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Good morning, Father Angelo,

Unfortunately, these days, even in Europe, it is necessary to think about the possibility of suffering martyrdom.

I know that denying God in the face of executioners is sin.

I also know that groping to escape the executioners is legitimate, after all, the first Christians hid in the catacombs.

Let’s think about being kidnapped by Islamic terrorists: is it legitimate to remove the crucifix from the neck to avoid attracting the attention of the kidnappers?

And, if we were caught with the crucifix around our neck and the kidnapper ordered it to be removed, would obeying be like denying God?

Thanks for your answers.

Best regards.


The priest’s answer

Dear Nicola,

1. Jesus set for us  three criteria regarding the testimony of our faith.

The first is the positive duty to irradiate it.

Anyone, who has received faith lives it and is aware of its inestimable value, also wishes to share it with those who without fault “sit in darkness and death’s shadow” (Lk 1:79).

Furthermore, there is a command by the Lord: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house” (Mt 5:14-15).

2. The second comes from prudence which tolerates some evils in order to avoid greater ones.

In this sense we can understand what the Lord said: “When they persecute you in one town, flee to another” (Mt 10:23).

He himself gave an example (rf. Jn 8:59; 10:39).

The apostles also did the same thing (rf. 2Cor 11:33; Acts 12:8-11).

3. The third consists in the obligation not to deny the truth, even exposing oneself to martyrdom. Jesus said to Pilate: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn 18:37).

“The Church proposes the example of numerous Saints who bore witness to and defended moral truth even to the point of enduring martyrdom, or who preferred death to a single mortal sin” (Veritatis Splendor, 91).

4.The answer to your various questions can be found in the light of these criteria, keeping in mind the great distinction made by theologians between negative moral precepts (such as: do not steal, do not kill …) which oblige semper et pro semper (forever and in any case) and the positive ones, that originates mostly from the request to do good, which oblige semper sed non ad semper (forever but not in any case).

5. Regarding the positive precepts, it should be noted that there may be cases (for example in times of persecution) when it is more prudent not to publicly manifest the faith. In certain cases, such as in the event of being discovered and reported, there may also be an obligation to derogate from ecclesiastical laws which never oblige in case of serious inconvenience.

However, if the honor of God and the spiritual good of one’s neighbor demand it, an external act of faith may become necessary.

6. Therefore, your question “if kidnapped by Islamic terrorists, is it permissible to remove the crucifix from the neck to avoid attracting the attention of the kidnappers?” has an affirmative answer.

In fact, the positive moral precepts that command to bear witness to the faith oblige forever but not in any case. It is permissible to hide the crucifix to save one’s life necessary for the family, the Church and society.

7. Likewise for the second question: “if we were caught with the crucifix around our neck and the kidnapper ordered it to be removed”, obeying would not be like denying God, but ceasing to perform an act that is not strictly required.

Something similar happened in Turkey when Ataturk asked all religious to wear exclusively civilian clothes outside their homes. They did it, headed by future John XXIII.

8. It would be different if one were asked to deny the faith. Faith can never be lawfully denied and, just in the case because of this reason, one must be willing to testify to the truth up to martyrdom.

I wish you all good and I bless you.

Father Angelo