused to deny their faith and they died confessing the risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to remain faithful? Precisely in faith, which permits us to see beyond the limits of our human vision, beyond the confines of earthly life, it permits us to contemplate “the heavens opened up,” as St. Stephen says, and the living Christ at the Father’s right hand. Dear friends, let us maintain the faith that we have received and that is our treasure, let us renew our fidelity to the Lord, even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstandings; God will never let us lack strength and serenity.

As we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain many Christians who, in our own time and in many parts of the world, now still suffer from violence, and to give them the courage of fidelity and to answer evil with good.

[...]

This is certainly a strong or “hard Catholic identity” message, rather than “soft identity”.

From the wikipedia entry:

On 28 July 1480 an Ottoman force commanded by Gedik Ahmed Pasha, consisting of 90 galleys, 40 galiots and other ships carrying a total of around 150 crew and 18,000 troops, landed beneath the walls of Otranto. The city strongly resisted the Ottoman assaults, but the garrison was unable to resist the bombardment for long. The garrison and all the townsfolk thus abandoned the main part of the city on 29 July, retreating into the citadel whilst the Ottomans began bombarding the neighbouring houses.
When Gedik Ahmed asked the defenders to surrender, they refused, and so the Ottoman artillery resumed the bombardment. On 11 August, after a 15-day siege, Gedik Ahmed ordered the final assault, which broke through the defences and captured the citadel. In the massacre which followed, all men over 15 years old were killed and all the women and children were enslaved. According to some historical accounts, a total of 12,000 were killed and 5,000 enslaved, including victims from the territories of the Salentine peninsula around the city.[2]
Some survivors and the city’s clergy took refuge in the cathedral to pray with their elderly archbishop Stefano Pendinelli. Gedik Ahmed ordered them to convert to Islam, but received a flat refusal and so broke into the cathedral with his men and killed all those inside. This included Pendinelli, who encouraged the survivors to turn to God at the point of death but was skewered and cut to pieces with scimitars before having his head cut off, put on a pike and carried round the city. Gedik Ahmed then turned the cathedral into a stable and sawed the garrison commander Francesco Largo to pieces whilst still alive.

Castle of Otranto
The townsfolk’s leader was now the old tailor Antonio Pezzulla, known as Il Primaldo, who also refused to convert to Islam. On 14 August Gedik Ahmed tied up the survivors and transported them to the nearby colle della Minerva, where at least 800 were beheaded, with their parents and families forced to assist in and attend the executions. Primaldo was the first to be beheaded – tradition holds that his decapitated body remained standing until the final person was beheaded, despite his executioners’ efforts to push him over. The chronicles record that an Ottoman Turk called Bersabei saw how bravely the Otrantines were dying, converted to Christianity and was impaled by his own comrades.
After thirty months Otranto was recaptured by an Aragonese force under Alfonso of Aragon, son of the king of Naples.

The relics of these martyrs were eventually translated to the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello in Naples, under the altar of the Our Lady of the Rosary which commemorated the victory over the Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Modern Martyrs, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Pope Francis, Saints: Stories & Symbols and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Pope Francis canonizes the Martyrs of Otranto, slain by Islamic invaders

  1. Still hope the west has in them some semblance of that fidelity to the faith and that heroic Christian virtue displayed by the victors of Lepanto.

  2. Lepidus says:

    Did anybody see / hear the complete text of the Holy Father’s sermon? From the blurb that Father Z quoted, it sounds like the PC editors got to his talking points too. At least Father isn’t afraid to mention in the headline who killed these holy martyrs.

  3. Chuck3030 says:

    O that more basilicas are not furnished with such large quantities of relics in our lifetime…

  4. Bosco says:

    My own personal take on this is that it is not just a hard Catholic message, but also an Our Lady of Fatima message.

  5. James Joseph says:

    I wonder if my local ordinary mentioned this at his homily today…

    …likely not. The imam across town must be stewing.

