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Research on early martyrs acknowledged

VATICAN CITY ( Two special awards were granted for research on the history of martyrs at a November 30 meeting of the Pontifical Academies on the witness of martyrs.

One Pontifical Academy Prize went to the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, which is conducting archeological work in Jerusalem. The other went to Daria Mastrorilli, an archeologist working on the cemeteries of Rome.

Another archeologist, Cecilia Proverbio, won a pontifical medal for her research on the icons of the early Roman basilicas.

In a message to the conference, Pope Benedict XVI remarked that the Church has always revered the witness of martyrs. He added that the catacombs of Rome “attest that from its beginnings, the Christian community exalted the champions of the faith as models and examples for all the baptised.”

He continued, “The vast numbers of monuments and works of art dedicated to martyrs, as documented by archaeological excavations and other research, arose from the Christian community’s conviction, yesterday as today, that the gospel speaks to man’s heart and is communicated above all by the witness of believers’ lives.”

Pope Benedict added, “If we look carefully at the example of the martyrs, those courageous witnesses of ancient Christianity, as well as at the many witnesses of our own time, we realise that they are all profoundly free, free from compromise and selfish ties, aware of the importance and beauty of their lives, and precisely for this reason capable of loving God and their brothers and sisters, setting a high example of Christian sanctity.”

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