On October 12, 2023, a Mass was said for the official closing of the diocesesan phase of the cause of beatification and canonization of the Martyrs of La Florida.
This initial phase included a close examination of the historical details of the martyrdom of several individuals who were killed for the faith between 1549 and 1712.
Aleteia writer Daniel Esparza explains in an article that, “The Martyrs of La Florida were a group of Native American and Spanish Catholics killed in Florida during the Spanish colonial expansion into what is now the territory of the United States, then still part of the Spanish Empire. During the 16th and 17th centuries, 86 Catholics – including priests and laity – were martyred by Native Americans and subjects of the British Empire.”
According to OSV News, “Msgr. Michael Reed, chancellor of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese, will [now] escort the documents to Rome to deliver to the dicastery.“
Once these documents arrive in Rome, the Vatican will review them and determine if these deaths qualify as martyrdom, which would pave the way for their beatification.
Many of these individuals were killed in massacres led by military leaders of the English Empire.
Those murdered in the massacres included individuals and missionary priests from Spain and Cuba of different religious orders — Dominicans, Jesuits, Franciscans and St. John of God. Non-Christian Indigenous peoples killed included men, women and children (including one unborn child) from the Apalachee, Aypaja, Guale and Timucua tribes.
Esparza explains one of the primary sources of these massacres:
Colonel James Moore was the colonial administrator who served as the governor of Carolina from 1700 to 1703. Moore is best known for leading the invasion of Spanish Florida during Queen Anne’s War, wiping out most of the Spanish missions.
If the Vatican approves the cause for their beatification, the Florida Martyrs will become one of the largest groups to be beatified from what would become the United States of America.