Spaniards Recognized for Witness to Faith
MADRID, Spain, OCT. 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The beatification of 498 martyrs, victims of religious persecution in the 1930s, is a testament of their virtue and faith, not a political statement, according to the Spanish bishops' conference.
Father Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, secretary-general of the Spanish bishops' conference and director of the conference's office for saints' causes, made that affirmation in a recent interview with the Spanish Veritas news agency.
Speaking about the political reading that some have given to the beatifications, which will take place in Rome this Sunday, the priest said, "It does not surprise us that there would be incorrect political interpretations; those who have made a purely political reading of a clearly religious event have always been mistaken. But that is the law of history."
He continued, "The martyrs of the first stage of Christianity, who gave their lives for Christ, were classified as traitors of Rome; the martyrs of the French Revolution were classified as traitors of the revolution, and the martyrs of the 20th century in Russia, central Europe or Spain, were classified as people who have hindered the advance of history."
"To say that those who the Church now beatifies were a political group is to be ignorant of history, to fail to understand the religious fact, and to fail to do justice to the facts," Father Martínez Camino contended. "We Christians are hurt by this misrepresentation of facts, but it doesn't surprise us, and in this sense, we accept it serenely."
The priest said that what is most notable in the lives of those to be beatified is "the mix of strength, and at the same time humility, with which the martyrs accepted the tragic situation of having to choose between their lives or their fidelity to God and the Church."
He added, "Strength is the first thing that is noticed, but also humility, joy, the simplicity with which they confronted this situation, which was dramatic, singing on the buses that carried them to be shot, supporting themselves with prayer and with encouragement in the prisons, writing from prison to their families just hours before being assassinated […] leaving above all, a testimony of forgiveness and serenity for their families, or in some cases, for their girlfriends."
Father Martínez Camino explained that the Spanish bishops have tried to educate the faithful about the phenomenon of martyrdom.
"Every effort is being made to explain the difference between a martyr and a person who is unjustly assassinated," he said. "There were many people assassinated during the 20th century in Spain, during the '30s, before, during and after the Civil War.
"The bishops' conference, in 'God's Fidelity Lasts Forever. A Look at the 20th Century Through the Eyes of Faith,' published in November 1999, laments that there has been in the 20th century, and concretely in Spain in the '30s, so many unjust assassinations of our fellow citizens, and have declared that the blood of all of them continues clamoring to the heavens for pardon and reconciliation, so that violent methods are never again used.
"This petition of forgiveness of God made for all those assassinated, regardless of what group they were in, is clearly expressed. God is asked to forgive for all those 'actions the Gospel prohibits,' committed by one or another of the groups formed by the war."
Father Martínez Camino clarified that apart from those who were unjustly killed, "there were some that were assassinated expressly and specifically because they did not want to renounce their faith and their fidelity to Christ and the Church, and these are martyrs."
The priest affirmed that the Church and the bishops have often lamented the assassinations, but that those who are martyrs are honored as witnesses of the faith.
"And these witnesses of the faith are not witnesses because they have been or not been members of a political party or a fighting group," Father Martínez Camino said, "but rather because they have died for their faith, and all who have died for their faith will be recognized, regardless of the group to which they belonged."