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The Coptic martyrs, dressed in orange jumpsuits, prayed to Jesus as they were being executed on a beach in Libya in 2015 (CNS/Reuters)

Pope Francis has inserted 21 Coptic Orthodox martyrs killed by ISIS into the Church’s formal martyrology, marking one of the rare occasions in which non-Catholics have been approved for veneration in the Catholic Church. Source: Crux.

Standing beside his Coptic Orthodox counterpart, Pope Tawadros II, Francis yesterday highlighted the various points of progress in the dialogue between their two churches and thanked Pope Tawadros for the gift of relics of the 21 Coptic Orthodox martyrs.

“On this journey of friendship we are also accompanied by martyrs, who testify that, ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,’” he said, saying, “I have no words to express my gratitude for the precious gift of the relic of the Coptic martyrs killed in Libya on February 15, 2015.”

Perhaps one of the Islamic State’s most notorious and gruesome killings, the 21 Christian construction workers were taken captive and paraded on a beach in Libya by ISIS militants, wearing orange prison jumpsuits and handcuffs.

In a horrifying video ISIS later published online, the militants beheaded each of the prisoners, 20 of whom were Coptic Orthodox and one of whom was a Christian from Ghana. The men prayed to Jesus as they were being executed.

The bodies of the men were recovered in October 2017, after one of the perpetrators was caught by Libyan authorities and disclosed the location of the remains, which were repatriated to Egypt in May of that year. 

Pope Francis in his speech on Thursday said the 21 men “were baptised not only in water and the Spirit, but also in blood, a blood that is a seed of unity for all followers of Christ.”

He then announced that, with the consent of Tawadros, the 21 men “will be included in the Roman Martyrology as a sign of the spiritual communion that unites our two churches.”


Pope includes Coptic Orthodox martyrs in Catholic compendium of saints (By Elise Ann Allen, Crux)