America magazine recently gave it’s Campion Award to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. St. Edmund Campion is one of the great and courageous English Jesuit martyrs, himself hanged in the 16th century by the Archbishop’s Anglican forebears. His feast is observed by both churches. In receiving the award, the Archbishop referred to a concept of Pope John Paul II, martyrial ecumenism by which Christians of various bodies honor one another’s martyrs as heroic witnesses for Christ, particularly when they died at the hands of other Christians. He pointed to St. Paul as the first to honor the sacredness of his own victims:
“You have already heard the words martyrial ecumenism, and what they express is, to me, something utterly essential about the life of the Christian Church,” he said. “From the moment when St. Paul recognized in Jesus the face of his victims, it has been a deep dimension of Christian holiness to be able to go to one’s brothers and sisters in repentance and receive, from those you have offended or excluded, the grace of God’s welcome.”
Of course St. Paul converted the faith of his victims and the Archbishop has not–yet. Still, the ironies in the Anglican veneration of Catholic martyrs such as Edmund Campion, John Fisher and Thomas More are quite moving. But I cannot see Protestant martyrs similarly added to the Catholic calendar or being canonized.
Frankly, I am not sure what to make of this. Are the martyrs of the persecutors of the Church on the same footing as the martyrs for the Church? I cannot believe so.