Polanco Fontecha, Anselmo, Bl.

views updated


Bishop of Teruel, Augustinian; martyr; b. Buenavista de Valdavia, Palencia, Spain, April 16, 1881; d. "Can Tretze" of Pont de Molins (near Gerona), Spain, Feb. 7, 1939.

Born to modest farmers, Anselmo Polanco was professed as an Augustinian friar at Valladolid (1896), studied at Santa María of La Vid Monastery, and was ordained in 1904. He began his priestly career teaching theology in the seminary, then served as prior until he was sent to the Philippines as provincial councilor. He returned to Valladolid upon his election as provincial superior (1932) of the Philippines Province, which entailed sending missionaries to various parts of the world. In that position he travelled to China, Colombia, Peru, and the United States.

Three years later he was named bishop of Teruel (Spain) and appointed apostolic administrator of Albarracín. Polanco remained in Teruel throughout the terrors of the Spanish civil war. In 1938, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Republican Army for refusing to remove his signature from a collective letter of the Spanish bishops denouncing the persecution of the Church. Shortly thereafter he was joined by his vicar general, Felipe ripoll. After thirteen months incarceration, the two were used as human shields as the soldiers disbanded at the end of the war. The bodies of both martyrs are enshrined in Bishop Polanco's cathedral.

During Bishop Polanco's beatification, Pope John Paul II observed: "As a presentiment, [Polanco] said on the day he took possession of his diocese: 'I have come to give my life for my flock.' This is why, together with Felipe Ripoll, he chose to stay at the side of his flock in the midst of danger, and it was only by force that he was taken from them." John Paul II beatified Polanco, Oct. 1, 1995.

Feast: Feb. 7.

Bibliography: v. cÁrcel ortÍ, Martires españoles del siglo XX (Madrid 1995). j. pÉrez de urbel, Catholic Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, 19361939, tr. m. f. ingrams (Kansas City, Mo.1993). L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed. 40 (1995): 13.

[k. i. rabenstein]