On October 28 Pope Benedict XVI will raise 498 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War to the altars—perhaps the largest number of martyrs beatified in one ceremony in the history of the Church. Among the five that are not of Spanish origin will be Brother Jose Lopez Piteira, an Augustinian deacon born in Cuba.
Brother Jose will be come Cuba’s first blessed. He was born in Arroy Blanco, Cuba, on February 2, 1912 to Spanish immigrants. According to the family records, his family returned to Spain when Jose was four or five years old.
They settled in Partorvia in northwestern Spain. As a young man Jose entered the Augustinian order and began studies for the priesthood. He made his solemn profession in 1934 and was ordained deacon on September 8, 1935, the feast of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba.
One of his biographers, Father Gonzalez Velasco, wrote: “It should be noted that the young Jose Lopez Piteira always felt proud that he was born in Cuba and was a Cuban citizen.
The magazine Palabra Cubana related the story of his martyrdom: “While studying at the Monastery of El Escorial, he was detained on August 6, 1936 with his Augustinian community at that monastery and imprisoned in Madrid. When he was told he could appeal to his Cuban citizenship to gain freedom, he answered: “All of you who have been my teachers and superiors are here. What I am going to do in the city? I prefer to have the same fate as everyone else, whatever God wishes that might be.”
“On November 30, 1936, Brother Jose Lopez Piteira was martyred in Paracuellos de Jarama together with 50 other Augustinian religious. At the time of his martyrdom he was 23,” the magazine reported.