Mexican martyrs beatified by Vatican

The Vatican on Sunday was beatifying 13 Mexican martyrs who died during a Roman Catholic uprising in the late 1920s that was crushed by the Mexican government.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints, arrived from Rome to oversee the ceremony, and Pope Benedict XVI was to deliver a message by satellite to spectators in a 60,000-seat soccer stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city, 280 miles (450 kilometers) northwest of Mexico City. Beatification is the last formal step before sainthood.

The 1917 constitution that grew out of the Mexican Revolution tightened already tough restrictions on the church, banning public masses and religious garb. It capped a century of setbacks for the church, which had enjoyed a government-imposed monopoly of faith for most of the 300 years following Spain's conquest of Mexico in 1521.

The revolutionary limits sparked the Cristero War of 1926-29 in which tens of thousands died fighting the government over religious restrictions.

Among those to be beatified is Luis Padilla Gomez, who was born in Guadalajara on Dec. 9, 1899, and served as president of Mexico's Young Catholic Association. He was arrested, tortured and killed by soldiers for his work in 1927. Also tortured before his death in 1927 was Ezequiel Huerta Gutierrez.

Ramon Vargas Gonzalez studied medicine and was known for his preaching on behalf of the church before he was shot along with his brother on April 1, 1927. Others chosen for beatification include Jose Sanchez del Rio, who was stabbed to death at age 14, and priests Jose Trinidad Rangel, Andres Sola Molist and Dario Acosta Zurita.

Restrictions on the church have gradually eased, though Mexico did not re-establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican until 1992. The ceremony marked the first Mexican beatifications since April 2004, when Pope John Paul II beatified Guadalupe Garcia, a Guadalajara native who founded hospitals and a religious order that has 22 foundations in Mexico, Peru, Iceland, Greece and Italy.

In 2000 John Paul II canonized 25 Mexican martyrs from the era of the Cristero uprising _ giving Mexico the most saints in Latin America behind Brazil. The best-known of that group was Father Cristobal Magallanes, who reputedly pardoned his killers as he died by firing squad May 25, 1927. So far passed over for sainthood was the most famous priest from that era, Father Miguel Pro, who was beatified in 1988, AP reports.

A. A.