I now turn in a special way to the pilgrims who have come for the canonization of the 120 Martyrs in China. First of all you, faithful of Chinese origin, with whom I would like to share my deep joy over these sons and daughters of the Chinese people who are presented to the whole Church and to the entire world for the first time, with their heroic fidelity to Christ the Lord and the greatness of their souls. Yes, they are a true honour for the noble people of China!
My joy increases with the thought that closely united with us are all the faithful of Mainland China, who know – as you do – that in the martyrs they have not only an example to follow, but also intercessors with the Father. We need their help, in fact, because we are called to face daily life with the same dedication and fidelity that the martyrs showed in their time.
You all know that the majority of the 120 Martyrs shed their blood in historical periods which rightly have a special meaning for your people. In reality, they were tragic situations marked by violent social disturbances. With yesterday’s canonization, the Church certainly does not wish to make a historical judgement on those periods, much less to justify certain actions taken by governments of the time which weighed heavily on the history of the Chinese people. She wishes, instead, to highlight the heroic fidelity of these worthy children of China, who did not let themselves be intimidated by the threats of a ferocious persecution.
I am also grateful for the presence of many pilgrims from the various countries of origin of the 33 missionaries who died as martyrs in China, together with those Chinese faithful to whom they had proclaimed the Gospel. Some people, through a partial and non-objective reading of history, see only limitations and errors in their missionary activity. If there were any – is man ever free of faults? – we ask forgiveness. But today we contemplate them in glory and give thanks to God, who makes use of poor instruments for his great works of salvation. By the gift of their lives they proclaimed the saving Word and undertook important projects for human advancement. Be proud of them, you pilgrims who are their fellow citizens and brothers and sisters in faith! By their witness they show us that man is the true way for the Church: a way interwoven with profound and respectful intercultural dialogue, as Fr Matteo Ricci wisely and skilfully taught, a way consisting in the daily offering of one’s life.
Pope John Paul II, October 2, 2000
Saint Lucy was born Yi Zhenmei. From age 12 she dedicated herself to chastity and took the name of Lucy. She dedicated her life to spreading the Gospel, especially giving catechism lessons to kids. Arrested with other Catholics on February 18, 1862, she refused to renounce the faith and was beheaded with the other Catholics on February 19, 1862.