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The Spanish Martyrs, the largest beatification in history

12/10/2007: Italy

On October 28th the Church will celebrate the largest number of beatifications taking place at one time as almost 500 martyrs of the religious persecution that took place in Spain in the 1930s are raised to the altars of glory.

Father Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, Secretary General of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, affirmed it in an academic act that was celebrated in honor of this beatification in the Great Hall of the Augustinian Pontifical Institute near the Vatican.

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside on that day at the beatification of the 498 twentieth century martyrs of Spain in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

“Never have so many Servants of God been beatified in a single ceremony; it’s the largest in history,” explained a spokesperson from the Episcopal Conference.

“From an organizational point of view, it’s the first time that different and numerous causes (23), initiated and carried forward individually by their respective postulators, are welcomed by the Office for the Causes of Saints, created by the Spanish Episcopal Conference, in dialog with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to encourage, accompany and coordinate the work of the positos, always respecting those responsible for them.”

“And, in short,” he explained, “from a pastoral point of view, practically all of the Spanish dioceses which, by reason of birth, apostolic life or the martyrdom of the newly beatified, are seen as beneficiaries of this great feast of faith and holiness.”

The secretary of the Episcopal Conference explained that “a beatification as large as this has not been prepared to appear grandiose. The ceremony and the celebration will be great, because great is the page of the history of the Church in Spain on which it will be reflected.”

“There are many cases of martyrdom already recognized by the Church for the period of the 1930s. With these newly beatified the numbers now reach about a thousand (exactly, 977, among whom there are 11 saints).”

“And there are many eligible cases to be recognized in the future,” continued Father Martínez Camino. “Some two thousand are still going through the processes. And it is foreseen that they will continue proposing many other cases approaching, perhaps, tens of thousands.”

“The religious persecutions of the 1930s have their own characteristics in Spain. But it is neither an isolated case nor one solely about Spain. It is included in the great persecution suffered by Christians of all faiths in the twentieth century in the world and, in particular, in Europe,” he continued explaining.

“The Church is not searching for those guilty when it beatifies its martyrs. It looks only for the glory of God and the wellbeing of all men and women. It looks to promote the cause of Jesus Christ, which is the cause of human beings.”

The academic act was moderated by Bishop Vicente Cárcel Ortí, student of the History of the Church in Spain, who explained that the religious persecution of the years 1934 and 1936-39 was the most negative aspect of the Second Spanish Republic, that sought to hide it by mixing it, confusing it or justifying it with the Civil War, when in reality it began two years previously.

The historian recalled that Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical “Dilectissima nobis” (3 June 1933) denounced before the world the real religious persecution that the Church in Spain was living through.

“It was well known in the History of Spain and, perhaps, in the entire history of the Catholic Church. There were about ten thousand martyred for religious reasons,” he explained.

ROME, Friday, 5 October 2007 (ZENIT.org).

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