By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis recalled the “heroic witness” of nine seminarians killed “in odium fidei” – that is, out of hatred of the Faith – in 1930’s Spain.
Ángel Cuartas Cristobál was in the Major Seminary in Oviedo in 1934 at the beginning of the Asturian miners’ strike. The strike quickly turned violent, and Cuartas, along with several other seminarians, fled the Seminary. They took refuge in a nearby stable, but were soon discovered. As they were being led to execution, one of the seminarians, César Gonzalo Zurro Fanjul, cried out, “Long live Christ the King! Long live Catholic Spain!”
Following the Lord
In all, six seminarians between the ages of 18 and 24 were killed on 7 October 1934. Later, three other seminarians, martyred during the Spanish Civil War which broke out a few years later, were added to the cause for canonization. The nine young martyrs were beatified in Oviedo Cathedral on Saturday 9 March 2019.
“These young candidates for the priesthood loved the Lord so much that they followed Him along the Way of the Cross”, Pope Francis said on Sunday. He prayed that “their heroic witness might help seminarians, priests, and bishops to remain open and generous, in order to faithfully serve the Lord and the holy people of God”.
The beatification ceremony was presided over by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the Prefect for the Congregation for Causes of Saints. In his homily, Cardinal Becciu said the new Blesseds “did not hesitate to confess their love for Christ, ascending with Him to the Cross, in the extreme offering of their young lives”.
In the face of the “scandals that seem to have no end, and which disfigure the face of the Bride of Christ”, Cardinal Becciu said, “We need priests, consecrated persons, generous shepherds, like these martyrs of Oviedo. We need honest and irreproachable priests who bring souls to God, and who do not cause suffering to the Church, or disturbance to the people of God”.
The newly beatified martyrs, he said, “with their message and martyrdom, speak to us and remind us that, although dying for the faith is a gift given only to some, living the faith is a call addressed to all”.