MEXICO CITY, Aug. 1, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II beatified two Mexican Indians in the Basilica of Guadalupe today, martyrs for the faith just over 300 years ago.
Jacinto de los Ángeles and Juan Bautista, of the Zapoteca, were born in 1660 in San Francisco Cajonos, Oaxaca, Mexico. They were both married with children, and belonged to the vicariate of Cajonos.
Each were qualified as an “attorney general,” with the primary task of ensuring the purity of the faith and the moral practices in the town, helping the priests especially in rural districts.
The letters written by the two Dominican religious, Father Alonso de Vargas and Father Gaspar de los Reyes, in charge of the parish of San Francisco Cajonos, confirm that Juan and Jacinto were attorneys. The testimonies of those who witnessed their deaths held important information about their martyrdom.
On Sept. 14, 1700, Juan and Jacinto learned that an idolatrous rite was to take place that evening in the home of the local Indian José Flores. The attorneys notified the two Dominicans and it was decided that they should intervene.
They went at night secretly to the home of José, where they surprised the idolaters and the participants. When the attorneys and Dominican religious began to reprove them, the Indians blew out their candles and ran out of the house covering their faces. Confusion followed, and the idolaters’ sacrilegious instruments were confiscated and taken to the Dominican convent.
The following morning the Dominican provincial superior of Oaxaca and the authority of Villa Alta of San Ildefonso were informed of what had happened. By midday, the attorneys had received notice that the idolaters were preparing to retaliate and so they took refuge in the Dominican convent.
At around 8 p.m., the rebel Indians went to the convent armed with spears and clubs. They demanded that Juan and Jacinto be handed over to them, or else they would kill everyone in the convent.
Father Gaspar and Father Alonzo refused to hand them over. The Indians threatened to burn down the church. In their rage, they broke down the doors of the convent, reclaiming the instruments of idolatry that were in the storehouse, and set fire to the nearby home of Juan Bautista. Finally, realizing that there was no other choice since everyone in the convent would be in danger, the two attorneys were handed over.
When Juan was consigned, he said: “Here I am. If you have to kill me tomorrow, do it now instead.” Jacinto asked the Dominican priest for Confession and Holy Communion before leaving, because he wanted to “die for love of God and without using weapons.”
The attorneys were brutally beaten and tortured by the rebel Indians, who tried to persuade them to abjure their faith and to approve idolatry. The attorneys never defended themselves or complained, but only responded: “If your religion is authentic, why don’t you build temples for public worship instead of practicing at night to trick the poor Christians who are ignorant?”
They were then taken to the local prison for further torture; the next morning, they were moved to the nearby village of San Pedro, to Tanga Hill.
On Thursday afternoon, Sept. 16, Juan Bautista and Jacinto de los Ángeles were thrown down Tanga Hill, and were then beaten with clubs and cut up with knives. Their chests were cut open and their hearts were taken out and given to the dogs.
Their mortal remains were thrown into an open pit, where they were eventually collected and preserved in the Church of Villa Alta. In 1889 their remains were given to Bishop Eulogio G. Gillow y Zavalza of Oaxaca, who took them to the Cathedral of Oaxaca, where they are venerated today.
The place of their martyrdom continues to be a center of pilgrimage and a testimony in the face of the difficulties and perversions that the evangelization of Mexico encountered, and their supreme witness of fidelity continues to bear fruit.
Archbishop Héctor González of Antequera, whose Archdiocese includes this southern village of the state of Oaxaca, said that the history of the blessed will spread throughout the region, especially to strengthen the Indians’ faith.
“The martyrs’ relics accompany me wherever I go to present this example of Christian heroism in fidelity to the Gospel and the following of Jesus,” the archbishop added.