Canonization of 40 English and Welsh Martyrs

Author: Paolo Molinari, S.J.


Paolo Molinari, S.J.

In the Consistory of May 18th, 1970 the Holy Father announced the forthcoming canonization of 40 new saints, the 40 blessed Martyrs of England and Wales. After asking—in accordance with one of the most ancient forms of the exercise of collegiality—the opinion of the Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops and Abbots Nullius present, and receiving their unanimous answer in favour of the Canonization, Paul VI said:

"We greatly rejoice that unanimously you have asked that these blessed Martyrs of England and Wales be canonized; this is also our desire. It is our intention to enroll them among the saints and to declare them worthy of the honours that the Church attributes to those holy persons who have obtained their heavenly reward. With God's help, we will do this on the twenty-fifth day of October of this year in the Vatican Basilica".

This announcement marked the end of the preparatory phase of the Canonization of these Martyrs. For long years research and study had been necessary to throw light on a large number of varied and complex problems in the spiritual, theological historical ecumenical and pastoral fields. The voluminous collection of documents and studies, carried out in Rome and in England, is considered by many an essential contribution to knowledge of the stormy history of England and Wales in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is also an extremely interesting and convincing documentation of the authenticity of the martyrdom of the 40 new saints and the opportuneness of their Canonization. It is not surprising, therefore, that those who had had the opportunity to study these volumes thoroughly—and among them over forty Cardinals of the Roman Curia and from other countries who took part in the Consistory—did not hesitate to judge the Cause favourably.

Who the Forty Martyrs are

The forty Martyrs are among the best known of the many Catholics who gave their lives in England and Wales during the 16th and 17th centuries owing to the fact that their religious convictions clashed with the laws of the State at that time.

As is known, King Henry VIII had proclaimed himself supreme head of the Church in England and Wales, claiming for himself and his successors power over his subjects also in spiritual questions. According to our Catholic faith, this spiritual supremacy is due only to the Vicar of Christ, the Roman Pontiff. The Blessed Martyrs, and with them many other Catholics, though they wished to be, and actually were, loyal subjects of the Crown in everything belonging to it legitimately according to the ideas of that time, refused for reasons of conscience to recognize the "spiritual supremacy" of the King and to obey the laws issued by the political power on purely spiritual questions such as Holy Mass, Eucharistic Communion and similar matters. This was what led many people to face and meet death courageously rather than act against their conscience and deny their Catholic faith as regards the spiritual Primacy of the Vicar of Christ and the dogma of the Blessed Sacrament. From the ecumenical point of view, it is extremely important to realize the fact, proved historical, that the Martyrs were not put to death as a result of internal struggles between Catholics and Anglicans, but precisely because they were not willing to submit to a claim of the State which is commonly recognized today as being illegitimate and unacceptable.

If—as has always been clearly recognized in the case of St. Thomas More—it would be a serious error to consider him a leading figure in the opposition between Catholics and Anglicans, whereas he must be considered a person who rose in defence of the rights of conscience against State usurpation, the same can be said of the 40 Martyrs, who died for exactly the same reasons.

And this is just what the Church intends to stress with their Canonization. It was and is her intention to hold up to the admiration not only of Catholics, but of all men, the example of persons unconditionally loyal to Christ and to their conscience to the extent of being ready to shed their blood for that reason. Owing to their living faith in Christ, their personal attachment to Him, their deep sharing of His life and principles, these persons gave a clear demonstration of their authentically Christian charity for men, also when—on the scaffold—they prayed not only for those who shared their religious convictions, but also for all their fellow-countrymen it; and in particular for the Head of the State and even for their executioners.

This firm attitude in defence of their own freedom of conscience and of their faith in the truth of the Primacy of Christ and of the Holy Eucharist is identical in all the 40 Martyrs. In every other respect, however, they are different as for example in their state in life, social position, education, culture, age, character and temperament, and in fact in everything that makes up the most typically personal qualities of such a large group of men and women. The group is composed, in fact, of 13 priests of the secular clergy, 3 Benedictines, 3 Carthusians, 1 Brigittine, 2 Franciscans, 1 Augustinian, 10 Jesuits and 7 members of the laity, including 3 mothers.

The history of their martyrdom makes varied and stimulating reading as the different characters are revealed, not without a touch of typically English humour.

