First Knight of Columbus Bishop to Be Canonized
Rafael Guízar Valencia Known for His Zeal
ROME, OCT. 10, 2006 (www.Zenit.org) - Bishop Rafael Guízar Valencia will become the seventh Knight of Columbus to be canonized, but the first bishop of the Catholic organization to be declared a saint.
Pope John Paul II declared six other knights saints in 2000, all of whom were martyred in Mexico during the persecutions of the 1920s and 1930s.
"We welcome the canonization of our brother knight, Bishop Guízar Valencia, and know that his life of courage and legacy of evangelization will be an inspiration to each of our 1.7 million members around the world," said Carl Anderson, supreme knight.
Anderson said that he will attend the Oct. 15 canonization ceremony in Rome, presided over by Benedict XVI.
Rafael Guízar Valencia (1878 -1938) was born in Cotija de la Paz, Michoacan, Mexico, and ordained a priest in 1901.
With the start of the Mexican revolution in 1910, persecution of the Catholic Church became severe, and Father Guízar Valencia became a special target because of his outspoken defense of the Church.
He went underground, disguised as a junk dealer, in order to be able to continue his work as a priest. In 1915, when the Mexican government issued an order that he be shot on sight, he escaped to the United States, and then went on to serve the church in Guatemala and Cuba.
While in Cuba, he was consecrated bishop of Veracruz, Mexico. The end of the revolution enabled him to return to Mexico in January 1920. He joined the Knights of Columbus in 1923.
As bishop, he founded a clandestine seminary to train future priests, noting that a "bishop can do without a miter, a crosier, and even a cathedral, but never without a seminary, because the future of his diocese depends on the seminary."
Bishop Guízar Valencia was forced to flee Mexico once again in 1927, during the persecution of the Church under Mexican President Plutarco Calles.
He returned in 1929, the year the Church reached an accord with the Mexican government.
After his return to Mexico, Bishop Guízar Valencia continued his ministry, and became known as "the bishop of the poor."
He died of natural causes on June 6, 1938, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Jan. 29, 1995.