Pope Francis canonizes several hundred Christian martyrs who refused to convert to Islam

(JNS.org) Pope Francis on Sunday announced the canonization of new saints to the Catholic Church, including several hundred 15th-century Christian martyrs who were killed for refusing to convert to Islam.

Pope Francis. Credit: Casa Rosada.

The “Martyrs of Otranto” were 813 inhabitants of the southern Italian city of Otranto who were beheaded in 1480 by Ottoman Turkish invaders after they refused to convert to Islam. 

“While we venerate the Otranto Martyrs, we ask God to sustain the many Christians who, today, in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence and give them the courage to be faithful and to respond to evil with good,” Pope Francis said before more than 70,000 people in St. Peter's Square in Rome, Reuters reported.

Since assuming the papacy in March, Pope Francis has frequently expressed concern for the Middle East’s beleaguered Christian populations under increasingly hostile Islamic rule, but he has also called for dialogue with Muslims.

Posted on May 12, 2013 .