World View: Pope Francis Canonizes 800 Otranto 'Martyrs' of Ottoman Army

This morning's key headlines from

  • Pope Francis canonizes 800 Otranto 'martyrs' of Ottoman army
  • Taiwan sends warships into South China Sea near Philippines
  • Suicide rates increasing substantially among Boomers
  • Millions of Chinese internet users vow not to commit suicide

Pope Francis canonizes 800 Otranto 'martyrs' of Ottoman army

Otranto Castle
Otranto Castle

The new Pope Francis on Sunday canonized over 800 "Martyrs of Otranto" as saints, the largest such action in the history of the Catholic Church. At the same time, two Latin American nuns became saints.

The 1480 Battle of Otranto was ordered by Muslim Ottoman forces under the command of Sultan Mehmet II, known as Mehmet the Conqueror. At age 21, on May 29, 1453, Mehmet had led the successful capture of the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), possibly the most globally significant battle of the last millennium, as it ended the Christian Byzantine Empire and began the Ottoman domination of the entire region. In 1480, Mehmet acted to destroy the Roman Empire once and for all by capturing Rome, and then all of Italy. Mehmet's armada landed in Otranto in the "heel" of Italy's "boot" on July 29, 1480. The citizens of Otranto, with the tales of horror of the fall of Constantinople still fresh in their minds, realized that they were vastly outnumbered, and surrendered. According to Catholic accounts, the Ottomans segregated the women and children, who became slaves, from the men. Some 800 men were ordered to convert to Islam. They refused, and proclaimed that they would die for Christ. On August 14, 1480, the men were beaten and decapitated, one by one, in full view of the others, and then put into a mass grave. According to Catholic history, not only did they become martyrs, but their actions were a miracle, because they also saved Rome from capture by the Ottomans, since they forced a delay that gave the Italian troops in Rome time to prepare. Mehmet the Conqueror died on May 3, 1481, and is thought to have been poisoned.

Not surprisingly, parts of the Catholic accounts are disputed by Muslim scholars, who describe the actions of Mehmet much more charitably, both in Otranto and in Constantinople. Of significance today is that Muslims view this mass canonization as a new anti-Islam attack by the Catholics. And that may indeed have been the intention of Francis' predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who formally approved the canonization of the 800 -- and did so on the very last day of his papacy, leaving the job to be completed by Pope Francis. and Guardian (London)

Taiwan sends warships into South China Sea near Philippines

Taiwan on Sunday dispatched four warships to patrol waters in the South China Sea near the Philippines, in response to public outrage over the Thursday's shooting and GMA Network (Philippines)

Suicide rates increasing substantially among Boomers

Since 1999, there have been substantial increases in the suicide rates of United States adults aged 35-64. The three most common suicide mechanisms were firearms (i.e., penetrating injury or gunshot wound from a weapon using a powder charge to fire a projectile), poisoning (predominantly drug overdose), and suffocation (predominantly hanging). The suicide rate for men aged 35-64 years increased 27.3%, and the rate for women increased 31.5%. Among whites, the rate for women increased 41.9%, and the rate for men increased 39.6%. Firearms and suffocation were the most common mechanisms for men, whereas poisoning and firearms were the most common mechanisms for women. Possible contributing factors for the rise in suicide rates include the recent economic downturn (historically, suicide rates tend to correlate with business cycles, with higher rates observed during times of economic hardship); a cohort effect, based on evidence that the Boomer generation had unusually high suicide rates during their adolescent years; and a rise in intentional overdoses associated with the increase in availability of prescription opioids. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Millions of Chinese internet users vow not to commit suicide

In the last few days, millions of Chinese internet users have posted online pledges not to commit suicide:

"I will never commit suicide. If I die unexpectedly, I was killed by others and the police should investigate the crime."

The pledges are actually an anti-government protest, following the suspicious death of Yuan Liya, a young clothing store worker in Beijing. The rumors are that she was gang-raped by security guards and thrown off a high balcony, but police ruled the death a suicide. Angry protesters demanded an investigation, but they were quickly silenced by hordes of police. Deaths by "forced suicide" are thought to be quite common in China, as police use the technique to silence activists. BBC

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