Pope beatifies 233 casualties of Spanish civil war
With an appeal for an end to Spain's separatist terrorism, Pope John Paul II on Sunday beatified a record number of candidates for sainthood - 233 nuns, priests and lay people who died in Spain's civil war.
The biggest-ever batch of beatifications reflects the Holy Father's determination to give his faithful lots of role models, including many from modern times. The previous record of beatifications in one ceremony was the 1877 beatification of 206 Japanese martyrs by Pius IX.
The Spaniards who were beatified Sunday were among hundreds who died at the hands of leftists waging anti-clerical campaigns during the 1936-39 civil war. They were declared martyrs by the pope (the miracle prerequisite is waved for candidates for sainthood who were martyred).
Strong applause rang out when John Paul, reading his homily in Spanish, invoked the names of the newly beatified in a plea for an end to terrorism blamed on Basque separatists in Spain.
Almost all of those beatified Sunday died in 1936 in the province of Valencia at the hands of leftist forces battling Gen. Francisco Franco. A few others were from Catalonia.
With the latest beatification, John Paul has beatified 1,227 people in more than 100 ceremonies. He has raised 447 candidates to sainthood since he became pope in 1978. In comparison, in the previous four centuries a total of 1,310 candidates were beatified and 300 raised to sainthood. John Paul called the latest group to be beatified a "model of coherence of life, constancy in faith and reconciliatory spirit."