20 martyrs of persecution during Spanish Civil War to be beatified

On Nov. 18, the Archdiocese of Seville will celebrate the beatification of 20 martyrs of the systematic religious persecution carried out during the 1936--1939 Spanish Civil War.

The 20 martyrs to be beatified in the Seville cathedral by the prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, include 10 priests, one seminarian, and nine laypeople. All of them were killed out of hatred for the faith in 1936.

The priests are Manuel González-Serna, Francisco de AsÍs Arias, Miguel Borrero, Mariano Caballero, Pedro Carballo, Juan MarÍa Coca, Antonio JesÚs DÍaz, Rafael Machuca, Salvador Lobato Pérez, and José Vigil.

Enrique Palacios is the seminarian. The laypeople are MarÍa Dolores Sobrino, AgustÍn Alcalá, Mariano LÓpez-Cepero, Gabriel LÓpez-Cepero, CristÓbal Pérez, Manuel Palacios, José MarÍa Rojas, Manuel Luque, and Rafael Lobato.

The only laywoman was a housewife who worked with the parish. Among the other laymen were lawyers, landowners, a pharmacist, a sacristan, and a carpenter. One of them had a son who was a seminarian.

Among the priests, many had already suffered the violent anticlericalism before the outbreak of the civil war. Some were educators, others saw their churches burned.

The archbishop of Seville, José ángel Saiz Meneses, explained at a press conference announcing the upcoming beatification that "it's a fact that we are called to live in a climate of faith, above all, to give thanks to God for the witness that these brothers of ours left us."

Saiz recalled the admiration that the testimony of the more than 10,000 religious killed in Spain inspired in the French writer Paul Claudel, who said: "So many martyrs and not a single case of apostasy!"

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, the prelate said that "by faith the martyrs gave their lives as a testimony to the truth of the Gospel that had transformed them and made them capable of getting to the point of the greatest gift of love with the forgiveness of their persecutors."

The archbishop of Seville also expressed his desire that the beatification of these 20 martyrs "be an occasion of grace that revitalizes the faith of our Christian communities, making them places of justice, love, and peace, also of coexistence and reconciliation because the martyrs are a spiritual richness for everyone."

The prelate asked for "the grace and joy of conversion to assume the demands of faith" and that, "through the intercession of the martyrs and of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Martyrs, we may be architects of reconciliation in society and of communion in the Church."

Saiz stressed that the martyrs "died forgiving those who took their lives" and therefore "they are a great example for us, who surely will not find ourselves in the situation of giving physical life like them -- perhaps we will, but probably not -- but we are called to live that martyrdom dimension of the Christian life because 'martyr' means 'witness.'"

The archbishop then explained the way in which this martyrdom dimension can be lived: "With an authentic Christian life that aspires to holiness, that aspires to total surrender, that aspires to live the love of God and others to the point of giving one's life if necessary."

A series of events has been scheduled around the beatification of the martyrs. On Nov. 10, the auxiliary bishop of Seville, Teodoro LeÓn, will give a conference together with history professor José Leonardo Ruiz. That same day a prayer vigil will take place in the cathedral.

On Nov. 17, the eve of the beatification, there will be a prayer service at the Metropolitan Seminary of Seville. Between Nov. 19--26, the parishes of the new blesseds will offer Masses of thanksgiving.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.