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.
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.