The martyrs of the 2Oth century
    Bishop Antons Justs of Jelgava, Latvia

In my address I refer to number 28 of the Instrumentum laboris: the word speeds on (cf. 2 Thess 3:1) and descends as a fruitful rain from heaven (cf. Is 55:10-11). In my presentation I would like to speak about the martyrs of the 2Oth century and in particular those in my country Latvia. These are the priests, men and women who died for proclaiming the Word of God.There follows the story of a priest who was forced to step on the Holy Bilble…

    I will never act against God

 I remember our Latvian priest, Vik-tors, who during the Soviet regime in Latvia was arrested for possessing the Holy Bible. In the eyes of the Soviet agents the Holy Scriptures were an an-tirevolutionary book. The agents threw the Holy Scriptures on the floor and ordered the priest to step on it. The priest refused and instead knelt down and kissed the book. For this gesture the priest was condemned to 10 years of hard labour in Siberia. Ten years later when the priest returned to his parish and celebrated the Holy Mass, he read the Gospel. Then he lifted up the lectionary and said: «The Word of God»! The people cried and thanked God. They did not dare to applaud him, because that would be understood as another provocation. In Latvia during the Soviet era no religious books, no Holy Scriptures, no catechisms were allowed to be printed. The reasoning was, if there is no printed Word of God, there will be no religion. Our Latvian people did what the first century Christians did: they learnt the passages of the Holy Scriptures by heart. Still today in Latvia there is a living oral tradition. We stand on the shoulders of our martyrs to proclaim the Word of God. Our grandchildren remember their grandfathers and grandmothers, who died for their faith and they would like to be, in their turn, the «heroes» of faith. In Latvia we proclaim the living Word of God! We go in procession and on pilgrimages, we sing songs and we pray and say: «This is the Word of God», for which our grandparents died. In Latvia when the Holy Mass is only one hour long, the people say it is only a warm-up for the real encounter with God in Sacrament and his Word.