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The Thomasian Martyrs were the Dominican Catholic priests who became administrators, professors, or students in the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. All of them gave up their lives for their Christian faith, some in Japan, others in Vietnam, and in the 20th century, in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. St. Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila was among the lay companions of the Thomasian martyrs of Japan.
- 1 The Martyrs of Japan
- 2 The Martyrs of Vietnam
- 3 The Martyrs of the Religious Persecution in Spain
- 4 References
The Martyrs of Japan
Conversion of some Japanese to the Christian faith took place between the years 1549–1640 in Japan through the efforts of missionary evangelizers. During this era, the country was ruled by the bakufu, a military government headed by the Shoguns who governed the country in the name of the Emperor. The Emperor at this time had become a mere figurehead, secluded in his palace in Kyoto.
Factors in the outbreak of severe repression of Christianity in Japan certainly included the fear of the Shoguns of all foreign influence. Contributory were the quarrels between Christian denominations, and imprudent acts of foreign navigators.
Saint Antonio González
Born in León, Spain, Antonio Gonzalez entered the Dominican Order at the age of 16. His favorite saint was St. Peter of Verona, the protomartyr of the Dominican order, thus his religious enthusiasm gave rise to his living desire for martyrdom. When an invitation was sent to their convent asking for volunteer missionaries for the Far East, González was among those who eagerly volunteered. His target destination was Japan, but he had to prepare for this mission in the Philippines. He arrived in Manila in May 1632. He became professor and acting rector of the University of Santo Tomas. In 1636, he was finally able to fulfill his dream of going to Japan. After a year, he was arrested while proudly wearing his habit. After tremendous torture, he was found dead in his cell at the dawn of September 24, 1637.
Saint Domingo Ibáñez de Erquicia
Born in February, 1589 in Regil, Guipuzcoa, Spain, Domingo Ibáñez de Erquicia entered the Dominican Priory of San Thelmo at the age of 16. Realizing the need for missionaries in the Far East, he joined the Dominicans who went to the Philippines and arrived in Manila in the year 1611 and became professor of Theology at the University of Santo Tomás. Ten years later, he was sent to Japan. Constantly faced with danger, he spent his decade of mission in Japan faithfully preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments, until he was finally caught by the Japanese authorities and killed through the “gallows and hole” torture. After thirty hours of continuous torture, he finally expired on August 14, 1633.
Saint Lucas del Espiritu Santos
Born in Zamora, Spain on October 18, 1594, he entered the Dominican Order at the age of 16. In the year 1617, he answered the missionary calling to evangelize in the Far East. He became Lecturer of Arts at the University of Santo Tomás. Later on he was sent to Japan and arrived there in June 1623. For ten years, he engaged in underground apostolate. On September 8, 1633, he was arrested in Osaka, and a month later, on October 18, he was subjected through the “gallows and hole” torture. He died on the following day.
Santo Tomás Hioji de San Jacinto
Born of Christian Japanese parents in 1590, in Kyūshū, Japan, he witnessed how his parents were martyred for their Christian faith. He went to the Philippines and sought admission to the Dominican Order. He studied philosophy at the University of Santo Tomás. He went back to Japan on November 10, 1629. Being Japanese, Thomas was able to move about with some freedom. While doing his missionary endeavors, he chronicled the martyrdom of his fellow Dominicans. The Japanese authorities eventually arrested him. He was subjected to the “gallows and hole” torture and died on November 15, 1634.
Saint Guillaume Courtet
Guillaume Courtet was a French Dominican of noble origins born in 1590. He joined the Order at the age of 17. He became prior of the Community in Avignon, France. His childhood dream to be a missionary was fulfilled when he set sail for the Philippines in 1634. He became professor of Theology at the University of Santo Tomás. Because of his holiness and zeal for the Gospel, in 1636 he was sent to be a missionary in Japan. A year later, he was arrested. In his trial, he affirmed that only Christian truth will save mankind. For this, he was condemned to death. He died in September 1637 through the “gallows and hole” torture.
The Martyrs of Vietnam
Vietnam was first introduced to Christianity in the year 1627. The Dominicans set foot on the country in 1676. Among the milestones of the Dominican missions were the training of catechists and the establishment of charitable institutions. The predominant religions during the era of martyrs were Taoism and Buddhism.
The government of Vietnam is similar to China. It was an empire ruled by dynasties that succeeded each other. The Emperor was regarded as an absolute monarch. In 1711, Emperor An Vuong issued the first Edict of Persecution of Christians.
