Modern Day Saints

The Martyrs of Valencia

 

The Martyrs of Valencia were mostly clergy and religious from the Spanish Civil War who were beatified in October 2007 by Pope John Paul II. This was the largest number of persons (233) beatified at once up to that time. They originated from all parts of Spain but most served and died in the diocese of Valencia.Some 6000 clergy and religious were executed in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

 

The Spanish Civil War was fought from July 17, 1936 to April 1, 1939 between the Republicans who were loyal to the established Spanish Republic and the Nationalists, a rebel group led by General Francisco Franco. The Nationalists prevailed, and Franco led a fascist dictatorship over Spain for the next 36 years, from 1939 until his death in 1975.The Nationalist forces received munitions and soldiers from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the Soviet Union and Mexico intervened in support of the Republican side. Other countries such as Britain and Francemaintained an official policy of non-intervention.The war became notable for the passion and political division it generated and for the atrocities committed by both sides in the war.

 

Thebeatification of the Spanish martyrs is controversial, not least because of the Spanish churches identification with the Nationalist cause during the civil war. However,as John Paul pointed out,those who died in these cases “were not involved in political or ideological struggles nor did they want to be concerned with them” and “they died solely for religious motives.”He made special mention of Maria Teresa Ferragud, one of the lay companions from Valencia. She was an 83-year-old woman who was executed along with her four daughters --all nuns in contemplative orders.

 

In addition to Ferragud and her daughters, the Pope made special mention of Francesco Castello Aleu, a 22-year-old layman, and German Gozalba, at age 23 just two months into the priesthood. He also made reference to Consuela and Maria Dolores Aguiar-Mella, two lay companions of Maria Baldilou Bullit, and the first people from Uruguay to be beatified.

 

Alsomartyred in this war was Father Vincente Cabanes, the Superior of a community of Third Order Capuchins of Our Lady of Sorrows.  Fr. Cabanes also oversaw a community of troubled young men. Fr.Cabanesand others of his congregation were targeted by anti-Catholic militants, and on the night of September 27, 1936, Father was arrested in a home where he had taken refuge. As the militants were transporting him to Orduna, they claimed he had renounced his faith, but he denied this by showing them the crucifix he wore. In Orduan, the militants forced Fr. Cabanes into a ditch where they beat him with their rifle butts. They left him terribly wounded, but he was able to drag himself to a nearby house where he asked for a priest and a doctor. He continued to clutch his crucifix as he was taken to the hospital. He refused to identify the militants who had beaten him. He said only that he forgave them. Unfortunately, he died two days later from his wounds.

 

Jim Fritz

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