Pope John Paul II canonized an extraordinary number of saints in Mexico City, Mexico, in May 2000. Of the 27 newly sainted, 25 died from religious persecution in Mexico during the early 20th century.
This persecution reached its height during la Cristiada
, the Cristero Rebellion of the late 1920s. The peasantry, angered by the government's antireligious measures, took up arms in protest. Roman Catholic priests—though they did not participate in the violence—refused to abandon their followers.
One of the most celebrated of these priests was Father Cristóbal Magallanes. He reportedly pardoned the firing squad before being shot to death.
"After the harsh trials that the Church lived in Mexico during those difficult years," Pope John Paul II said, "today Mexican Christians, encouraged by the testimony of these witnesses of the faith, can live in peace and harmony. ... The Church grows and progresses."