The torments they underwent give an idea of their fortitude. The priests—for example—were hanged, and shortly after the noose had tightened round their neck they were drawn and quartered. In most cases the second operation took place when they were still alive, for they were not left hanging long enough to bring about their death, sometimes only for a very few seconds.

For the others—that is, those who were not priests—death by hanging was the normal procedure. But before their execution the Martyrs were usually cruelly tortured, to make them reveal the names of any accomplices in their "crime", which was having celebrated Holy Mass, having attended it or having given shelter to priests. In the course of the trial, and during the tortures, they were offered their life and freedom on condition they recognized the king (or the queen, according to the period), as head of the Church of England.

And here are some particular features that drive home to us the spirituality of these Martyrs and how they faced death.

Cuthbert Mayne, a secular priest, replied to a gaoler who came to tell him he would be executed three days later: "I wish I had something valuable to give you, for the good news you bring me...". Edmund Campion, a Jesuit, was so pleased when taken to the place of execution that the people said about him and his companions: "But they're laughing! He doesn't care at all about dying...'.

Ralph Sherwin, the first of the martyrs from the English College in Rome had heavy chains round his ankles that rattled at every step he took. "I have on my feet—he wrote wittily to a friend of his—some bells that remind me, when I walk, who I am and to whom I belong. I have never heard sweeter music than this..." He was executed immediately after Campion; he piously kissed the executioner's hands, still stained with the blood of his fellow martyr.

Alexander Briant—the diocesan priest who entered the Society of Jesus shortly before his death—had made himself a little wooden cross during his imprisonment, and held it clasped tightly between his hands all the time, even during the trial. It was then, however that they snatched it away from him But he replied to the judge: "You can take it out of my hands, but not out of my heart". The cross was later bought by some Catholics and is now in the English College in Rome.

John Paine (a secular priest, whose death was long mourned in the whole of Chelmsford) kissed the gallows before dying; and Richard Gwyn, a layman helped the hangman, overcome with emotion, to put the rope round his neck Some strange and extremely revealing episodes are told about Gwyn. Once for example, when he was in prison he was taken in chains to a chapel and obliged to stand right under the pulpit where an Anglican preacher was giving a sermon. The prisoner then began to rattle his chains, making such a din that no one could hear a word of what was being said. Taken back again to his cell, he was approached by various Protestant ministers. One of them, who had a purple nose, wanted to dispute about the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and asserted that God had given them also to him, not just to St. Peter. "There is a difference", Richard Gwyn retorted "St. Peter was entrusted with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, while the keys entrusted to you are obviously those of the beer cellar".

Cultured Elizabethan society has its representatives among the martyrs Swithun Wells was one of them. He had travelled a great deal; he had also been in Rome, and knew Italian well. He was a sportsman, particularly fond of hunting. On his way to the gallows, he caught sight of an old friend among the crowd and said to him: 'Farewell, my dear! And farewell too, to our fine hunting-parties. Now I've something far better to do...". It was December 10th, 1591, and bitterly cold. When they stripped him, he turned to his main persecutor, Topcliffe, and said in a joking tone: "Hurry up, please Mr. Topcliffe. Are you not ashamed to make a poor old man suffer in his shirt in this cold?"

Catholic priests managed to exercise the ministry thanks to the precious collaboration of the faithful. who welcomed them and kept them hidden in their homes and facilitated the celebration of Holy Mass. As can well be understood, now and again some one would betray them. The Jesuit laybrother, Nicholas Owen, was famous for the many hiding-places he built in numerous houses all over England. Arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London, he died while being brutally tortured.

Of the forty Martyrs, the one who underwent the most torture was Henry Walpole, a Jesuit priest. His exceptional physique resisted the most atrocious forms of torture for as many as 14 times, until the gallows put an end to his sufferings.

The following inscription can still be read in the Tower of London, in one of the cells in which the Martyrs were detained: "Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae in futuro" (the more suffering for Christ in this life, the more glory in heaven). The words were carved by Philip Howard, Earl of Arundell. He was the queen's favourite when he made his appearance at court, at the age of 18, leading a dissolute life. At the age of 24, he happened to be present at a discussion between Campion and some Protestant ministers. The holy Jesuit's words made a deep impression on him; as a result he was converted to Catholicism. As he was about to flee to the continent. he was captured and thrown into prison. He spent eleven long years there, reading, praying and meditating. He was condemned to death, but the sentence was postponed by the Queen's intervention. He fell seriously ill and died in prison.

