Anacleto González Flores
July 13, 1888 – April 27, 1927
Beatified November 20, 2005
He was a Mexican Catholic layman and lawyer, executed during the persecution of the Catholic Church under the presidency of Plutarco Elías Calles. At the time of his Martyrdom Mexico was under rule of the fiercely anti-clerical Calles who had begun what writer Graham Greene called the "fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of Elizabeth."
The second of twelve children born to the poor family of Valentín González Sanitiz and Maria Flores Navaho, Anacleto González Flores was Baptized the day after his birth. A priest friend of the family recognized his intelligence and recommended him for the seminary where he excelled, earning the nickname "Maestro". But he did not have a calling to holy orders, and began the
González became an activist and leader of the Catholic Association of Mexican Youth and founded the magazine La Palabra which attacked the anticlerical and Anti-Catholic articles of the Constitution of 1917. He was the founder and president of the Popular Union (UP), an organization to organize Catholics to resist the persecution of the Church. González attended Mass daily and engaged in numerous works of charity, including visiting prisoners and teaching catechism.
Originally, he supported passive resistance against the government, however, in 1926 upon learning of the murder of four members of the Catholic Association of Mexican Youth he joined the National League for the Defense of Religious Freedom, supporting the coming rebellion. He wrote, "the country is a jail for the Catholic Church ... We are not worried about defending our material interests because these come and go; but our spiritual interests, these we will defend because they are necessary to obtain our salvation."
In January of 1927, having endured religious persecution, the rebels began the Cristero War. González did not take up arms but gave speeches, encouraging Catholics to support the Cristeros financially and with food, accommodation and clothing. He wrote pamphlets and gave speeches supporting the cause against the anticlerical government.
Seeking to quell the rebellion, the government sought capture of the leaders of the Popular Union and the National League for the Defense of Religious Freedom. González was captured and framed with charges that he murdered American Edgar Wilkens, when in fact the government knew that Wilkens had been killed by a robber, Guadalupe Zuno. Anacleto was tortured, including being hung by his thumbs pulling them out of their sockets, having his shoulder fractured with a rifle butt and having the bottom of his feet brutally gashed. On April 1, 1927, he was executed by firing squad. Echoing the words of assassinated Ecuadorian President, Gabriel García Moreno, in defiance of the forces seeking to suppress his faith, González' last words were, "I die but God does not die!"
Wilkens' widow, who knew González had been framed, wrote a letter of protest to Washington exonerating him. A letter staying his execution arrived shortly after he was shot.
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