The following moving story about the beatification of the Otranto martyrs was published today in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale. Many thanks to Scaramouche for the translation:
Better extermination than Islam: the Pope makes them saints
by Fausto Biloslavo
In Otranto 500 years ago, 800 martyrs chose to be slain rather than to deny Christ. This is also happening today.
The 800 Christian martyrs of Otranto are to become saints after more than 500 years, a milestone for the faith and today more relevant than ever.
On Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis will preside over the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto massacred by Ottoman janissaries. In Libya, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and other Muslim countries, Christian minorities are still under threat, especially after the increasingly Islamist Arab Spring. “It is clear that there are still Christian martyrs today. The canonization of the 800 of Otranto is a sign that the Church is not afraid of taboos,” emphasizes Massimo Introvigne, the coordinator of the Observatory on Religious Freedom for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Roma Capitale [Note: this is the administrative authority for greater Rome]. “There are rumours that the Islamic countries have complained a lot about this canonization,” said the expert. “So do not expect a second Regensburg speech (as delivered by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who infuriated Islam, A/N) from the Holy Father. But diplomacy will surely have suggested that the Pope will throw water on the fire.”
In 1480 the Ottoman fleet of Gedik Ahmet Pasha attacked Otranto. After two weeks of siege, the defences gave way. The survivors gathered in the cathedral, which was turned into a stable by the Ottoman knights. The bishop, Stefano Pendinelli, was slashed to pieces by scimitar blows and the captain of the guard sawn apart alive. The 800 males over the age of 15 held captive by the Turks were offered their salvation in exchange for conversion to Islam. A tailor, Antonio Primaldo said, “So far we have fought for the fatherland and to save our heritage and life. Now we need to stand up for Jesus Christ and to save our souls.” The Ottoman commander ordered him to be beheaded, but his body, according to the legend, remained standing until the head of the last of the 800 martyrs of Otranto, who refused to renounce their Christian faith, was cut off.
Pope Clement XIV recognized them as “Blessed,” but not until the 6th July 2007 did Benedict XVI issue the decree that recognized martyrdom “in hatred of the faith.” Last 12th February, the day of his resignation, the Pope announced that “the Blessed Antonio Primaldo and Companions, Martyrs, will be enlisted within the Register of Saints on Sunday May 12th 2013.” The Church is showing remarkable courage with these uncomfortable beatifications. “With the martyrs of Otranto a taboo is broken. Christians are still being killed today by Islamic extremists from Nigeria to Pakistan,” notes Introvigne. Dominique Rezeau, one of the more esteemed Catholic priests, told Fides agency that “of one hundred thousand Christians who lived in Libya before the revolution, there remain only a few thousand.” In Tunisia, the Salafists want the Caliphate and the death penalty for apostates. In Syria two weeks ago two Orthodox bishops Gregorios Yohannna Ibrahim and Boulos al-Yazigi were kidnapped. Since 9th February, there has been no news of a couple of priests. “The canonization of the martyrs of Otranto is of current relevance. It must be said that today Turkey receives the Christian refugees fleeing Syria, but there are countries like Nigeria where Boko Haram (Islamic terrorist group) wants to drive Christians out with terror or force them into a ghetto. We are facing an Islamist Spring,” observed Attilio Tamburrini former director of the annual report of Aid to the Church in Need. Paolo Affattato of the Fides agency is “a little cautious on the current relevance of the martyrs of Otranto. Apostasy, however, still prevails today in countries like Iran or Pakistan. Muslims who wants to convert to Christianity risk their lives and have to flee.”