ROME — A priest who replaced a 15-year-old boy he believed was going to be executed during Spain’s bloody civil war will be among a group of 16 priests, seminarians and lay people to be beatified in Granada, Spain.
The mass and the beatification of the martyrs, including Father José Becerra, will take place in the cathedral of Granada on February 26.
Originally scheduled for May 2020, the beatification ceremony was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tens of thousands of Catholics were killed by left-wing forces between 1936 and 1939 during the Spanish Civil War; more than 2,000 martyrs have already been beatified and a dozen have been canonized.
Born in Alhama de Granada, Father José Becerra Sánchez served as a priest in his hometown until he was arrested and imprisoned by anticlerical activists in 1936.
While incarcerated, activists also imprisoned Eduardo Raya Mijoler, a 15-year-old boy. The next day, the young boy was escorted out of his cell, presumably to be executed.
Seeing the young man being taken away, Becerra, 61, told the guards: “Don’t take this boy away, he is still very young. Take me, I’m already an old man.
Raya, who testified on behalf of the martyr priest during the beatification process, said he was in fact set to be released, according to the Archdiocese of Granada.
“As long as I live, I will never forget the bravery and courage of this priest, who was ready to die for me,” Raya said in her testimony.
While some prisoners were released, others – including Becerra – were taken to Malaga. Activists took the Spanish priest to a brothel and tried to force him to break his vow of chastity. They also promised to release him if he stepped on a crucifix.
“I would rather die a thousand times before doing this,” the priest told his captors.
Unsuccessful in their attempts, the militants tied a rope around his neck and dragged him to the docks, throwing his body into the water where he died.
The Archdiocese of Granada has announced that a prayer vigil will be held the day before the Beatification Mass in honor of the 16 martyrs.
“We unite in prayer and ask for the intercession of our martyrs in Granada. May this celebration strengthen our faith, the life and the witness of our Christian communities,” said Redemptorist Father Francisco Tejerizo, head of the beatification organizing committee.