Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War to be Beatified in December.

By Nieves San Martin
Twenty-two Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate will be beatified in Madrid this December. They lost their lives in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

The Oblates carried out their ministry as chaplains to three communities of nuns and collaborated in the neighborhood parishes.
The young students taught catechism in neighborhood parishes and the Oblate Choir solemnized the liturgical celebrations. This religious activity began to annoy the revolutionary committees of the neighborhood.

The Oblates community was not intimidated, however. They took prudent measures and committed themselves not to respond to insults, continuing with their program of spiritual and intellectual formation, as well as the various pastoral activities with students.

On July 20, 1936, churches and convents were again set on fire, especially in Madrid. The militiamen of Pozuelo assaulted a chapel of the Estacion neighborhood, flung images and vestments onto the street and burnt them. Then they set the chapel and parish on fire.
On July 22, armed militiamen assaulted the monastery and detained 38 religious, putting them under guard. After searching the house for weapons, they only found religious paintings, images, crucifixes, rosaries and sacred vestments. They threw everything from the upper floors to the ground floor through the stairwell and burnt it all on the street.

On the 24th, the first executions took place. There were no interrogations, trials or defense. Seven religious were the first to be called and sentenced: Juan Antonio Pérez Mayo, 29, priest and professor; and students Manuel Gutiérrez Martín, 23, sub-deacon; Cecilio Vega Domínguez, 23, sub-deacon; Juan Pedro Cotillo Fernández, 22; Pascual Aláez Medina, 19; Francisco Polvorinos Gómez, 26; Justo González Lorente, 21. They were put into two cars and taken to their martyrdom.

The rest of the religious remained imprisoned in the monastery and spent the time in prayer, preparing to die well.
Someone, probably the mayor of Pozuelo, communicated to Madrid the risk the others were in and that same day, July 24, a guard truck arrived with orders to take the religious to the general security office. The following day, after completing certain transactions, they were unexpectedly set free.

They sought refuge in private homes. The provincial did his utmost to encourage them and to take Communion to them. However, in the month of October, by a search and capture order, they were detained and taken to prison.

There they endured a slow martyrdom of hunger, cold, terror and threats. There are testimonies from survivors of the way they accepted that difficult situation with heroic patience, foreseeing the possibility of martyrdom. Charity and a climate of silent prayer reigned among them. For the majority of them, the end of their Calvary came in November.

On the 7th, Father José Vega Riaño, 32, priest and formator, and student Serviliano Riaño Herrero were shot. On being called by the executioners, the latter went to the cell of Father M. Martín and asked for sacramental absolution through the spyhole.

Chaos of hatred
Twenty days later, it was the turn of the 13 others. The procedure was the same for all. There were no accusations, trials or defense. Only the proclamation of their names over loudspeakers: Francisco Esteban Lacal, 48, provincial superior; Vicente Blanco Guadilla, local superior, 54; Gregorio Escobar García, 24, newly ordained priest; and the student brothers: Juan José Caballero Rodríguez, 24, sub-deacon; Publio Rodríguez Moslares, 24; Justo Gil Pardo, 26; José Guerra Andrés, 22; Daniel Gómez Lucas, 20; Justo Fernández González, 18; Clemente Rodríguez Tejerina, 18; coadjutor brothers Ángel Francisco Bocos Hernández, 53; Marcelino Sánchez Fernández, 26 and Eleuterio Pardo Villarroel, 21.

It is known that on Nov. 29, 1936, they were taken from prison to Paracuellos de Jarama where they were executed. A student who was traveling in another truck, tied elbow to elbow with Father Delfin Monje, both of whom were mysteriously reprieved near the place of execution, said to his companion: “Father, give me general absolution and pray the Act of Contrition, as our end is coming. Eighteen years later, the priest lamented: ‘What a pity I didn’t die then. I will never be so well prepared!

The newly ordained priest Gregorio Escobar had written his family: “I have always been extremely moved by the accounts of martyrdom that have always existed in the Church, and on reading them I have always been overtaken by a secret desire to run to the same fate as theirs. That would be the best priesthood to which all of us Christians could aspire: each one to offer his own body and blood in holocaust for the faith. What happiness it would be to die a martyr!”

All died professing the faith and forgiving their executioners and, despite the psychological tortures during their cruel captivity, no one apostatized, or failed in the faith, or lamented having embraced the religious vocation

Last July, Benedict XVI confirmed the date of the beatification.
Gregorio Escobar Barbarin, a nephew of the young newly ordained priest killed at 24, who bears his name, and is the only relative of the martyr who is still in Estella, Navarre, said on Tuesday to Diario de Navarre: “Moments like this are the occasion we all have to walk toward reconciliation.”

Escobar Barbarin, who was town councilor in the Municipality of Estella between 1999 and 2003, said he believes it is necessary to learn from history. “Gregorio and his companions gave their lives generously in correspondence to their faith. Their young hearts longed only to give help and consolation to those who needed it. However, they were taken as sheep to the slaughter amid a chaos of hatred and confusion.”

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9 Responses to Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War to be Beatified in December.

  1. Gertrude says:

    That is an interesting article Toad, and reiterates the brutality of both sides. While it was perceived that the Church supported Franco, priests and religious where among the most heavily persecuted. From the article you quote:
    One group in Spanish society that was systematically punished in Republican areas was the clergy. “Wearing a cassock was sufficient to find yourself in front of a firing squad by the side of a road,” writes José Luis Ledesma in Violencia roja y azul (or, Red and blue violence), his study of Civil War crime. Around 6,800 clergy were murdered, while churches, convents, and monasteries were routinely burned down or wrecked. In Homage to Catalonia, his account of his time fighting in Spain, George Orwell describes how churches were looted throughout Spain, and that nobody had any doubts as to the Catholic Church’s support for Franco. He says that during his six months in Spain, he only saw two churches that had not been damaged. Priests were routinely tortured and murdered”.
    I do not know the political persuasion of the Spanish Martyrs, neither is it relevant. You will know that Holy Church does not seek saints because of their political preferences but because of their holiness. The Beatification in December is quite a different matter from the rights and wrongs of what was, a bitter civil war.