A curious fact happened to the Franciscan John Jones. At the time of his execution, the hangman found he had forgotten the rope. The martyr took advantage of the hour's wait to speak to the crowd and to pray.

What is most striking is the serenity with which they all met death. Some of them even made witty, humorous remarks.

Thus, for example the Benedictine; John Roberts, seeing that a fire was being lit to burn his entrails—after hanging and quartering—made the sally: "I see you are preparing us a hot breakfast!".

When someone shouted at the Jesuit Edmund Arrowsmith: "You've got to die, do you realize?", he replied calmly: "So have you, so have you, my good man...". It is testified that Alban Roe a Benedictine religious, was a very entertaining fellow. In spite of the torture that was inflicted on him in prison he found the courage to invite the wardens to play cards with him, telling funny stories. He gave all the money he had to the executioner to drink to his health, warning him not to get drunk, however.

Philip Evans, having found a particularly kind judge, was treated somewhat indulgently in prison, so much so that he could even play tennis. Well, it was just during a game that the news of his condemnation to death arrived. He continued to play, as if nothing had happened. Then he picked up his harp and began to play.

John Kemple, a secular priest, was the only one who always refused to go into biding. "I'm too old now—he would say—and it is better for me to spend the rest of my life suffering for my religion". Of course he was caught and arrested. Before he was hanged, he asked to be allowed to smoke his inseparable pipe. The executioner, who happened to be an old friend of his, was overcome with emotion when the moment came to carry out his task and showed his hesitation. Then it was the martyr who urged him on, saying: "My good Anthony, do what you have to do. I forgive you with all my heart...".

The martyrdom of Margaret Clitherow is particularly moving. She was accused "of having sheltered the Jesuits and priests of the secular clergy, traitors to Her Majesty the Queen"; but she retorted: "I have only helped the Queen's friends". Margaret knew that the court had decided to condemn her to death and, not wanting to make the jury accomplices in her condemnation, she refused the trial. The alternative was to be crushed to death. When the terrible sentence was passed, Margaret said: "I will accept willingly everything that God wills".

On Friday March 25th, 1588, at eight o'clock in the morning, Margaret, just thirty-three years old, left Ouse Bridge prison, barefooted, bound for Toll Booth, accompanied by two police superintendents, four executioners and four women friends; she carried on her arm a white linen garment. When she arrived at the dungeon, she knelt in front of the officials, begging that she should not be stripped, but her prayer was not granted. While the men looked away, the four pious women gathered round her and before Margaret lay down on the ground they spread over her body the white garment that the prisoner had brought with her for that purpose. Then her martyrdom began.

Her arms were stretched out in the shape of a cross, and her hands tightly bound to two stakes in the ground. The executioners put a sharp stone the size of a fist under her back and placed on her body a large slab onto which weights were gradually loaded up to over 800 pounds. Margaret whispered: "Jesus, have mercy on me". Her death agony lasted for fifteen minutes, then the moaning ceased, and all was quiet.

These brief remarks on some outstanding episodes of the martyrdom of the 40 Martyrs, and the quoting of some of the words they uttered at the gallows, are sufficient to show what was the ultimate reasons for their death and, at the same time, the sublimely Christian state of mind of these heroes of the faith.

The history of the Cause

The history of the Beatification and Canonization Cause of our forty blessed Martyrs is part of. the wider history of a host of Martyrs who shed their blood in defence of the Catholic religion in England, from the schism that began in the reign of Henry VIII down to the end of the 17th century.

As early as the end of 1642 the first steps were taken to initiate the canonical process, but owing to the persecutions that were still rife, this initiative had soon to be suspended Nevertheless the victims of the persecution continued to be considered and venerated as martyrs. The Cause to prove their martyrdom and the existence of their cult was presented in Rome only in the second half of the last century, that is, following upon the reconstitution of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales, which took place in 1850.

