Pope John Paul II has honored more than 12,000 members of modern Christianity's different traditions who endured great suffering for their faith. Yesterday's commemoration of "witnesses to the faith in the twentieth century" had profound ecumenical significance because the Vatican ceremony included tributes to thousands of non-Catholic Christians.The ceremony took place in the Colosseum in Rome where the ancient Romans watched early Christians being slaughtered for their beliefs.After a Gospel reading by a Roman Catholic deacon and an Orthodox clergyman, Pope John Paul, who turns 80 on May 18, said in his homily: "I warmly greet representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the other Orthodox sister churches, as well as those of the ancient Churches of the East. I likewise thank the representatives of the Anglican Communion, of the worldwide Christian Communions of the West and of the ecumenical organizations for their fraternal presence."Yesterday's ceremony was prepared by the Vatican officials overseeing church celebrations throughout the year, which has been named a Jubilee year by the Pope. The Vatican asked Catholic dioceses around the world, along with non-Catholic churches, to submit the names of twentieth century "martyrs" and "witnesses to the faith." The Vatican has compiled a list—reportedly containing 12,692 names—but the list has yet to be published.In yesterday's ceremonies, the Christians in question were divided into eight categories:
- "Christians who bore witness to their faith under Soviet totalitarianism"
- "Witnesses to the faith who were victims of communism in other nations of Europe"
- "Confessors of the faith who were victims of nazism and fascism"
- "Followers of Christ who gave their lives for the proclamation of the Gospel in Asia and Oceania"
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