From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):
Martyrdom, accepted as an affirmation of the inviolability of the moral order, bears splendid witness both to the holiness of God’s law and to the inviolability of the personal dignity of man, created in God’s image and likeness. This dignity may never be disparaged or called into question, even with good intentions, whatever the difficulties involved. Jesus warns us most sternly: “What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mk 8:36).
Martyrdom rejects as false and illusory whatever “human meaning” one might claim to attribute, even in “exceptional” conditions, to an act morally evil in itself. Indeed, it even more clearly unmasks the true face of such an act: it is a violation of man’s “humanity”, in the one perpetrating it even before the one enduring it.144 Hence martyrdom is also the exaltation of a person’s perfect “humanity” and of true “life”, as is attested by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, addressing the Christians of Rome, the place of his own martyrdom: “Have mercy on me, brethren: do not hold me back from living; do not wish that I die . . . Let me arrive at the pure light; once there I will be truly a man. Let me imitate the passion of my God”.145
144 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 27.
145 Ad Romanos, VI, 2-3: Patres Apostolici, ed. F. X. Funk, I, 260-261.
— Veritatis Splendor 92