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Article: How the Eight Hundred Men of Otranto Saved Rome

August 14, 2007

From Chiesa:

The Roman Martyrology, the liturgical calendar of saints and blesseds updated according to the decrees of Vatican Council II and promulgated by John Paul II, shows that today the Church remembers and venerates…

“… the approximately eight hundred martyrs of Otranto, in Puglia, pressured to renounce the faith after the crushing assault of the Ottoman soldiers. They were exhorted by blessed Antonio Primaldo, an elderly tailor, to persevere in Christ, and thus through decapitation they obtained the crown of martyrdom.”

The martyrdom of these eight hundred men took place in 1480, on August 14, the day of their liturgical commemoration.

It was because of them that five centuries later, in 1980, John Paul II visited Otranto, the Italian city in which they were martyred.

And this year, on July 6, Benedict XVI definitively authenticated their martyrdom, with a decree promulgated by the congregation for the causes of the saints.

But who were the eight hundred men of Otranto? And why were they killed? Their story is of extraordinary relevance – just like the conflict between Islam and Christianity, in the midst of which they sacrificed their lives….


Today, Roman-Germanic Christendom no longer exists as a homogeneous civilization. Nor is the thesis valid according to which Christendom, as long as it existed, was a mirror image of the Islamic community. Three structural differences prevent any sort of overlapping or analogy with respect to the Islamic “umma”: in Christendom, there was a distinction between the political and religious spheres, there was a foundation of natural law, and there was respect for the conscience of the human person. Reflection on what happened in 1480 nevertheless permits us to identify three pillars around which unity can be restored: the reference to natural law, the rediscovery of the Christian roots of Europe, and love of country, which was explicitly evoked by John Paul II as an inheritance from the martyrs of Otranto.

Read the entire article here.


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