Today in Catholic History – The End of the Cristero War

On 27 June 1929, the bells of the Catholic churches in Mexico rang for the first time in almost three years, marking the end of the Cristero War.

The Cristero War or Cristiada in Mexico lasted from 1926 to 1929, during which the Catholic population fought against the policies of religious persecution enforced by the anti-clerical Mexican government. These policies of religious persecution, included within the 1917 Mexican Constitution, confiscated the property of the Catholic Church and prohibited further acquisition of property, closed Catholic primary schools and caused some to prohibit even religious education in churches, banned religious orders and religious activity outside churches, required all religious activity be overseen by the government, limited the number of priests and deprived clergy of the right to vote or criticize the government. The Catholics opposed to the government considered themselves soldiers for Christ and so took the name Cristeros.

Opposition to the anti-Catholic policies began with the formations of various national organizations and then progressed to a decision by the bishops of Mexico to suspend all public worship in Mexico and to begin an economic boycott of the government. However, the resistance which until this time had been mostly non-violent became much stronger after the August 1926 siege of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Guadalajara which left many dead including the parish priest and his vicar. This would be followed by several armed uprisings throughout Mexico.

The Cristero War officially began on 1 January 1927 with the manifesto A la Nación (To the Nation). Which declared that the time of battle had begun and a rebellion exploded in the state of Jalisco. The Cristeros began capturing various towns and villages while shouting: ¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! (“Long live Christ the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe”).

With the assistance of the United States, a peace agreement was established on 21 June 1929 that allowed worship to resume in Mexico, permitted religious education in the churches and allowed clergy to petition for legal reform. Also the Catholic Church regained its property rights. With this agreement the Bishops called for an end to the rebellion and threatened rebels with excommunication. This, in turn, led the rebellion to die out.

At its end, almost 90,000 people had died during the rebellion. As of 2009, the anticlerical provisions of the Constitution remain although they are no longer enforced. Several of the Catholics killed during this period have been canonized, most famously is Miguel Pro, SJ.

For more on the Cristero War

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