233 Spanish Martyrs Beatified

Largest Number Ever Honored in One Ceremony

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VATICAN CITY, MAR. 11, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II today beatified 233 martyrs of the 1930s Spanish religious persecution, emphasizing that they died for the faith, not for politics.

It was the most numerous beatification in history. It recalled a 19th-century event, when Pius IX raised 206 Japanese martyrs to the altars. Beatification represents the last stage before a possible canonization.

«They were men and women of all ages and conditions: diocesan priests, men and women religious, fathers and mothers of families, lay youths,» the Pope said of the newly beatified. «They were killed for being Christians, for their faith in Christ, for being active members of the Church. According to the evidence in the canonical processes for their declaration as martyrs, before dying, all of them forgave their executioners.»

Among the 30,000 pilgrims in St. Peter´s Square were many of the martyrs´ close relatives, some of whom wept openly during the ceremony.

The Holy Father explained in the homily: «All these new blessed and many other anonymous martyrs paid with their blood the hatred of the faith and Church, unleashed with the religious persecution and outbreak of the civil war, that great tragedy lived in Spain during the 20th century.»

«The new blessed raised to the altars today were not involved in political or ideological struggles, nor did they wish to enter these,» the Pope emphasized. «They died only for religious reasons.»

«Now,» he continued, «with this solemn proclamation of martyrdom, the Church wants to recognize in those men and women an example of courage and constancy in faith, aided by the grace of God. They are for us models of consistency with the truth professed and, at the same time, an honor for the noble Spanish people and the Church.»

«May their blessed memory remove any form of violence, hatred and resentment for ever from Spanish soil!» the Pope exhorted.

To date, John Paul II has beatified 1,227 individuals in over 100 ceremonies, the Vatican reported. In the previous 400 years, 1,310 people were beatified.

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