The Cause of 254 martyrs was introduced on December 9th, 1886, by Leo XIII. Shortly afterwards, on December 29th 1886, the cult of 54 martyrs was confirmed by special decree, then on May 13th, 1895, 9 others. Finally, with the Apostolic Letter Atrocissima tormenta passi on December 15th, 1929, Pius XI beatified 136 victims of this persecution, and on May 19th 1935 he solemnly canonized Cardinal John Fisher and Chancellor Thomas More.

In still more recent times, the Hierarchy of England and Wales, conscious of the deep devotion to the martyrs who on different occasions had been declared blessed by the apostolic See, and aware that this devotion was addressed especially to some of the most popular of them was induced by the requests of the faithful and the multiplicity of favours obtained, to promote the canonization not of the whole host of these martyrs, but of a limited group of them. Right from the beginning of the negotiations, the Canonization Cause of these Martyrs was entrusted by the Hierarchy of England and Wales to Fr. Paolo Molinari, Postulator General of the Society of Jesus and President of the College of Postulators. He in turn nominated as Assistant Postulators Father Philip Caraman and James Walsh of the English Province of the Society. When the former was put for some years at the disposal of the Bishop of Oslo for certain important tasks, Father Clement Tigar, S.J. took his place.

After patient and laborious work, the list of the 40 martyrs chosen was presented by Fr. Molinari to the Holy See on December 1st, 1960. After the usual practices the latter proceeded, on May 24th 1961, with the so-called re-opening of the Cause by means of the Decree <Sanctorum Insula>, issued by order of Pope John XXIII.

Eleven of these forty martyrs had been included among the blessed solely by a decree confirming their cult. It was now necessary, in view of the hoped-for canonization, to make a thorough historical re-examination of their martyrdom, which had not been done ex professo when the Positio super introductione causue was prepared last century. As is customary, this task was entrusted to the Historical Section of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. Availing itself essentially of the studies carried out under its direction by the General Postulation of the Society of Jesus and by the office of the English Vice-Postulation, it made a very favourable pronouncement on the material and formal martyrdom of the eleven Blessed in question. The other studies prescribed by law having been completed, His Holiness Paul VI signed the special Decree of the Declaratio Martyrii of these eleven Blessed Martyrs, on May 4th 1970. In preparing for this Decree, two volumes were published in English and in Italian respectively of the Positio super Martyrii et cultu ex officio concinnata (Official Presentation of Documents on Martyrdom and Cult) (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1968, pp. XLIV, 375 in folio) which in the judgment of international critics is a real model of scientific editing of old texts.

Miracles attributed to the Forty Blessed Martyrs

Even before the rehearing of the Cause, many reports of favours and apparently miraculous cures attributed to the intercession of our Blessed Martyrs, had come to the knowledge of the Catholic Hierarchy of England and Wales, which hastened to inform the competent Roman Authorities.

From the time when the Cause of the 40 Blessed Martyrs was reopened, the ecclesiastical Hierarchy called for a prayer campaign in all English dioceses. Its most outstanding manifestations were various pilgrimages to the shrines of the Martyrs, diocesan and interdiocesan rallies, and particularly "<Martyrs' Sunday>", the yearly celebration of the memory of these Martyrs by all dioceses and parishes.

As a result of the intensification of the devotion of the faithful and their prayers, a good many events took place which looked like miracles. Sufficient data were collected about them to induce the Archbishop of Westminster, then Cardinal William Godfrey, to send a description of 24 seemingly miraculous cases to the Sacred Congregation.

The most striking of these and of the others that continued to be notified to the Postulation were first examined with special care by doctors of high repute. On the basis of their answers, two cases were chosen and the usual Apostolic Proceedings were instituted, and the acts were sent to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome.

In the meantime requests and pleas continued to arrive for the canonization of the 40 blessed Martyrs of England and Wales as soon as possible. His Holiness Paul VI, duly informed about the extremely favourable outcome of the discussion of the Medical Council regarding one of the two above-mentioned cases, and keeping in mind the fact that the blessed Thomas More and John Fisher, belonging to the same group of Martyrs, had been canonized with a dispensation from miracles, considered that it was possible to proceed with the Canonization on the basis of this one miracle, after further discussions at the S. Congregation for the Causes of Saints had taken place.

