VATICAN CITY — During his Sunday Angelus remarks in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis thanked God for the 522 priests, religious and lay martyrs newly beatified in Spain.
“We praise the Lord for their courageous testimony, and we beg for their intercession in freeing the world from every violence,” said Pope Francis.
The martyrs were killed for their faith during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. They join hundreds of other victims of the conflict’s anti-Catholic persecution who have previously been beatified.
The Pope sent a video message to those gathered in Tarragona, Spain, for the Oct. 13 beatification ceremony. He said that he was “one in heart” with those in Spain.
“Who are the martyrs?” he asked in his video message. “They are Christians won over by Christ, disciples who have learned well the meaning of ‘love until the end’ that brought Jesus to the cross.”
“Love doesn’t exist for distribution, love in portions,” the Pope said. “Total love: When one loves, one loves until the end. In the cross, Jesus felt the weight of death, the weight of sin, but he trusted completely in the Father, and he forgave.”
He said the martyrs followed Christ in his love and in his suffering: “Christ puts us ‘first place’ in his love; the martyrs have imitated him in this love until the end.”
The Holy Father then went on to encourage his listeners to take up this example for themselves.
“The holy fathers say, ‘Let’s imitate the martyrs!’ One must always die a little in order to leave ourselves, our selfishness, our well-being, our laziness, our sadness, and open ourselves to God and to others, especially to those who need it the most,” he said.
This death to self calls for a rejection of a superficial kind of Christianity that lacks depth, explained the Holy Father.
“We ask the intercession of the martyrs to be concrete Christians: Christians with works and not of words; not to be mediocre Christians, Christians ‘varnished’ with Christianity, but lacking substance. They were not ‘varnished’; they were Christians until the end,” he said.
Pope Francis added, “Let us ask them for their help to maintain a firm faith, even if there are difficulties.”