Venerable Mariano Gazpio

Pope Francis recognized on Saturday, May 22, the heroic virtues of the Augustinian Recollect religious, missionary for 28 years in China. 

The Order of Augustinian Recollects has a new religious on the way to the altars. On Saturday, May 22, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of Mariano Gazpio Ezcurra, an Augustinian Recollect missionary for more than two decades in China. From this moment on, the religious born in Navarra (Spain) will be called “venerable”.

The Holy Father authorized the publication of the decree of the heroic virtues of Mariano Gazpio during the audience granted to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro. This was reported by the Vatican Press Office in a communiqué. Following the formality of the process of the causes of saints, two miracles would be necessary for him to be recognized first as blessed and, finally, as a saint.

Mariano Gazpio died in 1989 with a reputation for sainthood. Just nine years after his death, in 1998, the Archbishop of Pamplona, the archdiocese where he died and where his remains rest, was asked to open the process of beatification. Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, Archbishop of Pamplona-Tudela, in the presence of the Augustinian Recollect Romualdo Rodrigo, postulator of the Cause, the opening of the informative process on the life, virtues and reputation of sanctity of the Servant of God Father Mariano Gazpio Ezcurra took place.

On March 20, 2004, the Archbishop of Pamplona, Fernando Sebastian, closed the diocesan phase of the process for the canonization of the Servant of God Mariano Gazpio Ezcurra, having collected 950 pages of information and interviewed 58 witnesses of his life. The ceremony took place in the church of the convent of Marcilla. All the documents were presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome on March 24, 2004, including the Positio Super Virtutibus.

Holiness in the mission

The third of four brothers, Mariano Gazpio Ezcurra was born in the town of Puente la Reina, Navarra (Spain), on December 18, 1899. That same day his parents, Dionisio and Severina, hurried to take him to the parish church to be administered the sacrament of baptism. When he was barely two years old, exactly on January 6, 1902, he was administered the sacrament of confirmation by the Archbishop of Pamplona, José López de Mendoza. He made his novitiate and professed in Monteagudo, Navarra (Spain), on December 23, 1915. He studied theology for three years in Marcilla and one year in Manila, where he was ordained a priest on December 23, 1922 by Archbishop O’Doherty, archbishop of that archdiocese.

Assigned to the Philippines in 1921, after three years in Manila and Cavite, he went to the mission of Kweiteh, Honan, Mainland China, in April 1924. He devoted himself entirely to the mission in Chenliku, Yucheng, Chutsi and the capital Kweiteh. For 28 years he held positions of responsibility: superior of missions, religious superior, delegated vicar and vicar general of the diocese. In the missions of China he distinguished himself for his apostolic zeal, his deep piety and his love for the poor. Some of the Chinese faithful still remember him with veneration and glory in having been baptized by Father Mariano.

In spite of the religious persecution that broke out in the 1950s, the now venerable Father Mariano remained on mission even at great risk to his life, but, like all the missionaries in China, he was expelled at the beginning of 1952. At the Provincial Chapter held in Monteagudo (Spain) that same year, 1952, he was appointed novice master and vice-prior of Monteagudo, where he served until 1964. From that year until his death he resided in Marcilla.

Fame of sanctity

The religious who were close to him remember him above all for his passion for the mission. He was a man of community and fraternal charity, prayerful and contemplative, sober and moderate, humble and prudent. According to the Augustinian Recollect Jose Javier Lizarraga, who has delved more deeply into his figure, in 1994 Bishop Nicholas Shi, Augustinian Recollect bishop in China, affirmed that “when Father Mariano Gazpio passed by on the street in Shangqiu, the neighbors, even the pagans, would say ‘there goes a living saint'”.  His biographer writes in the book “A Journey of Fidelity” that when the opening of the process of canonization was announced in 2000, “no one was surprised by the news and, on the contrary, many rejoiced at it and gladly offered to testify, both religious and laity”.