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Albanian martyrs up for beatification

Vatican (CNA/EWTN News): Pope Francis has given the go ahead for the beatification Archbishop Nikollë Vinçenc Prennush, from Durrës, and his 37 companions, all of whom were killed by Albania’s communist regime between 1945 and 1974.

The pope officially acknowledged their martyrdom during an April 26 meeting with Angelo Cardinal Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Archbishop Prennushi, who was a member of the Order of Friars Minor, was jailed by the communist regime in the 1940s and died in prison as a result of torture in 1949. The rest of his companions shared a similar fate, and were murdered by the regime between 1945 and 1974.

The 38 martyrs were a key focus of Pope Francis’ 21 September 2014 trip to Albania in which he urged the country to learn from its dark past, but look toward the future with hope.

Albania came under the control of a communist government beginning in 1944, and persecution of religious leaders soon followed. Almost 2,100 people, including Catholic priests and adherents of other religions, were brutally killed because of their beliefs. In 1967, the country declared itself an atheist state.

The activities of the Church were hindered, schools and seminaries were closed, and clergy detained or killed. Out of seven bishops and 200 priests and religious sisters who were active in Albania in 1945, only one bishop and 30 priests and religious sisters were remained when the communist regime collapsed in 1991.

Pope Francis also advanced 11 other saints’ causes, including another group of martyrs and that of an 18-year-old girl.

José Antón Gómez and his three companions, priests of the Order of St Benedict who were killed for the faith in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, will be in line for beatification, while a miracle was recognised for Blessed Alfonso Maria Fusco founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, allowing for his canonisation. 

Pope Francis also recognised a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable John Sullivan, paving the way for his beatification. Born in Ireland in 1861, the Jesuit priest was a convert to Catholicism and became famous for his holiness and devotion.

Among those who were acknowledged for heroic virtue was María Montserrat Grases García, a member of the Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and of Opus Dei. Known for her fidelity and closeness to God, she was diagnosed with cancer as a teen and died at just 18 years old, on 26 March 1959.

Also getting the nod was Father Thomas Choe Yang-Eop, Korea’s second priest and the son of two of the country’s 124 martyrs, who is frequently referred to as the Martyr of Sweat due to the roughly 2,800 kilometres he would walk each year in order to evangelise Korea’s remote villages.

Six others acknowledged for heroic virtue include: Sosio Del Prete, a Franciscan priest and founder of the Congregation of Little Handmaids of Christ the King; Venantius Katarzyniec a priest with the Conventional Franciscan Order; Maria Consiglio dello Spirito Santo, founder of the Congregation of Sister Servants of the Sorrowful Mother; María de la Encarnación, founder of the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis of the Rebaño de María; Maria Laura Baraggia, founder of the Sisters of the Family of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and Ilia Corsaro, founder of the Little Missionaries of the Eucharist.

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