A Vatican cardinal beatified four martyrs of the Spanish Civil War on Saturday.

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, declared Francesco Cástor Sojo López and three companions blessed at a Mass on Oct. 30 in Tortosa Cathedral, Catalonia.

In his homily, Semeraro said: “They did not seek martyrdom, because one does not seek martyrdom, but suffers it. However, when the time came to bear their witness to Christ in blood, they did not shrink from it and embraced their cross with love.”

“Thus it is that three of them, like the leader Bl. Francisco Cástor Sojo López, suffered death by killing and one, Bl. Millán Garde Serrano, endured torture with an attitude of forgiveness towards the perpetrators and with trust in the Lord.”

An estimated half a million people died in Spain’s civil war, fought between Republicans and Nationalists from 1936 to 1939.

Among the victims of a wave of anticlerical violence were 13 bishops, 4,172 diocesan priests and seminarians, 2,364 male religious, and 283 female religious.

More than 2,000 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War have been beatified and 11 canonized. The causes of a further 2,000 candidates are under consideration.

According to his official Vatican biography, Francesco Cástor Sojo López was born in Madrigalejo, Extremadura, on March 28, 1881.

He was ordained a priest on Dec. 19, 1903. While training for the priesthood, he joined the Fraternity of Diocesan Worker Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, founded in 1883 by Bl. Manuel Domingo y Sol.

More in Europe

He served in seminaries and colleges in Toledo, Plasencia, Badajoz, Segovia, Astorga, and finally Ciudad Real, a city in central Spain.

On Sept. 12, 1936, he was arrested, held prisoner, and then killed that night outside Ciudad Real.

Manuel Galcerá Videllet was born in Caseras, Andalucia, on July 6, 1877. Ordained in 1901, he joined the Fraternity of Diocesan Worker Priests in 1906.

He served in Zaragoza, Tarragona, Cuernavaca (Mexico), Badajoz, Ciudad Real, Rome, Valladolid, and Baeza.

He was arrested on July 20, 1936, and held captive in Baeza, southern Spain. He was killed on Sept. 3, 1936.

Aquilino Pastor Cambero was born on Jan. 4, 1911, in Zarza de Granadilla, Extremadura. He joined the Fraternity of Diocesan Worker Priests in 1934 and was ordained to the priesthood on Aug. 25, 1935.

He served in Baeza as a prefect of students. As the civil war raged, he hid with Manuel Galcerá Videllet at a residence in Baeza, but was captured with him and taken to the city’s jail. He was taken out of the city on Aug. 28, 1936, and killed.

(Story continues below)

Millán Garde Serrano was born on Dec. 21, 1876, in Vara del Rey, Castilla–La Mancha. He was ordained on Dec. 21, 1901, and joined the Fraternity of Diocesan Worker priests in 1903.

He served in the seminaries of Badajoz, Valladolid, Salamanca, Astorga, Plasencia, and León.

Following the outbreak of war, he exercised his ministry clandestinely. On April 10, 1938, he was captured and denounced. He was imprisoned and severely tortured in Cuenca.

He was transferred to a Discalced Carmelite monastery, converted into a prison, where he died on the night of July 7, 1938, as a result of the torture.

Pope Francis asked for a round of applause for the new blesseds at his Angelus address on Oct. 31.

He said: “Yesterday in Tortosa, Spain, Francesco Sojo López, Millán Garde Serrano, Manuel Galcerá Videllet and Aquilino Pastor Cambero, priests of the Fraternity of Diocesan Worker Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, were beatified. All of them were killed in hatred of the faith.”

“Zealous and generous pastors during the religious persecution of the 1930s, they remained faithful to their ministry even at the risk of their lives. May their witness be a model especially for priests.”

Cardinal Semeraro announced that the new martyrs’ feast day would be Oct. 25, reported ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

Concluding his homily in Tortosa Cathedral, the cardinal said: “Considering the martyrdom of these blessed, some words of St. John Paul II come to mind: ‘Martyrdom is the definitive and radical test, the greatest test of man, the test of man’s dignity in the presence of God himself. It is “the” trial of man that takes place in the eyes of God, a trial in which man, aided by the power of God, brings victory.’”

Semeraro continued: “‘Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it,’ Jesus told us. And so it is. In Christ, life is never lost; on the contrary, it is found, because he is Life. What is more, as he said in dialogue with Martha, he is not only life, but also resurrection.”