“I cannot abandon my sheep; I prefer to die with them, if necessary.” On Wednesday 23 August, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Francesco Patton ofm inaugurated the Chapel in Cappadocia (Aquila) dedicated to the blessed Salvatore Lilli ofm, martyred in Armenia in 1895.
Reflection and prayer marked the celebrations which preceded the inauguration of the chapel dedicated to the Blessed Salvatore Lilli ofm, in the Mother Church of St Margaret in Cappadocia, the village in Abruzzo where the Blessed Lilli was born.
The Custos of the Holy Land fra Francesco Patton accompanied by the General Commissar of the Holy Land fra Sergio Galdi d’Aragona, fra Vincenzo Ianniello and fra Gian Claudio Bottini were welcomed to Cappadocia by His Excellency Monsignor Giovanni Massaro, Bishop of the Marsi and by Monsignor Nareg Naamoyan, Exarch of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate for the Holy Land and Jordan, by the Mayors of the neighbouring towns and villages, by the Carabinieri and by the village band.
A large group of Franciscans of the Province of St Bonaventura was also present, accompanied by the General Postulator of the Causes of the Saints, fra Gianni Califano and by the Provincial Father, fra Luciano de Giusti. The entire celebration was wholly organized and directed by don Enzo Massotti, Spiritual father of the Seminary of Chieti.
Religious and authorities went to the house where the Blessed Salvatore Lilli was born and prayed, remembering his martyrdom and his unshakeable faith. After the house had been blessed, the procession returned to the Church of St Margaret, in front of which a high-relief in bronze with the portrait of the Blessed Salvatore Lilli, donated by his family, was venerated with the offering of incense.
In the church, the cases containing the relics of the Blessed Lilli were placed in the first chapel on the left. For the occasion, the Custody of the Holy Land showed the public some of his signed letters and the Franciscan Province of St Bonaventura offered the habit of the Blessed Salvatore, from Spain, to the veneration of the faithful.
During the Solemn Mass, the Custos concluded his homily (the full text is here) with these words: “The blessed Salvatore and his companions, as well as today’s martyrs, are a provocation for each of us, priests, religious and laypeople. They are a provocation for our mentality which seeks security at all costs because we are afraid not only of dying but also of giving up life. Salvatore and his companions are a provocation for me and they tell me: if you do not have anyone for whom to give your life, you also do not have a good reason to live. That someone, for Salvatore and his companions, as well as for today’s martyrs, but also for each one of us, is called Jesus Christ.”
The Blessed Salvatore Lilli and his martyred companions
Salvatore Lilli was born in Cappadocia (Aquila) in 1853 and entered the Order of Friars Minor in 1870. He left for the Holy Land as a missionary in 1873. He was then sent to Marsc in Lesser Armenia and stayed there for fifteen years. Following the political uprisings of the Turks against the Armenians, on 22 November 1895 he was arrested with other Christians and taken to Marasc; on the journey they were asked several times to renounce their Catholic religion and convert to the faith of Mohammed, if they wanted to save their lives. On their refusal, they were stabbed to death by bayonets and their bodies were burnt in an area called Mujuk-Deresi. The names of the seven Armenian faithful martyred together with Father Salvatore Lilli are: Baldji Ohannes, Khodianin Kadir, Kouradji Tzeroum, Dimbalac Wartavar, Ieremias Boghos, David David and Toros David. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 3 October 1982.
fra Sergio Galdi d’Aragona