Blessed Miguel Pro

A 20th-century priest executed by the government.

Blessed Miguel Pro

Blessed Miguel Pro was a priest killed in Mexico in 1927, during a period of state-enforced secularization and often violent resistance. Once, 400 armed Catholics barricaded themselves within their church and exchanged fire with federal troops. When the parishioners ran out of ammunition, they were overtaken and their priest was killed. After this, many churches throughout Mexico were forced to close for years.

Even without a church, it's said, Father Pro administered daily Communion in various hiding spots to between 300 and 1,500 Catholics. The government must've caught wind of his growing reach: he was arrested, though no evidence ever actually showed his involvement, for a failed bombing attempt on the President's life and immediately executed, without a trial, by a firing squad.

Pro's death was photographed in graphic detail. Apparently, the government thought disseminating pictures of the event would demoralize rebels. Of course, seeing a resolute Pro praying before the stone wall where he'd be shot, or turning to face the shooters with his arm's outstretched in the form of a cross, had the opposite effect. Within months, the same photos the state had been sent to the press would be illegal for anyone to possess.

There's a small detail from Pro's final days that wasn't photographed. The night before he was to be executed, Pro slept on the floor of his underground cell. He'd given his thin mattress to a fellow prisoner.