Among the eight causes for sainthood advanced by Pope Francis is a Mexican exorcist who lived during the time of the Cristero War, and was mentored by a bishop that has since been canonized. The Pope gave the green light to move the causes on to the next step in a private Sept. 30 audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican's congregation for saint's causes. Fr. Juan Manuel Martín del Campo was one of five priests recognized for heroic virtue, and who have now received the title of “Venerable,” only two steps away from canonization, which takes place after the requirement two miracles has been fulfilled. Born in in Lagos de Moreno, in the state of Jalisco, Dec. 14, 1917, Fr. Martín del Campo served as a priest for more than 50 years before his death, eight of which (1987-1995) were spent as the official exorcist for the Mexican diocese of Xalapa, Mexican newspaper “Diario de Xalapa” reports. Raised in a pious family, the priest would pray the rosary with his parents and siblings every day, and would receive a blessing from his mother, Ana, each night before he went to bed. One of his brothers, Fernando, also became a priest. He entered the seminary of Veracruz in the 1930s, during the time of Mexico's Cristero War that was sparked by anti-clerical legislation being passed by the Mexican President Elías Calles in 1926. The laws banned religious orders, deprived the Church of property rights and denied priests civil liberties, including the right to trial by jury and the right to vote. The persecution became so fierce that some Catholics began to forcibly resist, fighting under the slogan and banner of “Cristo Rey” (Christ the King). Martín del Campo stood out as an exemplary student in the seminary, and was mentored by his bishop, Rafael Guízar y Valencia, who was canonized by Benedict XVI in 2006. In the midst of the persecution, when the seminary was still in hiding, Bishop Guízar y Valencia named the young seminarian coordinator of the group of students in charge of buying food for the seminary. In 1939 he was appointed to the ministry of acolyte — the person in charge of preparing all liturgical celebrations — by Bishop Guízar y Valencia’s successor, Manuel Pío López Estrada. Martín del Campo was ordained a priest Dec. 21, 1940, and afterward continued on at the Veracruz seminary as a professor and director and prefect of theologians until 1947. He became the Vicar of religious in April 1947, and seven years later, in 1954, was appointed the diocesan director of the Work of the Propagation of the Faith. Four years later the priest was put in charge of St. Jerome parish in Coatepec, where he continued to serve for the next 10 years. In 1970, he was appointed as Canon penitentiary for the Xalapa Cathedral. A canon penitentiary is a member of the cathedral’s chapter who serves as a general confessor of the diocese. After serving in that role for 15 years, he became the diocese’s exorcist until 1995, the year before he died. Fr. Martín del Campo passed away Aug. 13, 1996, in Xalapa. His remains have since been moved to the Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, inside the Church of St. Jerome in Coatepec in 2010. In addition to the exorcist, the heroic virtue was approved for four priests, a religious sister and a laywoman. The martyrdom of a priest and his four companions was also recognized, allowing for their beatification. Fr. Valentino Palencia Marquina and his four companions were recognized as having been killed in hatred for the faith July 15, 1937, in Spain. Sister Maria Benedetta Giuseppa Frey was one of those approved of heroic virtue. A Cistercian nun, she was born in Rome in 1836, and died May 10, 1913. Also approved of heroic virtue is Anna Chrzanowska, a Polish laywoman who was an Oblate with the Ursuline Sisters of St. Benedict. She was born in Varsavia in 1902, and died in Krakow April 29, 1973. The four priests approved of heroic virtue were Italians Fr. Giovanni Folci, founder of the Work of the Divine Prisoner who died in Colorina in 1963, and Fr. Antonio Filomeno Maria Losito of the Congregation of the Holy Redeemer, who was born in Puglia in 1838 and died in Pagani in July 1917. Spanish priest Giuseppe Rivera Ramírez of Toledo, Spain and Fr. Francesco Blachnicki of Rybnik, Poland were also approved of heroic virtue. Fr. Ramírez was born in 1925 and died in March 1991, and Fr. Blachnicki lived from 1921-1987, when he died in Germany.
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