Thirteen Mexican martyrs beatified by Vatican
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The Vatican on Sunday beatifed 13 Mexican martyrs who died during a Roman Catholic uprising in the late 1920s that was crushed by the Mexican government.Lines of faithful, some of whom traveled from all over the country and abroad, began streaming into the cavernous, 60,000-seat Estadio Jalisco hours before the ceremony began. Many sang and chanted, walking in long pilgrimages from different parts of the Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city.They filled nearly all the seats at the soccer stadium, where Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints, arrived from Rome to oversee the ceremony.Those without tickets to attend ringed the stadium and listened from the outside, while thousands of others stayed attuned to radio and television broadcasts in many nearby restaurants and shops.The Portuguese-born Saraiva Martins, who heads the Vatican office overseeing the process for sainthood, called the martyrs “faithful witnesses” to the power of the church and promised that history has not forgotten them.Massive sketches of each martyr adorned the soccer field, arranged around a towering cross. Pope Benedict XVI appeared on video screens, reading a message from the Vatican.”They are a permanent example for us,” the pope said in Spanish of the martyrs, “an encouragement to give concrete testimony of our own faith in today’s society.”The ceremony ended with the explosion of fireworks over the stadium. Beatification is the last formal step before sainthood.The 1917 constitution that grew out of the Mexican Revolution tightened already tough restrictions on the church, banning public masses and religious garb. It capped a century of setbacks for the church, which had enjoyed a government-imposed monopoly of faith for most of the 300 years following Spain’s conquest of Mexico in 1521.The revolutionary limits sparked the Cristero War of 1926-29 in which tens of thousands died fighting the government over religious restrictions.Among beatified was Luis Padilla Gomez, who was born in Guadalajara, 280 miles northwest of Mexico City, on Dec. 9, 1899, and served as president of Mexico’s Young Catholic Association. He was arrested, tortured and killed by soldiers for his work in 1927. Also tortured before his death in 1927 was Ezequiel Huerta Gutierrez.Ramon Vargas Gonzalez studied medicine and was known for his preaching on behalf of the church before he was shot along with his brother on April 1, 1927.Others chosen for beatification included Jose Sanchez del Rio, who was stabbed to death at age 14, and priests Jose Trinidad Rangel, Andres Sola Molist and Dario Acosta Zurita.Restrictions on the church have gradually eased, though Mexico did not re-establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican until 1992.The ceremony marked the first Mexican beatifications since April 2004, when Pope John Paul II beatified Guadalupe Garcia, a Guadalajara native who founded hospitals and a religious order that has 22 foundations in Mexico, Peru, Iceland, Greece and Italy.In 2000, John Paul II canonized 25 Mexican martyrs from the era of the Cristero uprising. The best-known of that group was Father Cristobal Magallanes, who reputedly pardoned his killers as he died by firing squad May 25, 1927.So far passed over for sainthood was the most famous priest from that era, Father Miguel Pro, who was beatified in 1988.