Cristero War Martyrs
For generations after Mexico’s Cristero War formally ended, Roman Catholics who were martyred by government troops under the administration of then-President Plutarco Calles went unrecognized. Some news reports even suggest that they were intentionally overlooked.
It is reported that, just a few years after the war had ended, anti-Cristero activist Memesio Garcia Naranjo wrote that a beatification of the martyrs “would inflame the spirits and what is needed to consolidate a spiritual transition is not to ignite but rather to cool the hearts. Let them not resuscitate the dead, because they are in the way of the combinations and agreements of the alive.”
Catholic Church tradition has included relatively short paths to sainthood for martyrs. In this case, however, that path was lengthened – at least in part because Church leaders had not supported the resistance movement’s use of force and violence.
On May 22, 1992, Blessed Pope John Paul II beatified a group of 25 Mexican priests and laymen who were martyred during the Cristero War, but who had not taken up arms in the fighting. The vast majority in this group were priests who had been tortured and killed for continuing to offer the sacraments in spite of President Calles’ attempts to totally repress Catholicism in Mexico.
One of the formal steps of the Cause for Canonization of Saints in the Roman Catholic Church is the verification of a miraculous event (i.e. some event or favors received that can’t be explained by science or other human methods) attributed to the intercession of the person or people for whom sainthood is sought. In the case of this group of 25 Cristero martyrs, Maria del Carmen Pulido Cortes of Guadalajara, Mexico, experienced such a miracle.
Pulido, diagnosed with an incurable disease after cysts were discovered (and some of them surgically removed) in her breasts, went to Rome for the 1992 beatification at the urging of Fr. Jose de Jesus Galvez Amezcua, who was administrator of a Guadalajara seminary at the time. “I went to Rome and asked to be cured, but it didn’t turn out that way,” she told Guadalajara Reporter newspaper.
In 1993, Fr. Galvez brought Pulido a silver crucifix that contained bits of clothing, blood and bones from the 25 Cristero martyrs. She placed the crucifix on her chest. “I was very sick,” she told the Reporter, “but as soon as my mother gave me the cross containing the relics, I felt relief. The cure was instantaneous.” Doctors confirmed that Pulido was fully healed, but could not explain what had happened.
After an extensive six-year investigation, Blessed Pope John Paul II announced formal validation of the Pulido miracle. He canonized the 25 as saints in May 2000.
The group includes (in alphabetical order) Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman, Atilano Cruz Alvarado, David Galván Bermudes, Agustín Caloca Cortés, Miguel De La Mora De La Mora, Jenaro Sánchez Delgadillo, Margarito Flores García, Toribio Romo González, José María Robles Hurtado, Cristóbal Magallanes Jara, David Roldán Lara, Justino Orona Madrigal, Mateo Correa Magallanes, Pedro de Jesús Maldonado, Julio Álvarez Mendoza, Jesús Méndez Montoya, Manuel Morales, Salvador Lara Puente, Pedro Esqueda Ramírez, Tranquilino Ubiarco Robles, Román Adame Rosales, Luis Batis Sáinz, Sabas Reyes Salazar, José Isabel Flores Varela and David Uribe Velasco.
A little more than five years later, on Nov. 20, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI beatified another group of 13 Cristero martyrs. The ceremony took place on Christ the King Sunday.
José Sanchez del Rio, Anacleto Gonzalez Flores and seven companions, Andrew Sola Molist, Leonardo Perez, José Trinidad Rangel and Dario Acosta Zurita.
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