June 30 - First Martyrs of the Church of Rome
Even before the coming of Christ there were Jews in Rome. Mainly either involved in Trade or in the lending of money,they had some influence and enjoyed certain benefits, including being able to meet in their synagogues. The Jewish quarter in Rome was close to the Circus Maximus which was a large sporting stadium.
The Christian faith came to Rome from possibly a variety of sources - Roman jews who had returned to Jerusalem, been converted, and then returned to Rome to spread the faith; possibly even Roman soldiers who had become converted, and possibly some of those who were present in Jerusalem on that Pentecost day, and were converted by hearing the Good News preached in their own language.
In the year 64, a great fire broke out in Rome, starting near the Jewish quarter close to the Circus Maximus. It spread to such an extent that the whole of Rome was threatened.
There was some suspicion that the emperor Nero had himself started the fire, in order to clear a certain area where he was planning to build some other public buildings. To allay this suspicion, Nero blamed the Christians, and immediately the anger of the populace was aroused. They demanded that the Christians be arrested and punished severely. In the courts, no evidence could be produced to condemn them, so they were accused of other shocking crimes.
Many of the Romans feared and distrusted the Christians because they did not worship the Roman Gods, and their religion set them apart from the others. For these reasons it was easy for the Emperor to get popular support for his unjust persecution.
Many of the Christians were clothed in animal skins, and thrown to the dogs or the Lions, and many more were covered in tar, and then burned alive as human torches; others were beheaded or strangled. This cruel and vicious persecution lasted until the end of Nero's reign in 68 A.D.
On this day we pray for all those who died in this horrible way.
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