“Long Live Christ the King”-The Background and Story of the Spanish Civil War Martyrs

Sunday, October 13th nineteen Mercedarians will be declared blessed and martyrs of the Spanish Civil War. Few here in the United States realize how horrific this event called “the Red Terror” truly was or the reasoning behind it. In this short article, we can see the background which lead to the persecution and witness accounts of the actual martyrs.

They were conformed  to Jesus' death
They were conformed to Jesus’ death

The roots of the persecution of the Church was a slow process which began with a great anticlerical movement in the 19th century. In 19th century Spain the Church was closely linked to the monarchy by means of concordats. Catholicism was, in practice, the state religion, like the Orthodox religion in Greece and Romania and Anglicanism in England. The Republicans had built up so much hatred for the monarchy and everything relating to it, the Church included, that, once they seized power, they began to hit their enemies. Their first and easiest target was the Church, being defenseless. The new regime made laws against the Church; in the meantime anarchists, socialists and Communists began to use violence against people and things.

As historians have ascertained, a growing number of measures against the Catholic Church and religious practice were taken between 1931 and 1936. These oppressive laws aimed at a radical and antidemocratic conception of the separation between Church and State. Violent persecution proper began in 1934 with the “Turon martyrs,” who have already been canonized, and many other believers murdered during the Communist Revolution of the Asturias, when priests, religious and seminarians, 37 in all, were killed and 58 churches were burned. After 1936 in all the main cities, cathedrals, religious communities and parish churches were attacked, ransacked and burned. These persecutions aimed at erasing all traces of Catholic tradition in Spain. Hatred for the faith or “in Odium Fidei” went even beyond murders and found expression in thousands of sacrilegious acts: tabernacles were emptied, consecrated particles were eaten, shot at, strewn in the streets and trodden on; churches were used as stables, altars were demolished, priests and nuns were held at gunpoint in the attempt to force them to recant their faith. Let us remember that persecutions started years before the beginning of the civil war, and the Church could be accused of supporting Franco’s Falangists, referred to as “rebels.”

It was within the context of this perilous situation that the Mercedarians of the Province of Aragon were called upon by God to exercise their 4th Vow: to be willing to offer their lives for those in danger of losing the faith. In this particular period all of Spain was in danger of losing their once cherished Catholic Faith. Lead by the former Master General of the Order Fr. Mariano Alcala Perez, 18 Mercedarian religious were martyred here we have a brief witness account for each of them:

Alcala_Perez

Padre Mariano Acala:“He was in a serene frame of mind, thinking about heaven and showing his hope for heaven to his relatives whom he as consoling by telling that they were not losing anything by his death. I have also heard that at the precise moment of being shot to death, he shouted: “Long live Christ the King.”

 

Padre Tomas Carbonell Miquel: “I saw a man coming down from the Via Bajada de la Trinidad with his arms up and his Carbonell_Miquelhead down. I heard all those who were going by say: ‘he is a Mercedarian, he is a Mercedarian.’… A short time later, several shots rang out and everyone commented that they had killed the Mercedarian priest.”

 

Gargallo_GasconPadre Francisco Gargallo Gascon: “…the Servant of God had accepted to shed his blood out of love for Jesus: he knew that he was running the risk of losing his life…yet he was calm, serene and completely surrendered into God’s arms. His sole preoccupation was to save the young novices who were with him.”

Padre Francisco Gargallo Gason & Padre Emanuel Sancho Aguilar: “Having placed the two Fathers and the deponent before the firing squad and as we were continuing to sing the Te Deum, the militiamen ordered me to leave their midst and to move aside. However, I must not have heard them since the Father pushed me aside so that I would be out of the reach of the guns. I heard the Servants of God forgive their executioners.”

Sancho_AguilarPadre Emanuel Sancho Aguilar: “When he was speaking about martyrdom, he seemed to become excited and very enthusiastic, manifesting an intense desire to suffer it especially when speaking of the difficult times that we were approaching and he often said: ‘my sons, the greatest benefit that God could grant us would be that of dying as martyrs.’”

 

Pina_TuronPadre Mariano Pina Turon: the Reds addressed him, “‘Get up, you are going to die but before that, we are going to make you swallow the Rosary.’ Before all this that man showed great fortitude and presence of mind.”

“The militiamen who got out of it were dragging a man, they put him with his back to them in an empty field and at five or six yards from where I was. The two or three militiamen who were leading him fired and he fell down from the shot.”

