At the event, Iraqi Cardinal Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church and representatives from Pakistan and Nigeria will speak of the persecution their communities have endured in recent years.
"As John Paul II said, freedom of religion is the basic freedom. Without it, there is no freedom at all. If you deny freedom of religion, you deny all the other freedoms," Fr. Romano said.
The story of the basilica's dedication to the "new martyrs" began with St. John Paul II, Romano explained.
"John Paul II was a friend of many martyrs ... he lived through the persecution of the Second World War by the Nazi regime and then the Communist persecution," he said.
In 1998, Pope John Paul II established the Commission for the New Martyrs of the Great Jubilee, giving them the task "not only to document Catholic martyrs, but also protestant and Orthodox, saying in the blood of the martyrs, the Church is already united. There was this vision of the ecumenicism of the blood."
The Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island continues the ecumenical focus today by honoring the Anglican martyrs of Solomon Island, a brotherhood working for reconciliation among the ethnic groups who were killed in 1992-93, and Russian Orthodox Father Alexander Men, who was assassinated in Moscow in 1990.
There is a large icon on the altar of the "New Martyrs and Witnesses to the Faith of the 20th and 21st centuries," which was blessed by both an Orthodox patriarch and the cardinal vicar of Rome.
Pope Francis also gave the basilica a little wooden bird from the Orthodox Church of the Holy Mother of God in Syria, a church that burned during the bombing of Aleppo in the Syrian civil war. The bird was brought back to Rome with the humanitarian corridors of the Catholic Community of St. Egidio, a lay movement dedicated to works of charity, who have been entrusted with the spiritual care of the basilica of St. Bartholomew.
"When Christians are truly leaven, light, and salt to the earth, they are, like Jesus, subject to persecution; like Him they are 'signs of contradiction,'" Pope Benedict XVI said on his visit to the basilica in 2006.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.