This is the cover of the Oct. 10, 2021, edition of "Iglesia en Córdoba." It features relatives of some of the more than 100 victims of Spain's 1936-1939 civil war who moved a step closer to sainthood after being beatified as martyrs for the faith Oct. 16, and some of their relatives. CNS photo/courtesy Iglesia en Córdoba

Martyrs of Spanish civil war beatified

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  • October 20, 2021

CÓRDOBA, Spain -- More than 100 victims of Spain’s 1936-1939 civil war moved a step closer to sainthood after being beatified as martyrs for the faith. They included two teenage boys as well as an 88-year-old nun who died of bullet wounds after being tied to a window as a human shield.

More than 3,000 people gathered Oct. 16 for the beatification Mass in Córdoba’s sixth-century cathedral for Fr. Juan Elías Medina and 126 fellow martyrs, all killed by anti-clerical forces at the start of the four-year conflict.

The Mass brought to more than 2,000 the number beatified or canonized from the Spanish conflict, during which 2,000 churches were destroyed and up to 8,000 Catholic clergy and religious order members killed, along with a dozen bishops and tens of thousands of lay Catholics.

Fr. Medina, from Castro del Río, was arrested in July 1936 while serving as rector of his home parish and was shot with 14 others at the town’s cemetery, after assuring his mother in a letter, found in his breviary, that he was “dying content.”

The Córdoba diocese said the 33-year-old priest had been noted for work among the poor and sick and had refused to deny his priesthood while held in a town hall basement. It added that the “brutal executions” had formed “part of a climate of persecution imposed by republican militia against all those daring to profess membership of the Church.”

A Córdoba-born teenager, Francisco García León, president of a newly founded Catholic youth organization, was thrown in jail at Montoro with his father for refusing to remove his scapular. The 15-year-old was killed alongside dozens of other prisoners with dynamite and axes.

Another 15-year-old, Antonio Gaitán Perabad of El Carpio, was arrested with his father and cousins and shot with them at the town cemetery after rejecting an invitation to flee from republican guards.

The beatified included six female pastoral workers, ages 26 to 77, from the Santa María de las Flores Parish at Posadas, who were taken overnight to a farm near the town and thrown down a well after being tortured.

“It is difficult to draw up a biographical profile of these six women as there is no ecclesiastical documentation on them, since the Posadas parish archive was burned at their deaths,” the diocese said. “They died only because they were Christians, and because of their closeness to the Catholic Church.”

The only religious sister beatified, Mother María Josefa González Rodríguez, was 88. She chose to stay in Baena when republican forces occupied the town, looting and burning its church, and died from bullet wounds after being tied with two priests to a convent window as a human shield against attacking nationalists.

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