Monday, April 9, 2007

Man Seeks sainthood for South Georgia Martyrs

For more on the Georgia Martyrs, visit the Friends of the Georgia Martyrs site.

From Star News Online:

Friar Pedro de Corpa had spent a decade before his death in the late 16th century as a missionary converting Indians to Christianity in Spanish Florida, which then included the 100-mile Georgia coast.

De Corpa was assigned to a mission near present-day Darien, Ga., when he infuriated the nephew of a Guale chieftain who planned to take a second wife. The friar admonished the nephew, a baptized Christian named Juanillo, and told him polygamy violated God's law.

On Sept. 14, 1597, Juanillo led warriors smeared in war paint to de Corpa's hut, where he was preparing for morning Mass. They killed the friar with stone clubs, severed his head and displayed it on a pike by a nearby river landing.The warriors killed four more friars - Blas Rodriguez, Miguel de Anon, Antonio de Badajoz and Francisco de Verascola - at St. Catherines Island and other nearby missions over the next several days.

Friar Pedro Fernandez de Chozas wrote to the Spanish governor at St. Augustine, Fla., on Oct. 4, 1597: "How they must have been lonely, Senor General, these little lambs, at the moment of martyrdom."

Beatification by the church, a lengthy process likely to take many years, would entitle the five friars to be called "blessed." But it requires proof of a miracle or martyrdom, meaning they died willingly at the hands of religious persecutors.

Harkins said it should be "an open and shut case."If he's right, the friars would join a very short list of only three Christians the church recognizes as having been martyred within U.S. borders - fewer than half the number of U.S. saints.

The U.S. can claim just eight Catholic saints. Among them are the only beatified martyrs slain on American soil: three Jesuit priests killed in the 1640s by Iroquois Indians near present-day Auriesville, N.Y.

"In North America, we haven't had periods of persecution," said Lawrence Cunningham, a University of Notre Dame theology professor and author of the book A Brief History of Saints. "You're not going to find any martyrs in the U.S. after the period of early exploration."

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