The same S. Congregation, having issued the special Decree on July 30th, 1969, proceeded with the examination of the miracle, that is, the cure of a young mother affected with a malignant tumour (fibrosarcoma) in the left scapula, a cure which the Medical Council had judged gradual, perfect, constant and unaccountable on the natural plane.

After due assessment of the case and the usual discussions within the S. Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which concluded with an extremely favourable result on May 4th, 1970, his Holiness Paul VI confirmed the preternatural character of this cure brought about by God at the intercession of the 40 blessed Martyrs of England and Wales.

From the point of view of canonical procedure, the way was now open for solemn Canonization if the Sovereign Pontiff so decided.

There still remained another problem, however, which had been carefully taken into account by the Postulation right from the beginning, but which now had to be solved on the basis of another thorough study, that is, the problem of the opportuneness of this Canonization. While in fact the vast majority of English Catholics—Bishops, clergy and laity—thorough study, that is, the problem of faith to be raised to the honours of the altar, some voices had been raised in repeated circumstances to say that canonization of these Martyrs might be inopportune for ecumenical reasons.

Opportuneness of the Canonization

In more recent times—November 1969—the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Ramsey, had expressed his apprehension that this Canonization might rekindle animosity and polemics detriment to the ecumenical spirit that has characterized the efforts of the Churches recently. But the reaction of the press, lay, Anglican and Catholic, showed clearly that this concern—though shared by some Anglicans and Catholics—did not correspond to the view of the vast majority. Many people, in fact, both Anglicans and Catholics, were aware of the fact that, right from the beginning of the re-opening of the Cause, the policy of its Promoters had been characterized by an extremely serene and ecumenical note; what is more, they realized the positive repercussions it offers just in this field if it is presented in this very spirit.

Right from the first announcement of the Re-opening of the Cause of the 40 Martyrs, decreed by Pope John XXIII on 24 May 1961, the Hierarchy of England and Wales let it be clearly under stood that nothing was further from the intentions of the Bishops than to stir up bad feelings and quarrels of the past.

The aim of the Postulator General Paolo Molinari S.J. and his collaborators, James Walsh S.J., Philip Caraman S.J. and Clement Tigar S.J., while they were carrying out the historical research and investigation, was to ensure that the Cause would be presented in an authentically ecumenical way.

For this reason the Postulator General, always working in close contact with the authorities of the S. Congregation that deals with the Causes of Saints and in agreement with the Hierarchy of England and Wales, asked Cardinal Agostino Bea, then President of the Secretariat for the Union of Christians, to act as the Cardinal Ponens of the Cause Aware of its ecumenical significance, he sustained, promoted and encouraged its course until he died. After his death the Secretariat itself continued to follow attentively the individual phases of the Cause and not only did not find any contrary motive but collaborated skillfully to ensure that the approach would benefit the ecumenical cause, instead of hampering it. (See in this connection the address that the present President of the Secretariat, Card. Willebrands, delivered in the Anglican cathedral in Liverpool during his recent visit to England).

The vast majority of people understood all this. The most authoritative voice in this sense was that of the British Council of Churches, which made a public declaration on the matter on December 17th, 1969. Not only does it recognize the importance for the Catholic Church to venerate its Martyrs, to whom the survival of the Catholic Church in England and Wales is essentially due, but it also expressed satisfaction that the various Christian denominations are united today in recognizing the tradition of the Martyrs as a common element from which we must all draw strength disregarding denominational frontiers.

Quite a few authoritative persons—including several Anglican Bishops—keeping in mind and appreciating the actions of considerable ecumenical value of Pope Paul VI on various occasion—expressed the view and the hope that the Canonization of the 40 Martyrs might be an opportunity for the members of other Christian denominations to make a positive gesture that would funkier the cause of union, by joining in the admiration of Catholics for these Martyrs.

Ecumenical exchanges

Some months before the Consistory the General Postulation, as well as the Vice-Postulation, had charged specialized agencies with following the whole national and provincial press of England and Wales, together with the European and American press, and sending it constantly everything that was published in connection with the Cause. At the same time it redoubled its efforts to obtain the widest and most accurate information not only on the attitude of English and Welsh Catholics, but above all on that of the Anglicans, with many of whose best qualified representatives there had long existed relations marked by sincere and brotherly frankness and a genuine spirit of mutual understanding and collaboration. The Hierarchy of England and Wales, in its turn, and in the first place Card. Godfrey's successor, His Eminence Card. Heenan, Vice-President of the Secretariat for the Union of Christians, made a point of establishing and maintaining exchanges of views with the competent authorities of the various Christian denominations in their country.