  6. McCall1981 says:

    @ Lepidus,
    Vatican Radio has the full text here:
    http://en.radiovaticana.va/m_articolo.asp?c=691365

  7. govmatt says:

    And praying the Eucharistic Prayer (actually the whole mass) in Latin and using the Benedictine ferula. A very very cool mass.

  8. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Might one say the “strong or ‘hard Catholic identity’ message” included the Holy Father’s laying down in his sermon a number of lines to read between? As, by not mentioning the emphatically Muslim Turkish murderers, but using clearly Incarnational, Resurrectional, and Trinitarian language – ” the Spirit of the risen Christ”, “the living Christ at the right hand of the Father”. And for those present – or with access to internet – there is the context of the description in the booklet:

    http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2013/20130512-libretto-canonizzazione.pdf

    The latter does not apply in the same degree where Saint María Guadalupe García Zavala. Thus, when the Holy Father says “gentrification of the heart paralyzes us ” (in the Italian text as published, ” ‘imborghesimento’ del cuore ci paralizza”), and speaks of her invitation “to love as Jesus loved us” as leading “one not to retreat into oneself, into one’s own problems, into one’s own ideas, into one’s own interests in this little world that has done us so much damage” and says that the “poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this conduct: [to be] unabashed, [to be] unafraid, [to be] not loathe to touch the flesh of Christ”, one has to supply for oneself the ‘For Greater Glory’ context of the monstrous attempts perversely to secularize and collectivize Mexican hearts and minds, marginalizing and murdering the baptized and faithful “flesh of Christ”, during which (as the Wikipedia article puts it as of 12 May 2013 at 19:29) ” Mother María put her own life at risk and hid the priests and the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara in her hospital.”

    So, too, he allows us, reflecting back, to supply mentally “As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto [and St. Maria, and the martyrs of Mexico], let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good.”

    Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/articolo.asp?c=691365
    of the Vatican Radio website

    Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/articolo.asp?c=691365
    of the Vatican Radio website

    ”imborghesimento” del cuore ci paralizza

  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “The latter does not apply in the same degree where Saint María Guadalupe García Zavala” should continue “is concerned.”

    And the Italian link and quotation should not appear as roughly at the end as they do! My apologies!

  10. kneeling catholic says:

    Hello GOVMATT!

    good point (i.e. I see todays Mass as an exclamation point put on BXVI’s reforms)
    only now people are actually being ‘told’ not to take Holy Communion in the hand.

    http://kneelingcatholic.blogspot.com/2013/05/pope-francis-is-eradicating-hand.html

  11. StJude says:

    Are those the actual skulls of the martyrs?

  12. Father G says:

    @StJude
    Yes, they are the actual skulls.

  13. StJude says:

    Thank you Father G!

    I would love to be able to travel and see churches like this.

  14. Dominicanes says:

    The Order of Preachers has a new saint: St. Alessandro Longo, one of the martyrs of Otranto!
    http://www.op.org/en/content/st-alessandro-longo-new-dominican-saint

  15. Time to write to the Turkish and other Muslim governments demanding a apology for this religiously motivated atrocity.

    We have apologized for all sorts of failures against our own dictates of Christian charity. It is time for the perpetrators of his vicious mass murder, to come clean and ask forgiveness for their crimes.

  16. Muv says:

    Thank you for this post, Fr. Z. The sight of the relics piled up behind the altar gave me the shivers. Just think of the joy that will fill that church on the Day of Judgment!

    Fr. Augustine – can’t think of a bigger waste of time than demanding apologies. There is no successor to Mohammed in the person of a Muslim pope to apologise for the sins of Muslims. Thank God.

  17. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    My correction above was to a variously ragged comment possibly still awaiting moderation, of which what follows is a revised and expanded version!

