The beatification of the martyr Father Cosmas Spessotto, OFM, an Italian missionary priest in Central America, will be celebrated on Saturday 22 January in the cathedral of San Salvador (El Salvador). Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande and the two laymen Manuel Solórzano and Nelson Rutilio will also be beatified during the same celebration. Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, will preside over the Eucharist on behalf of Pope Francis.

On the evening of Saturday 14 June 1980, in the Friars Minor parish of San Juan Nonualco (El Salvador), Father Cosmas Spessotto, who had just finished celebrating Mass, was shot dead while praying beside the tabernacle. “His blood shed near the altar, poured into his parish church, the one he himself had built, and poured into the Christian community, the one he had built with his own sweat. Father Cosmas kneaded his Church with his own blood, giving his life for the flock”. It was the epilogue of what he had foreseen, writing a few days earlier on a sheet of paper left in view on his desk: “Beware, in case of sudden death. I feel that from one moment to the next fanatical people can take my life. I ask the Lord that He give me the strength to defend the rights of Christ and the Church at the right moment. To die a martyr would be a grace I do not deserve…”.

He had arrived in El Salvador thirty years earlier, in April 1950. The son of hard-working peasant parents, he was born in Mansué (Treviso, Italy) on 28 January 1923 and embraced religious life among the Friars Minor of Veneto in 1939. After his years of formation and ordination to the priesthood, which he received in the Basilica of the Madonna della Salute in Venice on 27 June 1948, he asked to be allowed to leave for China as a missionary. However, the political events of the time prevented him from going east, so his superiors decided to send him to the Franciscan mission in Central America. His first destination in El Salvador was the parish of San Pedro Nonualco, in the diocese of San Vicente, in the department of La Paz. After three years, he was transferred to the neighbouring parish of San Juan Nonualco, three kilometres from Zacatecoluca.

During his 27 years as parish priest, he built a new church and a school for the poorest youth. But above all, he was committed to the spiritual formation of the community. He placed prayer and the exercise of charity at the basis of his intense pastoral activity. When visiting families in the most remote places, he distributed food, clothing, medicine and above all, the Gospel. It was precisely his frequent visits to the villages in the “red zone” that aroused suspicion about him. El Salvador was going through a challenging time, a chaotic situation of lack of respect for the human person, which resulted in civil war. His concern for the poor was interpreted as conniving with and aiding and abetting the left-wing guerrillas recruited from among the poorer classes. He was guilty of defending his catechists who had been unjustly detained, burying the abandoned bodies of some guerrillas killed in the clashes, and sacramentally accepting a penitent involved in the guerrillas.

As soon as the news of the murder spread, many faithful flocked to pay homage to the martyr. On 16 June 1980, the Bishop of San Vicente presided over the funeral mass.

The cause for beatification began on 14 June 2000. Pope Francis authorised the publication of the Decree super martyrio on 26 May 2020.