GUADALAJARA, Mexico, NOV. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Thirteen Mexicans martyred during the religious persecution of the 1920s will be beatified in Guadalajara next Sunday according to Benedict XVI’s new guidelines.
Among the martyrs who died during the so-called Cristero war of 1926-1929, the most outstanding is Anacleto González Flores.
He was a lay leader who was very active from 1915 until the year of his martyrdom, 1927, at the hands of the federal army commanded by Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles.
González Flores founded the Popular Union, better known as the “U,” a movement that included labor, women and farmers. It promoted catechesis and actively opposed the local and federal governments in their measures to suppress religious freedom.
Because of his option for pacifism and nonviolence during the Cristero war, González Flores was known as the “Mexican Gandhi.”
Married and the father of two, “Master Cleto,” as he was known, was born in Tepatitlan, in the state of Jalisco, in July 1888.
He came from humble origins. The son of an alcoholic weaver, he did various jobs until he received his law degree at 33 in 1921. Before that, he had been a seminarian and postulant in the seminaries of San Juan de los Lagos and Guadalajara.
In 1914, when all churches were closed on the order of José Guadalupe Zuno, governor of Jalisco, González Flores organized the Popular Union and founded the newspaper Gladium, “sword” in Latin, a word with which he already dreamed of martyrdom.
Confrontations between the government and Catholics started in July 1918, to which González Flores responded with the philosophy of “peaceful resistance.”
He was arrested in 1919 for his social, political and religious ideals. Three years later he coordinated the first Catholic Labor Congress in Guadalajara and organized the National Catholic Labor Conference that spread throughout the country.
In May 1925 the National League in Defense of Religious Freedom was founded in Mexico City. It favored recourse to arms, but González Flores disagreed, and insisted on moral strength to win the battle.
Militants arrived in the capital in 1926 with an ultimatum for the Popular Union, which obliged him to enter the National League. The armed movement began the following year, which González Flores accepted with regret.
General Jesús Ferreira decided to put an end to the Popular Union by taking the “Master” prisoner. González Flores was arrested on March 31, 1927, and martyred the following day. His executioners hanged him by his thumbs and then, at bayonet point, kept torturing him to disclose the whereabouts of the archbishop of Guadalajara and other leaders of the Cristero Revolution.
Finally, the steel blade fatally pierced his heart. At the same time, his companions in the struggle and martyrdom were shot in the courtyard of the same prison.
The “Master” asked to be killed after his companions, so as to be able to console them.
Before dying, González Flores told the general in charge: “I forgive you from my heart; we will soon meet before the divine tribunal, the same judge who will judge me will judge you; then you will have an intercessor in me with God.”
González Flores’ process of beatification was opened officially and solemnly on Oct. 15, 1994, in the Shrine of Guadalupe, in Guadalajara, where his mortal remains rest. Many faithful flock there to venerate his memory.