Saint Domingo Henares
The 30-year-old Córdoba-born Domingo Henares arrived in Manila on July 9, 1796. He completed his studies in the University of Santo Tomás and there became a professor of Humanities. He went to Vietnam in 1790 where eventually he became bishop. His knowledge of medicine, astronomy, and the sciences was greatly appreciated by the Vietnamese, even respected by the Mandarins. Still, the fact that he was Christian made him subject to persecution. On June 9, 1838, he was arrested and a month later, on July 25, 1838, he was beheaded.
Saint Vicente Liem de la Paz
Vicente Liem de la Paz was a native Vietnamese born in 1731. This brilliant student was sent to the Philippines to study at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. In 1753, he entered the Dominican order and studied in the University of Santo Tomás where he was later ordained a priest. After his petition to serve his people was approved, he went back to Vietnam as a missionary, working under Fr. Jacinto Castañeda, until he was arrested, tortured, and beheaded on November 7, 1773.
Saint Jose María Díaz Sanjurjo
José María Díaz Sanjurjo was born in Lugo, Spain on August 25, 1818. He secretly enterd the Dominican Priory in Ocaña, and in 1842, he received the Dominican habit. He was a famous Latin scholar, theologian, and legal expert. He arrived in Manila on September 14, 1844. He completed his studies while teaching at the University of Santo Tomás. After a year, he left for the Vietnamese missions. In March 1849, he became Bishop. Even as he was raised to the episcopal rank, he remained a lowly servant of the Gospel. According to him, “Here, the dignities mean more work. I don’t have any means of transportation at all, and although I did not vow to go barefoot, I do and sometimes with mud up to my knees” In 1856, he was arrested and was beheaded a year later.
Saint Pedro Almato
Pedro Almato was born in Barcelona, Spain on All Saints' Day, 1830. He went to Manila, studied in the University of Santo Tomás, and was ordained in 1853. Learning of the persecutions in Vietnam, he obtained permission from his superiors to go on mission in the said country. In October 1861, after several years of missionary work, Almato was captured and was beheaded on his birthday.
The Martyrs of the Religious Persecution in Spain
Last October 28, 2007, Pope Benedict beatified 498 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, in a Holy Mass presided over by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This was the largest mass beatification ever in the history of the Church.
Religious persecution in Spain during the Spanish Civil War
After the fall of the monarchy, the Second Spanish Republic was established. The Republican government and its supporters, a combined force of communists, socialists and anarchists, was particularly antagonistic towards the nobility, the land owners, and the Catholic Church. In 1936, a coup d’etat staged by rebel forces (Nacionalistas) attempted to overthrow the communist republicans, leading to a three-year political unrest characterized by extreme brutality and violence resulting to countless deaths among the government and rebel forces, as well as ordinary citizens caught in the war.
Since the Catholic Church has been among those considered as enemies of the republicans, thousands of priests and religious perished in organized persecutions. Though the civil war began in 1936, communist forces have started torturing and executing priests and religious as early as 1933.
Fr. Buenaventura Paredes was the 78th successor of St. Dominic as Master of the Order of Preachers. Born to a pious family in Castañedo de Valdes, Luarca, Spain on April 19, 1866, Buenaventura eventually decided to enter the Order of Preachers and received the Dominican habit on August 30, 1833. True to the Dominican tradition of scholarship, he studied Theology, Civil Law, and Philosophy and Letters prior to his ordination to the priesthood on July 25, 1891. After his ordination, he pursued further studies with which he earned his doctorate in Philosophy and Letters and in Jurisprudence. He then traveled to the Philippines as a missionary assigned to the Dominican Province of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. While in Manila, he obtained the degree of lector in theology, which was a requirement for teaching in the University of Santo Tomas. Fr. Paredes was a professor of political and administrative law at the UST Faculty of Civil Law which was then in Intramuros. He was also director of the UST published Catholic newspaper “Libertas”.
In 1901, he returned to Spain where he assumed several positions of responsibility. He came back to Manila when in 1910, he was elected as the Prior Provincial of the Holy Rosary Province, a position he held for seven years. During his term as Provincial, he became among those responsible for the procurement of a land in Sulucan Hills on which the present UST Campus now stands. After his term ended, he went back to Spain to serve as the superior of a Dominican convent in Madrid. In 1926, despite his plea to be relieved of such great responsibility, Paredes was elected by the General Chapter as Master General of the Order. Due to some serious problems in the Order which weakened his health, Paredes resigned his office in 1929. He then retired to the convent in Ocaña.
