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BBC's David Willey in Rome
"Leaders of 19 different Christian churches attended"
 real 28k

Monday, 8 May, 2000, 03:51 GMT 04:51 UK
Pope pays tribute to modern martyrs
Colosseum ceremony
One of the highlights of the 2000 Jubilee
Pope John Paul II has paid tribute to the Christian martyrs of the 20th century in a solemn ceremony at Rome's ancient Colosseum.

Anglicans, Lutherans, Russian Orthodox and Pentecostalists joined the Pope in prayer in an unusual ecumenical event attended by thousands of pilgrims.

Countless numbers refused to yield to the cult of the false gods of the 20th century and were sacrificed by communism, Nazism, by the idolatry of state or race

Pope John Paul II
The Pope said countless Christians had been united in their readiness to die for their faith in the 20th century.

Those who died in Soviet gulags, in Nazi and Japanese prison camps during World War II, in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and during the recent fundamentalist unrest in Algeria were honoured in prayer and song.

Choirs from Ukraine, the Philippines and Africa took part.

It was one of the most important events of the Vatican's Jubilee year promoting Christian unity.

In his sermon, the Pope, who turns 80 on 18 May, said Christians had experienced "hatred and exclusion, violence and murder" in the modern age.

He noted that some 3,000 priests were interned in the Nazi death camp at Dachau.

A prayer read in Czech recalled the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust.

The killing of more than a million Armenian Christians in Turkey during World War I was also remembered.

Saying he himself witnessed "much pain and many trials" as a young man in communist Poland, he said his generation was particularly marked by war, concentration camps and persecution.

The candlelight service also paid tribute to Christians who died in the Spanish Civil War and the Mexican Revolution and to Archbishop Oscar Romero, murdered by a right-wing death squad in El Salvador in 1980.

List remains secret

BBC Rome correspondent David Willey says there has been some criticism of the Pope's decision not to make public yet the list that the Vatican has drawn up of more than 12,000 new Christian martyrs of the 20th century.

Vatican officials don't exclude that it may be published at some time in the future.

Special tributes were paid to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Tikhon, who stood up to the Bolsheviks after the 1917 revolution, and Olga Jafa, a Russian teacher exiled to a Soviet gulag.

The tributes also included Anton Luli, an Albanian Catholic priest who spent 28 years in prison, and Paul Schneider, a Lutheran anti-Nazi priest tortured to death in Buchenwald concentration camp.

Many of the people who suffered or died for their faith were "unknown soldiers", the Pope said.

"There are so many of them. They must not be forgotten. Rather they must be remembered and their lives documented," he said.

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24 Dec 99 | Europe
Pope launches Holy Year
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