On the basis of this huge mass of material, it was established beyond al] shadow of doubt that at least 85 per cent of what had been printed in England and Wales, both on the Catholic and the non-Catholic side, far from being unfavourable to the Cause, was clearly in favour of it or at least showed great understanding for the opportuneness of the canonization. This applies to publications such as "Church Times", or the "Church of England Newspaper." and the most widely read English national papers such as "The Times", "The Guardian", "The Economist", "The Spectator" "The Daily Telegraph", "The Sunday Times" and many others.

On the other hand some foreign publications—including some well-known papers of protest—raised difficulties. It was at once clear, however, that these were based on insufficient knowledge of the complicated historical situation in which the Martyrs sacrificed their lives, and, to an even greater degree, of the present ecumenical situation in England. The latter calls for at least a minimum of concrete knowledge and cannot easily be understood by those who do not take the trouble to study it thoroughly Of course, everything possible has been done, by means of press conferences and other opportune methods, to eliminate this type of misunderstanding, generally most successfully.

A serious, serene and objective study of the whole situation led to the conclusion, therefore, that besides the numerous reasons clearly in favour of the canonization of the 40 blessed Martyrs, there were no real ecumenical objections to it, on the contrary the canonization offered considerable advantages also from the genuinely ecumenical point of view.

It was precisely these ideas that His Holiness Paul VI expressed and explained in a masterly fashion in the address he delivered on the occasion of the Consistory on May 18th, 1970, in which he announced his intention to proceed with the solemn canonization of the 40 blessed Martyrs of England and Wales on October 25th, 1970. In this address the Holy Father, besides pointing out, with serene frankness and great charity, the ecumenical value of this Cause, also laid particular stress on the fact that we need the example of these Martyrs particularly today not only because the Christian religion is still exposed to violent persecution in various parts of the world, but also because at a time when the theories of materialism and naturalism are constantly gaining ground and threatening to destroy the spiritual heritage of our civilization, the forty Martyrs—men and women from all walks of life—who did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives in obedience to the dictates of conscience and the divine will, stand out as noble witnesses to human dignity and freedom.

This declaration of the Sovereign Pontiff was received with practically unanimous approval, which showed how right the decision had been to proceed with the canonization. His address was given a great deal of attention and certainly contributed effectively to dispelling any doubts that may still have existed in certain quarters.

At the same time the Pope's words drive home to us unmistakably why the Church continues to propose new Saints. The formal recognition of the holiness of some of her members has the aim of presenting to the faithful and to all men the unshaken loyalty with which they followed Christ and his law. It aims at letting us have, in a living and existential way, the message that God addressed to us in his Son, who came on earth to make us share his life and his love. It aims at making us understand that, by welcoming his teaching and receiving Christ our Lord with sincere hearts we already become participants in that life that will be granted to us in its fullness when, having finished the course of our earthly existence after being faithful to Him, we are admitted to his presence (cfr. Lumen Gentium, 48).

Through these Saints it is God himself who is speaking to us and helping us to understand how, in the shifting circumstances of life, we must live our union with Him more and more intensely and thus grow in holiness:

"For when we look at the lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ, we are inspired with a new reason for seeking the city which is to come (Heb. 13:14; 11:10). At the same time we are shown a most safe path by which among the vicissitudes of this world and in keeping with the state in life and condition proper to each of us, we will be able to arrive at perfect union with Christ, that is, holiness. In the lives of those who shared in our humanity and yet were transformed into especially successful images of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18), God vividly manifests to men His presence and His face. He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of His kingdom, to which we are powerfully drawn, surrounded as we are by so many witnesses (cf. Heb. 12:1), and having such an argument for the truth of the gospel" (Lumen Gentium, No. 50).

The situations in which we live may vary, but in the last analysis they have a deep element in common which transcends time and circumstances. At the root of our existence there is God's invitation, his offer to open our hearts to his love and respond in our lives with authentic responsibility and consistency, to the claims of the love of Him who gave his life for us.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
29 October 1970

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