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Letter from Rome: A child-martyr and defenders of religious freedom

Why the story of a 12-year-old Mayan boy should trouble Christians in comfy secularized countries who believe they are being persecuted

Letter from Rome: A child-martyr and defenders of religious freedom

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." That popular phrase is attributed to the prolific early Christian writer Tertullian.

Though badly translated from the original Latin, its meaning is clear nonetheless: try to annihilate the followers of Jesus Christ and they will sprout up in even greater numbers.

The Church venerates its martyrs with special liturgical feast days. For instance, we just celebrated the Feast of St. George. The April 23 commemoration has been a public holiday in Vatican City since 2013. That's because it's also the "name day" of Pope Francis, whose baptismal name is "Jorge" or George.

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The Feast of St. George had a particularly poignant meaning this year for the Catholics of Guatemala in the pope's native Latin America. Three Spanish-born priests of the Sacred Heart Missionaries and seven lay catechists of the indigenous Maya people were beatified on April 23 in the Cathedral of Santa Cruz de Quichè.

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