Tlaxcala, Martyrs of, Bb.

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Also known as Blessed Cristobal (Christopher), Antonio (Anthony), and Juan (John), protomartyrs of the New World; d. c. 152729 in Tlaxcala (now the Archdiocese of Puebla), mexico; beatified May 6, 1990, by John Paul II in the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City.

Tlaxcala, which is about sixty-five miles from Mexico City and twenty miles from Puebla, was the fifth diocese established in New Spain, the second in Mexico. The Franciscans evangelized the warrior Tlaxcalans, who were the first to enter a treaty with Hernán Cortés and assist the Spanish conquistadores. Although Cortés stood as godfather for four of the leading men of Tlaxcala in 1520, Christianity was not readily accepted by all. The three youths Cristobal, Antonio, and Juan were the first to die in America in odium fidei.

Cristobal (b. c. 1514, Atlihuetzia near Tlaxcala; d.1527) He was the principal heir of Acxotécatl, a highranking nobleman. Following his baptism, Cristobalito served the Franciscans catechists as interpreter and repeatedly harassed his father to convert. His father reacted by beating his son and burning him over a fire. Cristobal died of his injuries the following morning.

Antonio (b. Tizatlán, c. 1516; d. Cuauhtinchán, 1529) Another Tlaxcalan noble and interpreter for the Franciscans, he was the grandson of Xicohténcati and heir to his title and estates. He was clubbed to death for destroying idols in the town of Tepeac.

Juan (b. Tizatlán, c. 1516; d. Cuauhtinchán, 1529) He was servant to Antonio and died with his master.

In his beatification homily, Pope John Paul II said these martyrs were drawn at a tender age "to the words and witness of the missionaries and they became helpers, as catechists for other indigenous people. They are sublime and instructive examples of how evangelization is a task of all God's People, excluding no one, not even children."

Feast: Sept. 23.

Bibliography: Congregatio pro Causis Sanctorum, Cristobalito, Antonio y Juan: niños mártires de Tlaxcala (Mexico City 1990). g. de mendieta, Historia eclesiástica indiana, ed. j. garcÍa icazbalceta (Mexico City 1980). t. de benavente motolinia Historia de los indios de la Nueva España, ed. e. o'gorman (Mexico City 1979), 17681. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition (14 May 1990): 56.

[k. i. rabenstein]