"The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart" (Responsorial Psalm). These words of the Responsorial Psalm clearly reflect the experience of Augustine Zhao Rong and his 119 companions, martyrs in China. The testimonies which have come down to us allow us to glimpse in them a state of mind marked by deep serenity and joy.
Today the Church is grateful to her Lord, who blesses her and bathes her in light with the radiant holiness of these sons and daughters of China. Is not the Holy Year the most appropriate moment to make their heroic witness shine resplendently? Young Ann Wang, a 14-year-old, withstood the threats of the torturers who invited her to apostatize. Ready for her beheading, she declared with a radiant face: "The door of heaven is open to all", three times murmuring: "Jesus". And 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, cried out fearlessly to those who had just cut off his right arm and were preparing to flay him alive: "Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian".
The other 85 Chinese men and women of every age and state, priests, religious and lay people, showed the same conviction and joy, sealing their unfailing fidelity to Christ and the Church with the gift of their lives. This occurred over the course of several centuries and in a complex and difficult era of China's history. Today's celebration is not the appropriate time to pass judgement on those historical periods: this can and should be done elsewhere. Today, with this solemn proclamation of holiness, the Church intends merely to recognize that those martyrs are an example of courage and consistency to us all, and that they honour the noble Chinese people.
-Homily of Blessed John Paul II, Canonization Mass on October 1, 2000
Yesterday was the feast of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his Companions, who were canonized by Blessed John Paul II. Let us take this opportunity to ask for their intercession, especially now, as the Church faces continued persecution in China.