DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     November 22, 1999     vol. 10, no. 221

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Pope Canonizes First Martyrs of Spanish 1930s Persecution

        VATICAN CITY, NOV 21 (ZENIT).- As of today, the Church has 12 new saints -- 10 of whom are martyrs. John Paul II proclaimed them this morning in a moving ceremony that was held inside the Vatican Basilica, since St. Peter's Square was very windy and rainy.

        Cirilo Bertran was canonized today, along with 7 companions of the Christian Brothers Schools, one of whom was born in Argentina, becoming the first saint of this country. The martyrs died together with Passionist priest Fr. Inocencio de la Inmaculada, during the 1934 revolution in Asturias, Spain. The other new saint, of this first group, is Jaume Hilari, who was killed in Tarragona three years later, in mid Civil War. Together with the 10 martyrs, the Pope also proclaimed the sanctity of two Italian religious: Brother Benito Menni (1841-1914), a Hospitaler of St. John of God; and Franciscan Tommaso da Cori (1655-1729), an exceptional preacher and confessor.

    To Die for Christ

        John Paul II summarized the testimony of the martyrs of the Spanish persecution, by quoting Jaume Hilari's words just before dying: "Friends: to die for Christ is to reign." The Holy Father spoke these words in Catalan, the new saint's native language.

        "Not being afraid of spilling their blood for Christ, they conquered death and now participate in the glory of the Kingdom of God. That is why today I have the joy of inscribing them in the catalogue of saints, proposing them to the universal Church as models of Christian life and our intercessors before God," the Holy Father said.

    Martyrs -- Not War Heroes

        The Pope was very clear that the canonizations had no political undertones whatsoever. "They are not heroes of a human war in which they did not participate, but were educators of youth. In their capacity as consecrated men and teachers, they faced their tragic end as a real testimony of faith, giving the last lesson of their life with their martyrdom."

        The Pope evoked the memory of Benito Menni, founder of the Congregation of Hospitaler Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in addition to being the restorer of the Order of St. John of God in Spain and Portugal in the mid 19th century. St. Benito was a real Samaritan, who made the care of the elderly, abandoned children, polio victims and the mentally ill -- according to the Hospitaler charism of the Order of St. John of God -- the guide of his life.

        "On this day of Christ the King, St. Benito Menni illuminates, with the example of his life, those who wish to follow the Master's footsteps on the roads of welcome and hospitality," the Pope said.

        Finally, the Holy Father remembered Tommaso da Cori, a Franciscan who, thanks to his preaching, confessions and spiritual retreats, at the end of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th, incarnated the evangelical counsel of the total gift of self to God and his fellow men.

        "The 12 new saints, that today I have the glory of proposing for veneration to the people of God, point out the way that must be followed to be prepared for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000," the Pope said, in explaining the reasons for the proclamation of these saints at this particular time. "The saints show us the road to the Kingdom of Heaven, the Gospel road lived radically. At the same time, they support us in our serene certainty that all created reality finds its fulfillment in Christ."

        There were some 3,700 Spanish pilgrims in St. Peter's Basilica for the occasion. The Basilica was beautifully decorated with yellow flowers that came to life under the bright lighting. There were also Italian, Mexican and Argentinean pilgrims present, including outgoing President Carlos Menem, who wished to honor the memory of the first saint born in his country.

        The Pope concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, Archbishop of Madrid, and the Pope's Vicar for the diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, as well as bishops from the new saints' dioceses, the Superior Generals of the Passionists and Hospitalers of St. John of God, and several Franciscan Superiors. ZE99112104

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

November 22, 1999       volume 10, no. 221


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