Esteban_HernandezFriar Pedro Esteban Hernandez: “Brother Pedro, the younger of the two, could have looked for a safer refuge but he refused to abandon Brother Antonio who was quite old and very tired. I always found them resigned and in conformity with God’s will.”

 

Lahoz_GanFriar Antonio Lahoz Gan: “I have a devotion to him since I already considered him as a saint when he was alive. Whenever he heard the sound of the Angelus, without any concern for the place where he was or who was present, he would kneel and pray fervently even if the ground was full of rocks.”

 

Trallero_LouFriar Jose Trallero Lou: “The militiamen were abusing the above mentioned Brothers with words and threatening them with their guns so that they would reveal where the other Fathers and Brothers were. Although they knew that they were not very far, the two did not reveal anything. They did not respond to the insults.”

“According to what my father, who spent the night there, told me, they attempted to take away Bro. Trallero’s (Mercedarian) metals and they tried to make him blaspheme by promising him that they would save his life but he said: ‘I will not blaspheme. Long live Christ the King.’”

“I heard the militiamen who arrested him say in order to free them and save their lives, they only asked them to shout ‘Long live the revolution and Communism, ‘to which the martyrs responded ‘Long live the Christ the King!’ ‘Long live the Catholic faith!’”

Codina_CasellasFriar Jaime Codina Casella: “When the militiamen threatened them so that they might reveal the hiding place of the other religious, he withdrew into absolute silence in spite of the threats. According to I heard, they kept urging them to shout ‘long live Russia’ and other things to which they responded ‘Long live Christ the King.’”

 

Rene_Prenafeta

 

Padre Jose Rene Prenafeta: During the revolution he stated, “Even if they were to point a gun at my chest, I would never deny that I am a priest.”

 

Campo_Marin

 

Padre Tomas Campo Marin: While in prisoned a witness said, “Fr. Campo Marin excelled by his resignation, his gentle treatment, his zeal, offering to hear our confessions, leading the Rosary out loud and other prayers”

 

Llagostera_BonetPadre Francisco Llagostera Bonet: “They were getting out of the truck, tied up two by two by their wrists and then in groups of fourteen, they put them in front of the wall and facing those who were to kill them. When the latter gave the order to ‘aim,’ the martyrs shouted ‘Long live Christ the King’”

 

Sanz_Iranzo Friar Serapio Sanz Iranzo: “I know that when they went to Lerida, where he was, to kill the Fathers, when he saw that they were leaving him behind, he said: ‘I too am a religious like them.’ Then the militiamen took him away with them and they assassinated him with the Fathers.”

 

Morante_ChicPadre Enrique Morante Chic: “ The attitude of the Servant of God before those who were carrying out the religious persecution was that of his appearing serene and so proud of being a Mercedarian priest that he immediately revealed it to his assassins although he was well aware of the consequences.”

 

Massanet_FlaquerPadre Jesus Massanet Flaquer: “…the three militiamen who were leading them, shot them in the back. I saw them fall to the ground as a result of the shots. After they had picked up the corpses, one could see traces of blood on the ground.”

The assassins themselves reported that the Servant of God “had shown a great deal of serenity and he shouted ‘Long live Christ the King.’”

Moreno_NicolasPadre Lorenzo Moreno Nicolas: “before he was shot, he blessed his executioners and told them that he forgave them according to what the driver, who drove him to his martyrdom, related to them.”

“His martyrdom must have been terrible…he invited him to sit on the edge of the well and he shot him. When he fell to the bottom, they continued to fire from above and after they had left, moans could still be heard, from which it was inferred that his death must have taken place after a long and painful agony if we bear in mind that the moans of the five Brothers of the Christian Schools and of the Pastor of Saint James, who were all thrown into the same well and in the same way as Father Lorenzo, were heard the day after the crime had ben perpetuated against them.”

Mitja_MitjaBrother Francisco Mitja Mitja: “On the following day, along with six or eight men who were also in hiding, we went back to the same place. Among all of us, we were able to identify the cadaver as that of a Mercedarian Brother of Saint Raymond since, on account of the clothing and of the objects that he had on and even the alms that he had been given in different houses, he was easily identifiable…we could clearly deduce that he had not thrown himself down from a rock that was nearby, but that instead he had been pushed.”

 

Special thanks to: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=7999&CFID=14171491&CFTOKEN=16464908

Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyrs_of_the_Spanish_Civil_War

http://orderofmercy.org/2013/10/19-mercedarian-martyrs-of-the-spanish-civil-war-to-be-beatified-october-13th/#more-2679

http://orderofmercy.org/2011/12/nineteen-mercedarian-friars-named-martyrs-by-vatican/

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