When the civil war broke out in July 1936, Paredes was in Madrid. A month earlier, realizing that war was imminent, he expressed his desire to travel back to the Philippines. However, even after he was permitted by his superiors in Rome, Paredes could not leave Spain because the government would not issue him a passport. Providentially, Paredes had left his Madrid convent the night before it was attacked by armed men on July 19, 1936. After this event, Paredes, along with other Dominicans, had to be sheltered by a benefactor, Don Pedro Errazquin, himself murdered after a chalice belonging to Fr. Paredes was found in his house. Being constantly under police surveillance, Paredes had to stay in a boarding house, where he continued to perform his priestly duties: hearing confessions, praying the office, and celebrating the Eucharist. On August 11, he was arrested by armed men, and bravely he declared himself a priest and a religious. He was taken to a place of torture, and in the morning of the following day, he was shot in Valdesenderín del Encinar. His rosary and his breviary was found near his cadaver.
In his honor, P. Paredes street, a street close to UST was named after him.
Blessed Jesus Villaverde Andrés
Fr. Jesus Villaverde Andres was born in San Miguel de Dueñas, León, Spain, on December 4, 1877. In 1894, he entered the Dominican Order and after completing his theological studies, he was ordained to the priesthood on June 26, 1903. He was then sent to the Philippines, and around the years 1905-1910, he taught at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He returned to Spain and was assigned to the Convent of Valencia. In 1916, he went back to the Philippines to teach in the University of Santo Tomas where he held a professorial chair in theology after obtaining his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the UST Faculty of Sacred Theology in 1919. He became professor of dogmatic theology and canon law in the same faculty. He held several positions of responsibility in UST. He was Secretary General from 1919–1921 and Treasurer from 1929-1932. During the years 1921-1924, Villaverde was in the United States, serving as prior of the Dominican Community in Rosaryville, New Orleans. When he returned to Manila, he became the rector of the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán from 1924-1927. He then became Dean of the UST Faculty of Sacred Theology from 1932-1934. Among the new Thomasian blesseds, it was only Blessed Jesús Villaverde Andrés who was able to see UST in its present location, having resided at the present Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas. For sure, Fr. Villaverde occupied one of the rooms in the UST Fathers’ Residence.
Villaverde went back to Spain to serve as prior of the Santo Tomás Convent in Avila and later on was assigned to Madrid. While in Madrid, his convent was attacked by the communists on July 1936. Fr. Villaverde had to hide in his mother’s house in Cuesta de los Descargos. Later on, his brother, Carlos, a military man, took custody of him for three months. In his brother’s house he did nothing but pray and console his family. On October 15, he was arrested by the milicianos. Carlos’ children tried to save Fr. Villaverde by telling the arresting officers that there was no priest in their house, but when the milicianos threatened to take Carlos instead, Fr. Villaverde voluntarily showed up and handled himself over to the arresting officers. He was brought to the place of torture and later on executed; the manner of which still remains a mystery.
Throughout his life as a Dominican, Villaverde faithfully carried out all his duties as a priest and a religious. Often criticized for his being strict and somewhat temperamental, unknown to many, Villaverde was quietly suffering the pains brought on him by his liver disease. Witnesses of his priestly life affirm that he was an excellent preacher, and his brilliance as a theology earned him the respect of the Holy See.
All Blessed Pedro Ibáñez Alonzo, Manuel Moreno Martines, Maximiano Fendandex Mariñas and José María López Carillo
These four martyrs of the Religious Persecution in Spain sailed to the Philippines as young Dominican missionaries assigned to the Holy Rosary Province. They stayed for sometime in the convent of Santo Domingo in Intramuros while taking up theological studies in the University of Santo Tomás. They were ordained as priests in Santo Domingo Church, and after several assignments both in and out of the Philippines, they went back to Spain and were assigned to the Holy Rosary Convent in Madrid. After their convent was attacked by the Republicans, they went into hiding until they were found and arrested by the milicianos who tortured and eventually executed them.
- Assoc. Prof. Richard G. Pazcoguin. "Special Lesson on UST Martyrs", UST Institute of Religion.
- Alvares, Constantino, Jose Garcia and Pedro Tejero. Witnesses of the Faith in the Orient: Dominican Martyrs of Japan, China, and Vietnam, Manila: Life Today Publications, 1989.
- Website of the Dominican Holy Rosary Province