March 12, 2001
volume 12, no. 71

233 Spanish Martyrs Beatified - Largest Number Ever Honored in One Ceremony

No Cause Can Justify Terrorism, Pope Says as He Appeals for End to Violence in Spain

    VATICAN CITY, MAR. 11, 2001 ( John Paul II today beatified 233 martyrs of the 1930s Spanish religious persecution, emphasizing that they died for the faith, not for politics.

    It was the most numerous beatification in history. It recalled a 19th-century event, when Pius IX raised 206 Japanese martyrs to the altars. Beatification represents the last stage before a possible canonization.

    "They were men and women of all ages and conditions: diocesan priests, men and women religious, fathers and mothers of families, lay youths," the Pope said of the newly beatified. "They were killed for being Christians, for their faith in Christ, for being active members of the Church. According to the evidence in the canonical processes for their declaration as martyrs, before dying, all of them forgave their executioners."

    Among the 30,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square were many of the martyrs' close relatives, some of whom wept openly during the ceremony.

    The Holy Father explained in the homily: "All these new blessed and many other anonymous martyrs paid with their blood the hatred of the faith and Church, unleashed with the religious persecution and outbreak of the civil war, that great tragedy lived in Spain during the 20th century."

    "The new blessed raised to the altars today were not involved in political or ideological struggles, nor did they wish to enter these," the Pope emphasized. "They died only for religious reasons."

    "Now," he continued, "with this solemn proclamation of martyrdom, the Church wants to recognize in those men and women an example of courage and constancy in faith, aided by the grace of God. They are for us models of consistency with the truth professed and, at the same time, an honor for the noble Spanish people and the Church."

    "May their blessed memory remove any form of violence, hatred and resentment for ever from Spanish soil!" the Pope exhorted.

    To date, John Paul II has beatified 1,227 individuals in over 100 ceremonies, the Vatican reported. In the previous 400 years, 1,310 people were beatified.

    John Paul II made a heartrending appeal for an end to the "perverse logic" of terrorism in Spain.

    On the day he beatified 233 martyrs of the 1936-1939 Spanish religious persecution, the Pope said, "I wish to entrust to the intercession of the new blessed an intention that you carry deeply embedded in your hearts: the end of terrorism in Spain."

    Two days earlier, Spain was shaken by the latest killing of the ETA terrorist group. On Friday, the group murdered Inaki Totorika Vega, 25, a member of the Basque autonomous police.

    "Over several decades, you have been tried by horrendous violence and a series of murders, which have caused numerous victims and great suffering," the Pope said in his Mass homily. "At the root of such lamentable events is a perverse logic that must be denounced."

    "Terrorism is born of hatred and feeds it in turn; it is radically unjust and increases unjust situations, because it gravely offends God and the dignity and rights of persons," he added. "With terror, man is always the loser! No reason, no cause or ideology can justify it. Only peace builds up peoples. Terror is the enemy of humanity."

    Since 1968, attacks by Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, the Basque separatist group, have left 800 people dead. ZE01031108 and ZE01031106

Record Number of Candidates for Sainthood Beatified by Pope Sunday

By Frances D'Emilio

    VATICAN CITY - March 11 (AP) - Pope John Paul II beatified hundreds of nuns, priests and lay people who died in the Spanish civil war, invoking their names in a plea for an end to the terrorism in Spain today.

    The beatification of 233 martyrs the last step before possible sainthood, or canonization was the largest number ever in a single ceremony, reflecting the pontiff's determination to give his faithful many role models, including some from modern times.

    The previous record was the 1877 beatification of 206 Japanese martyrs by Pius IX.

    The Pope declared the Spaniards, who died at the hands of leftists waging anti-clerical campaigns during last century's civil war, martyrs on Sunday.

    Beatification usually requires the Vatican's certification of a miracle credited to the intercession of the person, but in the case of martyrdom, that requirement is waived.

    Strong applause rang out when John Paul, reading his homily in Spanish, invoked the names of the newly beatified in a plea for an end to terrorism, blamed on Basque separatists, in Spain.

    "Terrorism is born of hatred and, in turn, feeds it, it is radically unjust and increases the situations of injustice, gravely offends God and the dignity and rights of persons. With terror, man always comes out the loser," John Paul said, his voice sounding tired and at times quite hoarse during the two-hour ceremony.

    "No motive, no cause or ideology can justify it," John Paul said. "Only peace can build peoples. Terror is the enemy of humanity."

    Since a cease-fire ended a little more than a year ago, 22 killings have been blamed on ETA separatists who want to carve out a Basque homeland in the land straddling France and Spain. Since launching their campaign in 1968, ETA has claimed some 800 killings.

    A warm wind blew John Paul's hair during the ceremony on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. About half the choirboys and many in the crowd of about 30,000 in St. Peter's Square wore sunglasses in the strong, late morning sun.

    Almost all those beatified Sunday died in 1936 in the province of Valencia at the hands of leftist forces battling Gen. Francisco Franco. A few others were from Catalonia.

    Civil war broke out when Franco led a revolt against Spain's leftist democratic government. Franco won the war, which claimed about 500,000 lives.

    According to the Vatican, John Paul now has beatified 1,227 people in more than 100 ceremonies, and since becoming pope in 1978 has raised 477 candidates to sainthood.

    In comparison, in the previous 400 or so years, a total of 1,310 candidates were beatified and 300 raised to sainthood.

    John Paul called the latest group to be beatified a "model of coherence of life, constancy in faith and reconciliatory spirit."

March 12, 2001
volume 12, no. 71
News from ROME
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