Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War

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To date nine have been canonized, in 1999, but these comprise only a tiny proportion of all those priests and religious who were put to death in 1936–9, apparently for no other reason than professing their faith. The full extent of the slaughter has seldom been realized in England: it has been reliably calculated that no fewer than 6,832 priests and religious were put to death, out of whom 230 victims have so far been beatified, and a further 103 groups whose causes have been begun. It is to be expected that further canonizations will follow, but as in other examples of mass-persecution, it seems likely that only a few representatives, very carefully investigated for political and other reasons, will actually attain the supreme honour of canonization.

Those who have already attained it suffered at Turon in the Asturias region, heavily industrialized and famous for its mines. Cyril Bertrand Tejedor (b. 1888) joined the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1907 and was soon recognized as an outstanding teacher in several schools. Superior at Santander in 1925, he was invited to go to Turon in 1933 to take charge of a school, most of whose pupils were the sons of miners. In this region there were fourteen schools run by the Brothers, specially suitable with their long experience of conducting both academic and craft schools for the comparatively poor.

Political changes had been frequent with the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931, bringing in anti-clerical legislation especially against Church schools. But the elections of 1933 brought in a right-wing government, resisted in the Asturias with armed revolution in 1934, only suppressed by strong military force with heavy casualties.

On 5 October the rebels arrested Bro. Cyril and the seven other brothers in the community, together with their chaplain, a Passionist priest called Innocentio Arnau. They were imprisoned with other priests and religious and some public figures. Only four days later the eight brothers and their chaplain (with two government officers) were led out to the cemetery where a large pit had been dug. All eleven were lined up and shot. The rebel leader who had ordered their execution, said: ‘It was so impressive that I, hardened as I am, could not help being moved…while walking and when waiting at the gate, they prayed in a subdued voice.’ All these brothers were young, in their twenties or thirties. Their chaplain, aged forty-seven, had taught philosophy and theology as well as literature. They were all killed two years before the civil war started. They were beatified in 1990 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1999. Feast: 9 October.

H. Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (3rd ed. 1977);A. M. Moreno, Historia de la persecucion religiosa en Espana (1936–9);V. Carcel, Martires espanoles del siglo XX (1966);Bibl. SS. Suppl. I, 416–8;B.L.S., x. 58–60 and vii. 169–79 for a more general picture, with statistics and regional variations.

Subjects: Christianity.

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