In 1910, although Catholicism had been a part of Mexico’s history for nearly 400 years, the Catholic Church was perceived as hostile toward the revolution, resulting in an unstable and anti-religious social and political environment. A new constitution, which included several anti-clerical articles, was drafted in 1917, setting the stage for an era of persecution that lasted more than two decades.
In April 1917, Mexican bishops living in San Antonio prepared a letter of protest, affirming that the new constitution “destroys the most sacred rights of the Catholic Church, of Mexican Society, and of Christian individuals.”
Despite these challenges, the Order in Mexico not only survived this period; it thrived. Membership grew from 400 Knights in 1918 to almost 6,000 in 51 councils just six years later.
Between 1926 and 1929, an open rebellion took place against the government’s new persecutory laws, which were formulated and strictly enforced under Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles. Resistance to the “Calles Law” started peacefully, in the form of signed petitions, economic boycotts and demonstrations. But in August 1926, sporadic uprisings sparked the beginning of the Cristero War, or Cristiada. The rebels took their name from their battle cry: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long Live Christ the King!). To the Mexican government, this pronouncement often last words of Cristeros before their deaths was more than a declaration of faith; it was an act of treason. About 70 Mexican Knights were among the Cristeros who died while standing up for their faith.
During this time, the government seized Catholic schools and seminaries, expropriated Church property, and outlawed religious education. It closed Catholic hospitals, orphanages and homes for the elderly. It also banned monastic orders, expelled foreign-born clergy and prohibited public worship. Priests and nuns were barred from wearing religious garments, from voting, and from criticizing the government or commenting on public affairs either in writing or in speech. If charged with a violation of the law, they were denied a trial.
(Part 1 of 2)
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