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Blessed Anselm Polanco OSA - a 20th-century martyr

1881 – 1939, Martyr, feast 7 February A 20th century martyr, Anselm was born in Buenavista de Valdavia, Palencia in Spain.

He joined the Augustinian Order, being professed in Valladolid in 1897, and ordained priest in 1904. Having studied in Germany he was engaged in Augustinian priestly formation, being appointed prior of the community. In 1932 he was elected Provincial of the province of the Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines. He devoted himself to this office with great energy, travelling to China, the Philippines, Colombia and Peru. The province began as a mission to the Philippines and then expanded to China and Latin America. At that time, in China there was an Augustinian bishop and many Chinese friars.

He was always a man of deep faith and prayer, remembered as such in Valladolid for many years afterwards. In 1935, he was appointed Bishop of Teruel at an extraordinarily difficult time. Civil War broke out and the city of Teruel became a centre of bloody conflict. Much pressure by colleagues was exerted on the bishop to flee to a safer area, which he refused to do. Eventually he was arrested.

He was pressurised, threatened, offered blandishments to withdraw his signature from a pastoral letter of the Spanish bishops, in which the persecution of the Church was denounced before world opinion. In prison, where he was confined for a year, he organised an intense life of prayer and meditation with the other detainees, only rarely being allowed to celebrate the Eucharist. He and his vicar-general, Fr Felipe Ripoli, were assassinated on 7 February, 1939.

Bishop Polanco was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 1 October 1995.

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