Correspondence

The Muslim Invasions of Europe

In May Pope Francis canonized the 800 martyrs of Otranto, a city in Apulia in Southern Italy, who were slaughtered by the Turkish invaders of 1480.  Their invasion across the narrow seas between Albania and Italy was a sequel to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the advance of the Turkish armies up the Balkans toward Belgrade.

Upon arrival in Apulia, the Turkish army demanded that the inhabitants of the besieged city of Otranto surrender and convert to Islam.  They refused, and two weeks later the Muslims broke into the city and slaughtered its people, with many others being sold into slavery.  They entered the cathedral and killed the archbishop of Otranto as he was celebrating Mass, together with his congregation.  The following day the Turks rounded up the 800 survivors and ordered them to convert to Islam.  Led by Antonio Primaldo, a cutter of cloth, they all refused to renounce their Christian faith and were publicly beheaded.  That they had chosen martyrdom was soon perceived and proclaimed by the people of the region, and their sacrifice has been commemorated annually ever since.  They were beatified in 1771, and after a thorough historical investigation the validity of their cause was finally approved in 2007 by Pope Benedict, who announced their canonization in February 2013.  The ceremony in Rome in May was the culmination of a long and careful...

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