Franciscan Friars one step closer to beatification

Franciscan Friars one step closer to beatification November 13, 2022

The Postulator for the Cause of Beatification of the Venerable Friar Pedro de Corpa and Companions recently notified the Diocese of Savannah that the Historical Commission of the Dicastry for the Causes of Saints has voted six votes in favor to advance the Cause of these five friars who were killed in the coast of Georgia in 1597.

The Cause was presented some years ago by the Franciscan Holy Name Province of New York City, and since 2014, the Diocese of Savannah has been working very closely with the Province to promote the story of the friars who have traditionally been called “The Georgia Martyrs.”

The Cause will now be reviewed by a Theological Committee followed by a Committee of Cardinals who assess the present-day pastoral application of the lives of the friars.  If all moves smoothly, we anticipate a Beatification Liturgy in the Diocese sometime in the next few years.

Recently, the Diocese of Savannah sent a delegation to Saint Catherine’s Island where Friar Antonio and Friar Miguel were killed. Bishop Parkes celebrated an open air Mass on the archeological site of the original mission built in the 1570s, where then friars were killed at the entrance to the convent.

Friar Pedro de Corpa, ordained in 1584 in Castille, Spain, volunteered in 1587 along with eleven friars to evangelize the New World in the Province of La Florida.  The friars first traveled to La Havana, Cuba, and then continued on a six day journey to Saint Augustine, Florida.  Friar Pedro worked at a mission near Saint Augustine until twelve more friars arrived, freeing him and others to evangelize farther north.  It is unknown when exactly he arrived to the Mission of Tolomato (located north of present day Darien, Georgia), but his assignment there was significant since it was the main city of the Guale people, and its chief was considered the principal leader of the Guale.

Historians recount that the friars sent to the approximately 3,000 Guale came in peace and willing to accommodate.  The friars respected traditional power hierarchies and made cultural allowances in the practice of the faith.  The barefoot missionaries to the Guale were sent without soldiers, and were welcomed by the natives.

Starting on September 14th, 1597, Friar Pedro de Corpa and his four companion friars Blas, Miguel, Antonio, and Francisco were murdered.  These men died during their mission to the Guale of Coastal Georgia as martyrs for defending the Church’s teaching on marriage when a baptized native chief wished to take a second wife.  As the Diocese of Savannah advances the Cause for their beatification, we remember their heroic virtue and courage in defending the faith.  We remember and hope to imitate their zeal for souls.  We admire the detachment they demonstrated by leaving behind everything that was familiar in the Old World for the sake of the Gospel.  We pray that the sacrifice of self these Servants of God offered may be officially recognized by the Church and we may called them blessed among the saints.


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