Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles has welcomed the upcoming film “For Greater Glory” for drawing attention to the anti-Catholic persecutions in 1920s Mexico and for presenting a “timely message” about religious liberty.
The movie “tells the dramatic story of this unknown war against religion and our Church’s heroic resistance,” Archbishop Gomez said in his May 29 column for the archdiocesan newspaper The Tidings.
“Just a generation ago, not far from our borders, thousands of men, women and even children, were imprisoned, exiled, tortured and murdered. All for the ‘crime’ of believing in Jesus Christ and wanting to live by their faith in him,” he said. “That such repression could happen in a nation so deeply Catholic as Mexico should make everybody stop and think.”
The movie “For Greater Glory” tells the story of the Cristero uprising against Mexican dictator Plutarco Elias Calles, whose atheist-socialist regime took power after the 1917 revolution. Calles controlled the country in the 1920s and 1930s, often targeting the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Gomez is co-hosting the Hollywood premier of the film on the evening of June 1, along with its producer, Pablo Jose Barroso, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Archbishop Gomez recalled that under the Calles regime, churches, seminaries and convents were seized and desecrated. Many were destroyed. Priests were tortured and executed.
The government outlawed public displays of faith and shut down Catholic schools and newspapers. It banned Catholic political parties and labor unions.
Calles “used to boast about the numbers of priests he had executed,” the archbishop said. “He really believed his reign of terror could exterminate the Church and wipe the memory of Christ from Mexico within a single generation.”
“He was wrong. In the forge of his persecution, saints were made,” the Los Angeles archbishop said.
He recounted the stories of Mexican martyrs such as Blessed Anacleto González Flores, who will be played in the movie by the actor Eduardo Verastegui. The married father of two was a catechist who joined the resistance.
He was captured and tortured before his execution on April 1, 1927. As he faced the firing squad, he said, “I die, but God does not die.”
Other martyrs included a young catechist named Venerable María de la Luz Camacho. She stood in front of a church door to block soldiers who intended to burn it down. They shot her dead, but they spared the church.
Blessed Miguel Pro, a priest, went before a firing squad without a blindfold and outstretched his arms like Jesus on the cross. His last words were “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” which means “Long live Christ the King.”
Archbishop Gomez said Catholics need to learn from the examples of all the Cristeros who have been canonized and beatified.
“And today especially, we need to pray for their intercession,” he said. “Today, we need to know their names and we need to know their stories.”
He said the movie “For Greater Glory” reminds Catholics that “our religious liberties are won by blood and we can never take them for granted.”
In Mexico and America today, he continued, Catholics do not face suffering and death for practicing their faith, but they confront “softer” forms of “secularist bullying” in societies “growing more aggressively secularized.”
He said in reference to the HHS mandate that the U.S. government is trying to “coerce” Catholics’ consciences to make them deny “our religious identity and values.”
Archbishop Gomez encouraged Catholics to “ask for the strength to be Cristeros” and to pray that they might be “always ready to love and sacrifice to stand up for Jesus and his Church.”