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 Archdiocese of Seville

SEVILLE, Spain (LifeSiteNews) — Twenty martyrs killed during the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War will be beatified in November in Seville, Spain.

On June 22, Pope Francis approved the decree of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints concerning the martyrdom of the Servants of God Manuel González-Serna Rodríguez and 19 companions: 10 diocesan priests, one seminarian, and nine lay faithful, all killed in hatred of the faith in 1936 in Seville, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939.

The beatification will take place in the cathedral of Seville on November 18 and will be carried out by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints acting in the name of the Pope.

At a press conference announcing the beatification, Archbishop José Ángel Saiz Meneses of Seville recalled the words of the French writer Paul Claudel, who said of the more than 10,000 religious killed in Spain during the same persecution, “So many martyrs and not a single case of apostasy!”

The archbishop also quoted Pope Benedict XVI, saying, “By faith the martyrs gave their lives as a testimony to the truth of the Gospel that had transformed them and made them capable of getting to the point of the greatest gift of love with the forgiveness of their persecutors.”

Martyrdom is “the greatest proof of love, of following the Lord in totality, accepting to die in a supreme test of faith and love,” the archbishop said, adding that the strength of the martyrs “it is born of a profound union with Christ, because it is not the result of human effort, but the response to God’s grace, which enables us to offer our lives for love of Christ and the Church.”

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“The power of God is manifested in the weakness, in the smallness, of those who entrust themselves to Him and only in Him do they place hope. The martyr is a free person who, in a supreme act of faith, hope and love, abandons himself into the hands of God and associates his life with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross,” the archbishop declared.

José Leonardo Ruiz Sánchez, professor of history at the University of Seville who was in charge of writing the biography of the martyrs for the Holy See, was asked if any of their cases especially caught his attention.

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“I would particularly remember the case of the Saucejo, the brother of a priest, who is not persecuted, but does not abandon his brother, who was persecuted,” Sánchez said. “When they take him [the priest] to martyrdom, he [Saucejo] accompanies him and they shoot him also because he does not want to abandon the one who is suffering at that moment.”

The professor added that he also greatly admired “that priest who knows that they are going to shoot all those who are in the galley, in the municipal building, and when they open the door with the rifles he puts on his cassock… and stands in front to be the first to die, trying to defend and put others first.”

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Below is the full official text of the Dicastery for the Cause of the Saints regarding the martyrs of Seville.

The political and social situation in Spain during the period of the civil war (1936-1939) is historically well known, as is the climate of persecution that the republican militiamen established against all those who professed to be members of the Catholic Church, whether consecrated or lay.

The cause deals with the martyrdom of 20 Venerable Servants of God, 10 priests and 10 lay people, all killed in 1936 and belonging to the Archdiocese of Seville.

They are:

