I have just returned from Rome, where I, along with my colleague Zahra Vieneuve, spent the week laying the groundwork for a conference on December 10-12, 2015, Under Caesar’s Sword: Christians in Response to Persecution.
Co-sponsoring the conference is the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay community known for its work in peacemaking and a litany of other causes of justice, all centered upon its “methodology” of personal friendship, especially for the poor.
One of the community’s most striking ventures is its maintenance of the Church of San Bartolomeo as a shrine to contemporary Christian martyrs. This 10th century basilica stands on the Tiber Island astride the district of Trastevere, where the Community is headquartered. In the shadowy, candelit side chapels can be found the relics of Christians who lost their lives due to their faith or their faith-based stand for justice. Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero’s missal; a tiny piece of the beard of Maxmilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who exchanged his life for that of a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz; and objects from the lives of Rwandans, Russians under the Soviet Union, and many other Christians from around the the world over the past century can be found here.
Like the martyrs themselves, the shrine is little known and deserves to be better known — a stop on every Rome tour bus’s itinerary.