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Future beatification of Spanish martyrs sheds light on country's religious persecution

2013-10-11

On October 13, the Catholic Church will witness one of the largest beatification ceremonies in history. It'll take place in the northeast Spanish city of Tarragona. Five hundred and twenty two martyrs of religious persecution from the 1930s will be one step closer to sainthood.   

FR. VICENTE CÁRCEL ORTÍ
Historian

"The fundamental conditions for declaring martyrdom are: death for their faith, to grant forgiveness before dying, and even praying for their executioners. These are the basic reasons for the Church to raise them to the honors of the altar, and present them to Christians and believers, as witnesses to the faith.”

This period of persecution surged during the Spanish Civil War, but the harassment began much earlier. Vicente Cárcel Ortí, one of the privileged few with access to the Vatican Secret Archives from that time period, called it one of the most ruthless persecutions of Catholics in history.

FR. VICENTE CÁRCEL ORTÍ
Historian

"Since 1931, there was a covert practice of forbidding Catholic newspapers from publishing, of not allowing funeral processions on the streets, or forcing people to remove any religious objects from public view. It was certainly the greatest persecution number-wise in all of Western Europe, practically since the Roman Empire.”

In 1987, the first beatifications of these martyrs began. John Paul II, moved by their stories of forgiveness and reconciliation, was one of the leading proponents.

FR. VICENTE CÁRCEL ORTÍ
Historian
"A cardinal once told me that the reason John Paul II pushed for these beatifications was the fact that they had killed women, especially lay and secular women. That for him was incomprehensible. He said, 'It's clear that they're martyrs of the faith.'

Some calculations place the number of Catholics killed during that time period at 10,000. With the latest beatification ceremony, Spain will now have a total of 1523 martyrs of religious persecution from the 1930's.


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