Martyrology of the Holy Land: A call to holiness

After 14 years of work, the martyrology of the Holy Land is complete. It is already in use in the Friars’ refectory of the Custody where it is read every day after the Angelus and Grace.

The “martyrology of the Holy Land” lists in one volume the names of 909 saints or blessed, especially the ones related to the Mother Church of Jerusalem. This was an initiative born in the 2000s as a result of the Great Jubilee of the Church (convened by Pope John Paul II). Thus, completion of the martyrology was the work of Fr. Cristoforo Alvi OFM from St. Saviour Monastery in Jerusalem.

His idea was simple: while the Pope stressed the importance of the spiritual legacy of the martyrs in the Church, he wanted to list all the Franciscans who “in one way or another have based their vocation to the service of the Holy Land and left an example of faith, holiness or martyrdom”.

Therefore are mainly listed the holy martyrs who were murdered for their faith in Christ through the centuries of Franciscan presence. But in this long list, Brother Cristoforo wished to differentiate between the ‘blood’ martyrs and the ‘charity’ martyrs. Many indeed are the brothers who lost their lives as a result of acts of charity: assistance brought to the sick of plague, typhus, etc.

The list is completed by the various figures of the Church who are related in one way or another with the Franciscan Order and the Holy Land. Hence, it includes Popes like John XXIII (author of a trip when he was cardinal, for the consecration of the Basilica of Emmaus) and John Paul II (for his apostolic visit in 2000). Blessed Mariam of Jesus Crucified (Arab Carmelite nun who will be canonized on May 17) also has its place, since she made part of the Franciscan Third Order. This is still the case of St. Louis IX of France, as a Franciscan tertiary and participant of a Crusade.

This long list of 909 “figures related to the Holy Land” is subdivided between saints, blessed, Venerable, Servants of God, martyrs of charity and the blessed of the Franciscan Order. The work of research and classification was done by Fr. Cristoforo. A long work that the fulfilled as a true mission. He says: “I thought it would be a shame to cast into oblivion what others before us gave to this land. It would be a pity to lose this memory. It is thanks to these martyrs, saints, men moulded by charity that we are here today. It was often very difficult to live here, to keep the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land. So my work seemed ‘natural’ to me”.

To achieve such result, the Italian brother had to be patient. Cross sources, confirm data and forget nobody, this was the work carried all these fourteen years in parallel with other commitments of Fr. Cristoforo. Internal documents of the Franciscan order were very useful, especially the various obituaries (manuscripts the oldest). But Fr. Cristoforo has also used the archives of the Custody of the Holy Land, which is an actual mine of information about the Franciscan presence for centuries.

In the end, the achieved martyrology is a beautiful testimony of the vitality of the Church, which has not stopped to give birth to saints, martyrs, poor servants of Christ dead because of their charity. The list of these 909 Christian figures is now told every day in the refectory of Saint Saviour Monastery in Jerusalem. A tribute to the patient work of Fr. Cristoforo. An invitation to follow the example of these humble religious figures, taking a life of faith, holiness, but especially charity, without which all is vain.

Nicolas Kimmel

Martirologio di Terra Santa
a cura di Cristoforo Alvi ofm

Publisher: Edizioni Terra Santa
Language: Italian
Number of pages: 184
Format: Free
Year of publication: 2014
ISBN: 978-88-6240-208-8

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