Pope Francis cited the martyrdom of six Cistercian monks who tried to protect the Eucharist from desecration by French soldiers in 1799.
“These meek disciples of Christ resisted with heroic courage, unto death, to defend the Eucharist from desecration,” said the pope in his Regina Coeli address on April 18.
The six monks were beatified on April 17 in the Italian abbey where they were martyred more than 200 years ago.
In his address Pope Francis asked the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to applaud “the new Blesseds.”
“May their example spur us to a greater commitment of fidelity to God, capable of transforming society and making it more just and fraternal,” he said.
In 1799, the French army, which occupied Naples, sacked the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino and other churches and monasteries while on retreat.
While the others escaped, the six monks remained to try to save the consecrated hosts in the tabernacle from desecration. They were killed by the soldiers.
The pope said “the Eucharistic banquet” is the focal point of Christian community. “Eating together the Body of Christ: this is the core of Christian life,” said the pontiff.