Message of the Mexican Martyrs

Interview With Father Luis Orozco, Author

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ROME, NOV. 17, 2005 ( The 13 Mexicans martyrs of the 1920s religious persecution who will be beatified next Sunday, help to explain the flowering of the Church in that country, says a scholar.

Legionary Father Luis Alfonso Orozco, a professor of theology at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, has published a book on the subject, «Martyrdom in Mexico During the Religious Persecution.»

The priest, who gave an interview to ZENIT, says that the blood of these martyrs made possible the maturation of the Church in Mexico in the 20th century.

Q: Are they martyrs of the Cristero war of 1926-1929, or martyrs of the religious persecution which that conflict sparked? Is there a difference?

Father Orozco: A martyr is one who gives his life for confessing his faith. The circumstances of martyrdom are very varied.

Specifically, in Mexico, it was the lot of these people — who were priests, farmers and youths, like José Luis Sánchez del Río, killed at 14 — to live in circumstances that were particularly complex as were those that sparked the religious persecution.

The Church, in her theological and historical judgment, does not raise them to the altar because they participated in the «Cristiada,» but because they confessed their faith in Christ.

Q: How important are these 13 beatifications? Is there some general characteristic that unites the new Mexican blessed?

Father Orozco: They are the third group of martyrs of the «Cristiada» raised to the altar. The essential characteristic of this group is that the majority of the blessed are lay people. An interesting heterogeneous group, but in these 13 blessed is reflected the variety and the richness of martyrdom in the Church.

Q: What importance does the martyrs’ message have for our time?

Father Orozco: The Christian people are called to confess their faith in Jesus, but not all Christians are called to be martyrs. Martyrdom is a gift given to us by God.

Pope John Paul II said that in these times Christians might not be asked for the testimony of blood but for the testimony of fidelity: to be faithful to the given word, to commitments assumed, to public witness of what we are.

Whoever is faithful to Christ in these difficult times is in a certain sense also a martyr.

Q: Is the blood of martyrs useful to people?

Father Orozco: In my particular case, one of the motivations that induced me to carry on with my research on martyrdom in Mexico during the religious persecution, is the immortal phrase of Tertullian, who, around the third century A.D., said: «The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christian life.»

It has been confirmed in the course of the history of the Church that, precisely, wherever there was a persecution, wherever there were martyrs who shed their blood in different circumstances, those places, those particular Churches afterward grew and flourished.

It is as if God, in his providence, has a very outstanding place reserved for the martyrs. And, of course, for peoples who have given martyrs to the universal Church.

Q: Their blood is not shed in vain?

Father Orozco: Their testimony does not fall into the void. That generous blood is united, in a certain way, to the blood of Christ shed on the cross, with which he redeemed the human race.

The blood of martyrs shed in all ages, contributes — with its part — to the work of redemption initiated by Christ.

In Mexico, in the 20th century, the Mexican Church reached its maturity, precisely because of the blood of these martyrs. The popular faith and family unity experienced in Mexico is also its consequence.

There is no doubt that the faith of the Mexican people has emerged strengthened from the events of martyrdom.

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