    Might one say the “strong or ‘hard Catholic identity’ message” included the Holy Father’s laying down in his sermon a number of lines to read between, some of which benefit immediately from a published context? As, by not mentioning the emphatically Muslim Turkish murderers, but using clearly Incarnational, Resurrectional, and Trinitarian language – ” the Spirit of the risen Christ”, “the living Christ at the right hand of the Father” – while for those present, and for all with access to internet via the Calendar of Activities at the Holy See site, there is the context of the description in the service booklet.

    This is even more clearly so with reference to St. Laura Montoya y Upegui about whom the booklet says, “When she was 2 years old, her father was killed during the war to defend his religion and his country and their estates were seized.” ( Incidentally, Adolph Francis Bandelier’s 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia article on Colombia gives an interesting view of things contemporary with the beginning of her “Work of the Indians”.) When the Holy Father says she teaches us “to overcome indifference and individualism” it is in the context of such murderous ideological – and/or opportunistic – attacks on both the Church and its members as cost her father his life and her family its property, and on “those without faith” as St. Laura describes those among whom she went to work.

    The booklet context does not apply in the same degree where Saint María Guadalupe García Zavala is concerned. Thus, when the Holy Father says “gentrification of the heart paralyzes us” (in the Italian text as published, ” ‘imborghesimento’ del cuore ci paralizza”), and speaks of her invitation “to love as Jesus loved us” as leading “one not to retreat into oneself, into one’s own problems, into one’s own ideas, into one’s own interests in this little world that has done us so much damage” and says that the “poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this conduct: [to be] unabashed, [to be] unafraid, [to be] not loathe to touch the flesh of Christ”, one has to supply for oneself the ‘For Greater Glory’ context of the monstrous attempts perversely to secularize and collectivize Mexican hearts and minds, marginalizing and murdering the baptized and faithful “flesh of Christ”, during which (as the Wikipedia article puts it as of 12 May 2013 at 19:29) “Mother María put her own life at risk and hid the priests and the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara in her hospital.”

    So, too, he allows us, reflecting back, to supply mentally additions such as “As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto [and St. Maria, and the martyrs of Mexico, and St. Laura and the murdered and oppressed throughout history on “on the beautiful Colombian soil” where St. Peter Claver among so many others also labored], let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good.”

  18. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Yet another correction: in the last sentence I did not mean to suggest formally venerating as martyrs all “the murdered and oppressed throughout history ‘on the beautiful Colombian soil’ “! I should have said something like “and remember…”. My apologies!

  19. Giuseppe says:

    Fanon for canonization?

  20. Pingback: The Faith and Strength of Martyrs

  21. Bea says:

    Thank you, Fr. for the “hard Catholic Identity” history lesson.
    In these especially difficult Catholic persecution times we need these timely reminders.

  22. Pingback: Our Lady of Fatima - Big Pulpit

  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    A curious thought just struck me: might “this little world [piccolo mondo] that has done us so much damage” include a Don Camillo allusion? Or is what little Italian I know merely hopelessly unidiomatic? (I have read that Don Camillo is partly based on Don Camillo Valota who survived both Dachau and Mauthausen!)

  24. AvantiBev says:

    Over on another Catholic site they are worrying that we might be [ GASP ] giving offense to the Muslims…you know…the PERPETUALLY offended religion of peace which lacks any history of self-criticism. Good Lord – the True Lord – please send our men a pair and could you muster up a spine for each Catholic man and woman. Oh, and thank you Lord that my parents and grandparents never waged war against only “radical” Nazism or “militant” Communism. They felt no need to modify the evils they faced.

    All you need do my fellow Catholics is ask yourself one question; one very un-PC question: WHO DO YOU SAY WAS IN THAT CAVE WITH MOHAMMED IN 610 A.D. All else proceeds from how you answer that question.

  25. veritasmeister says:

    AvantiBev,
    I think it pays to be a little more deliberate and discerning if we’re going to be addressing topics like this.

