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Catholics call for opening of canonization cause for sacristan slain by jihadist in Spain

Image of the campaign for the canonization of the Spanish sacristan Diego Valencia. / Credit: Enraizados

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 21, 2023 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Cádiz and Ceuta in southern Spain has begun to receive requests from Catholics asking the diocese to promote the canonization process of Diego Valencia, the sacristan who was murdered by a Muslim extremist last January.

Valencia was fatally wounded on Jan. 25 after being struck with a machete wielded by Yassinne Kanjaa, a Moroccan national. The jihadist entered the Church of Our Lady of La Palma in Algeciras and proceeded to strike statues, candles, and other objects with the machete. 

Valencia, 65, who had been serving as a chaplain for 16 years, confronted the assailant, who was wearing a black djellaba (typical Moroccan dress).  After being struck by Kanjaa with what one witness called “a large blue machete” and others described as a “knife” or “a kind of katana,” a curved Japanese sword, the sacristan fled outside the church, where the jihadist caught up with him, finishing him off with his long blade.

According to the association Enraizados en Cristo y la Sociedad (Rooted in Christ and Society), which has launched the effort to start the canonization process, the pastor of the church, Father Juan José Marina, has already asked the bishop of Cádiz and Ceuta, Rafael Zornoza, to begin the process to open the diocesan phase of the canonization process.

The deceased sacristan was “much loved in the parish and in the city for his dedication and affability with everyone,” the diocese related.

The Enraizados association emphasized in a statement on its website that “His murderer ended his life. We will not allow time to end his memory and his extraordinary act of courage, undoubtedly impelled by the Holy Spirit.” 

According to the judicial investigation, on the afternoon of Jan. 25, Kanjaa attacked two churches in Algeciras motivated by religious hatred. He first went to the Church of the Savior, where he wounded Salesian Father Antonio Rodríguez, who survived the attack, although he died months later due to an illness that was diagnosed after the attack.

Next, he went to Our Lady of La Palma Parish, where he murdered Valencia. The church’s pastor providentially was not present because he was doing other pastoral work at that time. When the attack occurred, the bishop of Cádiz-Ceuta, Rafael Zornoza, was in town on a pastoral visit close by and although he was not in danger, he was able to quickly arrive at the scene afterward.

Both Lucena and Valencia have been posthumously recognized with the “Pro Ecclesia Gadicense et Septense” (For the Church of Cadiz and Ceuta) medal awarded by the diocese.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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