In an interview given to Fides News Agency on the occasion of the annual “Day of prayer and fasting in memory of missionary martyrs” on 24th March, Archbishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) observed: “In the ancient Church there were many young martyrs. Thinking of them, we can say that the testimony of faith, even of blood, knows no limits: the call to the gift of life touches every baptized person, and young people can give a precious example. When you are younger you have a strong enthusiasm and willingness to give your life. There is so much generosity in the hearts of young people”. “I do not believe that today’s young people – continues the President of the PMS – are less generous than past generations. Youth, like other ages of life, has endemic weaknesses, but even the millennials, the young people of today, show generosity: just think of the experiences of young people and volunteers who go to mission countries”(Fides 23/03/2018).
In the short profiles we have presented, we have tried to include the diversity of the states of life (priests, religious, seminarians, lay people), the circumstances and geographical locations where they were killed and the activities through which they were witnessing the Gospel. They are grouped together in age (under 40 years old when they were killed), dying within a time span from 2000 to 2017, (the beginning of the millennium) and by the deep missionary commitment that motivated them. We have identified 12, like the Apostles, about whom we have been able to find information and eye-witness accounts which have allowed us to build up a basic identikit. There then follows a series of short notes about another 90 missionaries killed in the same period and, we have been able to ascertain, are within the same age group. These lists cannot, however, be considered complete. The term ‘martyr’ is not used in any case, only in its etymological meaning of ‘witness’, so as not to affect the judgment that the Church might give on some of them, something that has happened recently with the beatification and canonization of some young missionary martyrs.