    Firstly, we don’t know that anybody was in a cave with Mohammed. And if satan was with him as a guiding spirit, it also seems entirely plausible that satan has been the guiding spirit of those Orthodox Christians who massacred Muslims in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, committing the most heinous atrocities that Europe had witnessed since the end of World War II. As well as guiding those Hindus and Buddhists who have been attacking Christians in India and Sri Lanka, and Zionist Jews who spit at Christian clergy and religious in Jerusalem and attack believers in Christ in the Holy Land itself.

    By the way, how do you know there has been no meaningful introspection or self-criticism within a religion that has over a billion adherents and has been around for some 1,400 years? Are you really fluent in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto, Dari, Swahili, Bahasa, and Malay?

    Perhaps instead of dwelling upon as to why they are so easily ‘offended’, we should examine why we are not so easily offended, and what the martyrs of Otranto would have done had they seen the kind of West that we inhabit today.

  26. Imrahil says:

    Well, if it was indeed a demon that gave visions to Mohammed, then I’d personally be convinced that God played a very recogniziable part by not allowing him things he could have done and did not.

    I once read some 15 or so of the first suras of the Koran (and intend to read the rest when I get the time), but all this boring, in parts moralizing, never convincing, only ever intimidating, self-contradictory* blah-blah (sometimes, granted, poetic, but at other times just bad preaching even in style) which even contains the arguments against its own cause without knowing it**, was not invented by one who was allowed to dress up as an angel of light, let alone God’s own voice as the Mohammedans hold for some reason unimaginable to me.

    [*First, wine is to be drunken in moderation, second, it is to be shunned because of the danger, third, it is to be shunned because it's the Devil's work. But, you know, "if it pleaseth God to take away some revelation, He replaceth it with another, because He can do everything, and may you not be among the unbelievers", etc. etc.]

    [** Roughly: "The Meccans say to me: 'Why does not God send angels down to us to tell us what thou hast to tell, or yet shouldst thou speak with divine authority, then show us a miracle to prove this.' Oh these rotten unbelievers", etc. etc. and there follows some rant, but no answer to this very justified, and in this case, I guess, historic question.]

    (Was that non-PC enough?)

  27. AvantiBev says:

    Gee you don’t have to read Pashto, Urdu or classical Arabic to read this:
    It’s called translation. From Barnabas Aid:
    Bangladesh (BarnabasAid)- Barnabas Aid has received requests for prayer and practical help from Christian leaders in Bangladesh as the Church is endangered by a violent uprising by Islamists who are demanding that the country become an Islamic state.
    Christian homes have been torched and churches threatened as increasingly volatile protests have rocked the country.

    Scores of people have been killed in the clashes, which erupted in February. At least 37 died earlier this week as police tried to quash protests in the capital, Dhaka, where 70,000 Islamist demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday (5 May), calling for the introduction of an anti-blasphemy law.

    This was the deadline that one Islamist group, Hefazat e-Islam Bangladesh (HIB), had given the government to implement its demands, which include sharia rule, virtual segregation of women and the death sentence for those who insult Islam or Muhammad.

    An anti-blasphemy law would be disastrous for Christians in Bangladesh. Their counterparts in Pakistan suffer grievously as a result of the blasphemy laws there, under which they are vulnerable to malicious, false accusation. Devotion to Muhammad is a particular feature of South Asian Islam, and the Pakistani law specifies a death sentence for anyone who insults him.

  28. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear Imrahil, AvantiBev, (or anyone else),

    What so you make of the earliest known account of Mohammed – in the Armenian History attributed to Bishop Sebeos and completed before A.D. 661 (long before any Muslim accounts concerning him were written)?

    And what do you make of the writings of St. Paul of Antioch, Bishop of Sidon, especially his letter which was subsequently expanded into the Letter from the people of Cyprus?

    (I have unfortunately not yet read complete versions of any of these, but they sound very interesting!)