  2. toadspittle says:

    Bit more context, from Independent Catholic News (whatever that is.) July 12, 2009.

    Beatifications anyone?

    Spain: Bishops apologise for Church silence over Civil War killings

    A memorial service was held on Sunday, for 14 priests executed by Franco’s forces in the Basque Country during the Spanish Civil War.
    The bishops of the Basque Country have issued an apology for the Church’s silence over the episode. None of the priests was given a proper funeral, nor did most of them have their deaths registered.
    Speaking at the Mass in the Cathedral of the Basque regional capital yesterday, The Bishop of Vitoria, Miguel Asurmendi, said: “today we settle an outstanding debt, for the unjustifiable silence of Church officials over the deaths of the priests…” “Such a long silence was not only a wrongful omission, but a lack of truth and an act against justice and charity, for which we ask pardon,” Bishop Asurmendi said.
    The service was attended by the Bishops of Bilbao and San Sebastián, representatives of the Basque government and other politicians, more than 200 priests, and friends and family of the priests who died.
    Bishop Asurmendi asked for forgiveness in the name of the Church in the Basque Country, saying the intention is not to ‘reopen wounds’ but to help to heal them. He called on God to give the Basque people the strength they need to reject violence as a way of resolving differences and conflict.
    Only two of the deaths were recorded on parish registries, and the remaining 12 are now to be officially registered, with details also on each of the priests to be published in the official bulletin of their respective dioceses.
    The apology marks the first time the Church in Spain has expressed any remorse for its role in the Spanish Civil War. The Church hierarchy supported Franco from the moment the war began in 1936 and continued throughout the 40-year dictatorship.
    The priests, killed in 1936 and 1937, had been officially forgotten. The “painful circumstances” surrounding their deaths were unknown, Bishop Asurmendi said, but “testimony from many of their parishioners and companions indicates they were seized while they carried out their duties. For years their names were relegated to silence.” Two of the priests were known to have been shot.


  3. toadspittle says:


    Toad would suggest that all on here buy the English version of Preston’s book next May.
    If they have strong stomachs.
    They might also do a bit of research on “The Thirteen Roses,” if the is anything on the web in English.
    He also thinks this beatification by the Church, justified though it may be, is ill-advised at this time. Another 100 years maybe.
    But that’s Toad, for you.


  4. toadspittle says:

    “Wearing a cassock was sufficient to find yourself in front of a firing squad by the side of a road,” writes Jose Luis.
    And, in Basque country, more than sufficiently ironic to find yourself being shot by Catholics.

    Well, that’s enough Civil War for Toad.
    For now.
    ¡Viva El Christo Rey!


  5. teresa says:

    Almost all I know about the Spanish Civil War comes from Hemingway’s famous Novel, both the systematic rape through Franco’s army (and murder) and the murder of priests by republicans were depicted there. He just reported from the perspective of an observer, and both crimes appeared to him as brutal and unchristian. I remember a sentence in this novel: “Christians can forgive but the Spaniards are Catholics” (paraphrased as I don’t remember the exact wording of it). That reflects for sure his prejudice against Catholics, but on the other hand, I think this sentence intends to tell us that all these ideological fights between political parties are so deeply unchristian that all attempt to abuse religion for the cause of politic is a perversion of religion. I do believe a Dictator is always bad, whether he is Stalin or Franco. The Church should not seek protection from a Dictator, as a Dictator is someone who suppresses and treats his fellow human beings with brutality and contempt, thus against the Christian Spirit. It were the Martyrs who laid the foundation for the Church, and I do think the Church should not have cooperated with a brutal dictator. Correct me if I am mistaken, but as I heard, the Franco Régime used the Church as a tool to control the mind and behaviour of the people that the citizens can’t distinguish between Franco Régime and the Church any more. They were too deeply intermingled with each other. And as the Franco’s Régime as an oppressive Régime was highly unpopular, the Church got also a bad press, then many turned their back to the Church because of this. So Franco’s Régime, though it seemed to have offered the Church protection, in reality, it was a great misfortune for the Church and the damage is there today to be seen and repaired.

    The Martyrs, whether killed by the Republicans or by the Franco Regime for the cause of Justice, are highly respectable and should be kept in our memory, it was a shame that those killed by the Franco Régime were forgotten.

    Btw. a question, has anyone here read the book by George Orwell on the Spanish Civil War, he as a witness but had a lot to tell?


  6. toadspittle says:

    Yes, “Homage to Catalonia,” Very personal, but like anything by Orwell, well worth reading. He was very disillusioned by the internal fighting between leftist/anarchist factions when they should have been united in killing Fascists.
    The book lead directly, albeit circuitiously, to “Animal Farm” and “1984.” Although the latter owes much to Zamyatin’s “We.” Thinks Toad.


  7. toadspittle says:

    In the cold light of Spanish day, Toad now sees it was dopey to say, “The book lead directly, albeit circuitiously..”
    Should have said, “…the book lead ultimately..”


  8. Maria del Pilar Riaza says:

    Among the priest to be beatified, there is a lay person, Jose Castano of the Murcia province; he was my sister’s Godfather. Is there any reason why he is not mentioned here? Thank You very much.


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