  1. Manuel González-Serna Rodríguez. Born in Seville on May 13, 1880, he was ordained a priest on September 20, 1902 and appointed parish priest of Constantine on October 30, 1911. Arrested on the night of July 19, 1936, on the following July 23, he was taken to the parish church of Constantine and executed in the sacristy.
  2. Francisco de Asís Arias Rivas. Born in Cantilana (Sevilla) on January 30, 1875, he was ordained a priest on June 1, 1901 and appointed parish priest of Lora del Río on October 27, 1919. He was arrested at the end of July 1936 and shot on August 1, 1936, in the cemetery of Lora del Río.
  3. Miguel Borrero Picón. Born in Beas (Huelva) on December 6, 1873, he was ordained a priest on November 19, 1903 and appointed assistant parish priest of Utrera on February 26, 1923. He was arrested in the parish on July 19, 1936, and killed in the local prison on the following July 26.
  4. Mariano Caballero Rubio. Born in Alájar (Huelva) on October 28, 1895, he was ordained a priest on December 22, 1923 and appointed assistant parish priest in Huelva on April 27, 1934. He witnessed the burning of the parish church on July 21, 1936, and found refuge with a family in Punta Umbría (Huelva), where he was arrested and taken to prison. He was shot in the back while being transferred to prison and died of a hemorrhage in hospital on July 23, 1936.
  5. Pedro Carballo Corrales. Born in Ubrique (Cádiz) on November 10, 1886, he was ordained a priest for the diocese of Seville on December 18, 1910 and appointed parish priest of Santa Maria de Guadalcanal on October 15, 1919. He was arrested in his parish on July 20, 1936, and taken along with other inmates to the cemetery of Guadalcanal, where he was shot and buried on August 6, 1936.
  6. Juan María Coca Saavedra. Born in Mairena del Alcor (Seville) on December 24, 1884, he was ordained a priest on December 18, 1909 and appointed assistant parish priest of Lora del Río on October 14, 1911. He was shot and buried in the city cemetery on August 1, 1936.
  7. Antonio Jesús Díaz Ramos. Born in Bollullos del Condado (Huelva) on December 31, 1896, he was ordained a priest on December 18, 1920 and appointed parish administrator in Cazalla de la Sierra (Sevilla) in 1931. Arrested on the night of July 18, 1936, he was executed in the prison of Cazalla de la Sierra on the following August 5.
  8. Salvador Lobato Pérez. Born in Algodonales (Cádiz) on December 31, 1901, he was ordained a priest in Seville on March 12, 1927 and appointed administrator of the parish of El Saucejo in 1933. Venerable Servant of God Rafael Lobato Pérez (No. 20) was arrested along with his brother, with whom he was killed in El Saucejo on August 21, 1936.
  9. Rafael Machuca Juárez de Negrón. Born in Estepa (Sevilla) on April 30, 1881, he was ordained a priest on December 18, 1909 and appointed assistant parish priest on November 1, 1912. Arrested in July 1936 at the spa of Carratraca where he had gone for health reasons and sent to Málaga, he was killed on August 31, 1936.
  10. José Vigil Cabrerizo. Born in Huétor-Tájar (Granada) on October 11, 1906, he was ordained a priest on May 20, 1932 in Seville. He was entrusted with the church in the district of San Girolamo where the revolutionaries arrived on May 1, 1936. Recognized as a priest, he was shot on July 18, 1936 in Seville, and died in hospital the following day.
  11. Enrique Palacios Monrabá. Born in Cazalla de la Sierra (Sevilla) on April 3, 1917, he entered the Seminary of Sevilla on August 29, 1928. At the end of his first year of theological studies, he returned home on vacation at the end of June 1936. He was arrested and killed along with his father, the Venerable Servant of God Manuel Palacios Rodríguez (No. 17) in the courtyard of the prison of Cazalla de la Sierra on August 5, 1936.
  12. María Dolores Sobrino Cabrera. Born in Constantine (Sevilla) on April 19, 1868, she married Rafael Cabezas Ruival de Flores on December 27, 1891. Engaged in the parish, she was shot on July 23, 1936, in the church of Constantine.
  13. Agustín Alcalá Henke. Born in Alcalá de Guadaíra (Sevilla) on June 7, 1892, he graduated in law in 1915 and became a lawyer. Shot in Alcalá de Guadaíra by revolutionaries on July 17, 1936, while on his way to assist people in need, he died in the hospital of Sevilla on July 18, 1936.
  14. Mariano López-Cepero y Muru. Born on January 24, 1883 in Cazalla de la Sierra (Sevilla), he was deputy mayor of his native town and a member of the parish council. He was killed on August 5, 1936, in the prison of Cazalla de la Sierra.
  15. Gabriel López-Cepero y Muru. Born in Seville on August 22, 1874, he married María Teresa Ovelar Ovelar, with whom he had seven children. A member of the parish council, he was killed, together with his brother the Venerable Servant of God Mariano (no. 14), on August 5, 1936 in the prison of Cazalla de la Sierra.
  16. Cristóbal Pérez Pascual. Born in Alájar (Huelva) on December 9, 1887, he opened a pharmacy in Cazalla de la Sierra in 1923, through which he also carried out a welfare and charitable activity. A member of the parish council, he was killed in Cazalla prison on August 5, 1936.
  17. Manuel Palacios Rodríguez. Born in Aracena (Huelva) on August 1, 1877, he was a landowner. On October 4, 1909, he married Luisa Monrabá Canela, with whom he had seven children, including the Venerable Servant of God Enrique Palacios Monrabá (b. 11), seminarian. A member of the parish council, he was killed along with his son and other inmates in the courtyard of the Cazada de la Sierra prison on August 5, 1936.
  18. José María Rojas Lobo. Born in Seville on September 29, 1910, he was a lawyer. During the summer of 1936 he went with his family to Marchena where he was arrested on July 20, 1936. Seriously wounded in the shooting of the revolutionaries, he died on July 25, 1936
  19. Manuel Luque Ramos. Born in Marchena (Sevilla) on March 6, 1893, he was an errand boy and sacristan of the Poor Clare nuns and lived with his widowed mother near the monastery. On July 18, 1936, he opposed a group of revolutionaries who wanted to enter the church during Holy Mass. Arrested the next day and shot, he died in the hospital in Marchena on July 22, 1936.
  20. Rafael Lobato Pérez. Born in Algodonales (Cádiz) on February 28, 1905, he was a carpenter who assisted the Venerable Servant of God Salvador Lobato Pérez in his pastoral ministry (b. 8). When the revolutionaries came to arrest his brother priest, he did not want to leave him alone. Both were then taken out of the country and murdered together on August 21, 1936 in El Saucejo.

The Venerable Servants of God in the present cause do not constitute a homogeneous group, none had a regular trial and almost all were previously imprisoned.

The material martyrdom of all the Venerable Servants of God is sufficiently proven. For some Venerable Servants of God, death came later than the attack, but it was a direct consequence of this act. They are: Agustín Alcalá Henke, José Vigil Cabrerizo, Manuel Luque Ramos and José María Rojas Lobo, Mariano Caballero.

As far as the formal element ex parte tyranni (on the part of the tyrant) is concerned, odium fidei [hatred of the faith] was the prevailing motive that armed the executioners. The violent death of the Venerable Servants of God is part of the Spanish religious persecution that affected the area of Seville. The individual incidents were accompanied by the destruction of sacred images, the burning of churches and religious buildings. Witnesses report that the Venerable Servants of God were murdered because they were Catholic priests or lay people.

As far as the formal element ex parte victimarum (on the part of the victims) is concerned, the acceptance of death as an expression of fidelity to Christ up to the moments before death is sufficiently attested. Some Venerable Servants of God prayed, encouraged each other, confessed and expressed words of forgiveness for the executioners during their imprisonment.

The fame of martyrdom has remained constant over time, combined with a certain fama signorum (fame of miracles).