A church in Rome opened up a memorial earlier this month to modern-day Christian martyrs that pays tribute to those who have given their lives to help others. The initiative was first started by John Paul II in 1993.
The memorial pays tribute to Christians from various denominations, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox included.
"You are living through a difficult period. We are praying for you. The blood of the martyrs will not have been spilt in vain," remarked Priest Angelo Romano from the Basilica of St. Bartholomew, addressing all those who suffer persecution on a daily basis throughout the world.
Some of the martyrs that the memorial is honoring include Raghi Ghani, a Chaldean Christian priest who was assassinated in Mosul in 2007, various victims of Communism that Polish pilgrims come to pay their respects to, and victims of the Mexican and Spanish civil wars and of Nazism.
A rock used to weigh down the body of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, the chaplain of the Solidarity movement in Poland who was murdered by the secret police in 1984 and thrown into a river, is another recent addition to the memorial.
"This church is important because it contains hundreds of relics of martyrs," expressed Father Andrzej of the Society of Christ for Polish Immigrants.
The exhibit has already been visited by some celebrities, including award-winning pop singer Sinead O'Connor, who expressed at her visit that it was important "to remember those who have sacrificed so dearly before us." The artist, who is known for being critical of the Vatican for its conservative stance on gay and women's issues, also lit candles at the church, AFP reported.
Other notable exhibits include a cross belonging to Sister Leonella Sgorbati, an Italian nun killed in Mogadishu in 2006, who was shot alongside a Muslim driver, Mohammed Mahamud, who tried to protect her. The nun's last words reportedly were: "Forgiveness, forgiveness." The memorial is seen as a sign of peace and love between Christians and Mulsims – a priest identified as Romano who often works in Africa described it as "an icon to the love between Christians and Muslims."
Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, assassinated while celebrating mass in 1980 after standing up for Christians in the country, was also honored with a memorial; and so was Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani minister for minorities, a Christian killed by his bodyguard last year.
The full list of the exhibitions is available on the Basilica of St. Bartholomew official website.