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Meet the martyrs the pope just beatified

Alberto Pizzoli | AFP
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Killed in 1989 and 1948, this bishop and priest were advocates of justice and human dignity

At a Mass in Colombia today, Pope Francis beatified two martyrs of his host country: Bishop Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca, who was killed in 1989, and Father Pedro María Ramírez Ramos, killed in 1948.

Here are Vatican Radio biographies:

 

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Bishop Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve

A strong critic of the armed rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), Bishop Jaramillo, a member of the Xaverian Missionaries of Yarumal, spoke out against the group’s atrocities in the conflict and a drug war. Opting to be the voice of the poor and the marginalized, he came to be known as a zealous and caring pastor, fighting against social injustice. The ELN killed Bishop Jaramillo on October 2, 1989, after kidnapping him.

Redemptorist priest Fr. Antonio Marrazzo, the postulator or promoter of the beatification and canonization of Bishop Jaramillo, spoke to Vatican Radio about his martyrdom. He said the 73-year-old bishop preached the Gospel not just by word but more by promoting the human person. He joined the Xaverians who were reaching out to Colombia’s remote and abandoned regions inhabited by peasants and the natives. He set up institutions to help them and also started a hospital for them.

Fr. Marazzo noted that Bishop Jaramillo lived at a time when the armed guerilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were born. The ELN, active in the area of the bishop, criticized and calumniated him and his apostolate. The group also falsely denounced the bishop for misappropriating the salaries of teachers from an institution set by the government in collaboration with the bishops’ conference.

The postulator said that Bishop Jaramillo was killed for his faith because he was a stumbling block to the ELN ideology. The bishop was on a parish visit along with two priests when they were abducted by the rebels. The bishop asked that the priests be allowed to go. One of the priests came back to the spot where they were abducted and found the tortured body of Bishop Jaramillo with several bullet wounds.

From the two priests who were abducted by the rebels, Fr. Marazzo said, they came to know that the bishop was serene in his last moments, knowing he was doing God’s will.

 

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Father Pedro María Ramírez Ramos

Born in La Plata on October 23, 1899, Fr. Ramirez was ordained to the priesthood in 1931. He served as the pastor of Chaparral, then of Cunday and later of El Fresno before opting for Armero, where he was killed on April 10, 1948. When violence erupted, families in Armero offered to smuggle him out of the area to safety but he refused to abandon his people.

The rebels burst into his church and dragged him to the town square where they lynched and mutilated him.

Trinitarian Father Antonio Doménico Sáez, the postulator of the cause of beatification and canonization of Fr. Ramirez, told Vatican Radio that he was a very faithful priest given much to prayer, especially to the Eucharist, and quite demanding in questions of morality of the people. As he was about to be taken to the town square by the rebels, he wrote down his last declaration, thanking the bishop for having posted him in Armero and expressing his gratitude to the Church. He said he was ready to shed his blood for his people.

Fr. Saez said Fr. Ramirez is a martyr because he died for his faith and for justice. With several Protestant sects and Communists active there, Armero was not a particularly religious town. Several priests assigned to Armero before him had given up and gone away, but Fr. Ramirez volunteered to go there.

The postulator said that with the eruption of violence in 1948 in Bogota, Armero also was involved. Some women encouraged Fr. Ramirez to go into hiding, but the priest said he had “consulted his Lord” who asked him to stay on.

While being dragged to the square amidst insults, Fr. Ramirez forgave those about to kill him. The messge of Fr. Ramirez is one of fidelity, which he expressed in the profound awareness of his priesthood, Fr. Saez added.

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