Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Sunday 26 September |
Saint of the Day: Sts Cosmas and Damian
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Photos of this priest’s martyrdom were meant to dissuade Catholics; that’s not what happened


Public Domain

Aleteia - published on 06/03/17

The images of Miguel Pro's death were "one of the first modern attempts to use media images to manipulate public opinion for antireligious purposes."

The Cristero War was the result of the brutal anti-Catholic persecution perpetrated by the Mexican government of the early 20th century.

Among the great testimonies of faith from this epoch we find the well-known martyrdom of the Jesuit priest, Miguel Agustín Pro, who was shot without any trial, simply for the “crime” of being Catholic.

In addition to assassinating him, the government wanted to ensure that his execution would humiliate him and that it would serve to dissuade, discourage and frighten other Catholics. They did not expect that his martyrdom would in fact have just the opposite effect.

Of the martyrs of those days, no one caught the attention of the public in Mexico and the rest of the world as much as the Jesuit Miguel Agustín Pro. Pro was killed by a firing squad in front of news cameras that the government had brought in to record what it hoped would be the embarrassing spectacle of a priest pleading for mercy. It was one of the first modern attempts to use media images to manipulate public opinion for antireligious purposes. But instead of wavering, Pro displayed great dignity. He walked out to the execution bravely, asking only to be allowed to pray before dying. After a few minutes, he stood up, extended his arms in the form of a cross, a traditional Mexican posture in prayer, and with a steady voice, neither defiant nor desperate, movingly intoned words that have since become famous, “Viva Cristo Rey,” “Long live Christ the King.” Far from being a propaganda triumph for the government, the photographs of Pro’s execution became objects of Catholic devotion in Mexico and of government embarrassment throughout the world. Officials tried to suppress their circulation, declaring the mere possession of the photos a treasonous act, but without success.. … (The Catholic Martyrs of The Twentieth Century, Robert Royal, pp. 17-18).

Here are some of those pictures:

1- Father Miguel Pro, already a prisoner, in Nov. 1927, on the eve of his execution. He was dressed in civilian clothes due to the law prohibiting priests to wear clerics.

Public Domain

2- Condemned to death without a trial, Father Pro proceeds to the place of his execution, carrying a crucifix and a rosary.

Public Domain

3- Father Pro’s last request was to be allowed to kneel and pray. The executioner awaits, as he kisses the crucifix and prays.

Public Domain

4- With his arms extended as if on a cross, Father Pro prayed for those who were to execute him: “My God, have mercy on them. My God, bless them. Lord, you know that I am innocent. With all of my heart, I forgive my enemies.”

Public Domain

5- As the executioner readied to fire, Father Pro’s last words were powerful: “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King!) This became the motto for the Cristeros, such that in subsequent executions, martyrs’ tongues were cut out so that they could not profess Christ with this cry at the moment of death.

Public Domain

6- Now wounded, Father Pro falls to the ground and is given the coup de grâce.

Public Domain

7- Many Mexicans took the great risk not only of participating in the burial of Father Pro, but of crying out “Viva Cristo Rey” as his remains passed by.

Religious FreedomSaints
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.