The Cristero War
Mexico’s Cristero War (1926-29) was a grassroots rebellion against the administration of Plucarto Elias Calles, who provoked the Catholic community by arresting priests and forcing the closure of all churches with military force. He sought to restrict – if not eliminate – Catholicism from the country.
In 1926, President Calles began aggressive measures to repress religion. Many steps focused squarely on Catholicism, and Mexican bishops voted to suspend all public worship – a move that turned much of the population against the government and its imposition of religious restrictions.
Armed Catholics shut themselves into the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Guadalajara (in the Jalisco state), in August 1926; this move is generally recognized as one of the first events in an organized resistance to President Calles’ initiatives. The Guanajuato state, which Pope Benedict has included (and focused on) during his March 23-29, 2012, trip to Mexico and Cuba, was among the Mexican states to see the first battles in what would become known as the Cristero War.
Some historic accounts of the war include reports of miracles – among them a report of consecrated hosts flying through the sky in front of attacking federal soliders; and of a group of 350 Cristero fighters being fed by a woman who claimed to have only “a few biscuits, and yet there is enough for everyone, and what is left over is more than I had to begin with!”
Historic accounts indicate upwards of 50,000 Mexicans became Cristero fighters, with thousands of women joining the Brigades of St. Joan of Arc to provide logistical support to the armed uprising.
Dwight Whitney Morrow, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, intervened with President Calles beginning in late 1927 to end the conflict. Ultimately, the government agreed to let the Catholic Church to resume worship and all rites as long as it generally obeyed the law. Catholic bishops agreed that laws used by President Calles to initiate suppression of religious freedom would not have to be repealed or eliminated – just applied more leniently.
Mexico did not reestablish formal relations with the Vatican until 1992.
Links for additional information on the Cristero War: