March 6, 2000
volume 11, no. 46
To print out entire text
of This weekend's issue, go to

NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


    VATICAN (Fides/ -- When the Church honors the holiness of her children, declaring them beatified, it is always a great occasion for rejoicing. But the first beatifications of the Jubilee Year, celebrated in St Peter's Square on March 5, were a special reason to celebrate particularly for the Church in mission territories.

    Pope John Paul II presided at the Mass and beatified the martyrs from what are often called the "young churches." The newly beatified martyrs are:

    - from Thailand, the first local priest and martyr, Father Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbamrung;
    - from the Philippines and Vietnam respectively, Pedro Calungsod and Andrew, lay catechists and martyrs;
    - from Belarus, Sister Maria Stella Adelaide Mardosiewicz and her ten religious companions, all Polish, who will be the cornerstones for rebuilding that newly "reborn" Church, as Bishop Kaszkiewicz of the Grodno diocese has said;
    - from Brazil. two priests, Fathers Andre de Soveral and Ambrosio Francisco Fierro, and their 28 companion martyrs.

    The common denominator of these lives is martyrdom for the faith.

  • In Thailand, Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu of Bangkok has set up a special committee to organize celebrations for the beatification of Father Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, the Thai Church's first martyr priest. The committee has organized pilgrimages to Rome for 7-8 groups of people. Some 300 Catholics from the archdiocese of Bangkok are expected to attend the beatification Mass. They will be accompanied by the cardinal, five bishops, and forty priests. On March 6 the Thai pilgrims hope to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass in St Peter's at the Altar of the Chair.

        In Thailand there will also be celebrations, especially in the hometown of Father Kitbamrung, where there are plans to build a shrine in his honor. Some eyewitnesses who knew Father Nicholas well are still alive, and have testified to his virtue, holiness, and profound spirituality.

        "This beatification is an important example for missionary priests in our day, often subject to persecution. It will help re-launch priestly spirituality in the third millennium," Father James Fitzpatrick OMI, the postulator of the cause for Father Katbamrung, told Fides.

        Born in 1895 in the Nakhon Chaisri district, then a mission of Bangkok, Nicholas Kitbamrung was one of six children. At the age of 13 he entered Hang Xan minor seminary and was ordained a priest in 1926. Between 1930 and 1937 he was sent to North Vietnam on a special mission: to bring back to the Church the many Catholics who, under the strain of poverty, had given up practicing the faith. During the war between France and Indochina Father Nicholas was accused of being a spy for the French. In 1941 he was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison. There he contracted tuberculosis and on January 12,1944 Father Nicholas died of deprivation, hardship and maltreatment. But the hardships of prison life did not prevent Father Nicholas from ministering to his fellow prisoners. He taught them catechism, and baptized no less than 68 fellow inmates.

  • Young people in the Philippines can certainly look up to Pedro Calungsod as a role model. Such a powerful positive example is particularly necessary today. when the youth in Cebu and other parts of the Visayas are heavily influenced by the media and consumerism.

        Pedro is the second Filipino to reach beatification, following Lorenzo Ruiz, who was canonized a decade ago. But young Pedro touches the hearts of the Filipino people even more. "First of all because he was truly Filipino," explained Father Vidal Gornes in an interview with Fides. "The name Calungsod come from the word Cebuano, meaning someone from Cebu. With such a name he can only come from the Visayas region and we feel he is truly ours."

        It was as he concluded a Marian Congress in Manila, last January 30, that Cardinal Jaime Sin announced the forthcoming beatification. "I have some wonderful news for all Filipinos," he said. "he Holy Father has opened the path for the beatification of Pedro Calungsod." All those present burst into joyful applause.

        Pedro Calungsod was born in the Visayas region; there is no documentation about the date. It is known that he was a catechist between 1668 and 1672. His name is mentioned in the martyrdom inquiry for the Jesuit priest, Father Diego Luis San Vitores. Pedro was martyred at a very young age, probably around 14, along with the Jesuit priest. At the time Father San Vitores and Pedro were working among the indigenous people at Tumhom village on the island of San Juan-- which today is known as Guam. One day two pagans attacked them with spears. Pedro tried to defend the priest, but the men killed both him and Father San Vitores, and their bodies were thrown into the sea. The Church records the date of their martyrdom as April 2, 1672. Father San Vitores was beatified on October 6, 1985 by Pope John Paul II. He was the first apostle and founder of the Christianity community on the Mariana Islands


  • The Church in Vietnam is delighted that at last Andrew the Catechist was beatified. Although he lived almost four centuries ago, Andrew has never been forgotten by Vietnamese Catholics, who are very devoted to their first martyr. Vietnam has a host of martyrs: in the 19th century at least 125 people died for the faith.

        "Andrew, our first martyr, is being elevated to the honor of the altars and the Catholic Church in Vietnam is very happy," a parish priest in Duc Tin (near Saigon) told Fides. The pastor boasted: "The Vietnamese Church is the one with the most martyrs."

        Pham Dinh Khiem, author of "The First Witness" a biography of Andrew that was published in Saigon in 1959, told Fides that "the news has been received with deep emotion by the country's Catholics. People are asking one another: 'Did you hear the news about Andrew the Catechist?' We are all so happy and we thank the Holy Father very much." Bishop Bui van Doc of My Tho says, "Andrew helped to build the Church in Vietnam with his virtuous life and zeal. We have been waiting for his beatification for a long time, and now finally we can celebrate him."

        Andrew was born in 1625 in Ran Ran. His mother was a fervent Christian. Baptized at the age of 15, a year later he became a catechist. In 1643 he and other catechists took a vow to serve the Church for the rest of their lives. In 1644 he was arrested, beaten, and shut up in a home. The King of Annam (the ancient name of Vietnam) had ordered that Christianity must not be spread in his kingdom. Andrew could have saved his life by renouncing his faith, but he refused the offer. On July 26, 1644, he was condemned to be executed the very next day. Led through the streets to the gallows, Andrew was hanged in public at Ke Cham.

        Between December 1644 and January 1645 there was an inquiry into his martyrdom. For historical and political motives, the Cause was suspended. It was not until the Second Vatican Council that the Vietnamese bishops asked Pope Paul VI to re-open the process.

  • "Everyone is overjoyed. Our diocesan weekly, Word of Life, has published articles and information on our martyr sisters. Even the ordinary newspapers are giving great importance to the event." That was the report of Father Yaroslaw Hrynaszkiewicz, editor of the weekly paper issued by Grodno diocese, in telling Fides about preparations for the beatification of Sister Maria Stella Adelaide Mardosiewicz and ten companions, all Polish, who were martyred at Nowogrodek in 1943.

        Father Hrynaszkiewicz accompanied a group of 150 Catholics from Belarus to Rome for the beatification. Bishop Aleksander Kaszkiewicz of Grodno and his auxiliary, Bishop Antoni Dzieminanko was also present. In anticipation of the beatification, a special message from Bishop Kaszkiewicz was read out in every parish of the diocese: "The beatification of these eleven Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth is, for the "reborn" Church in Belarus, a providential event which comes to fortify our faith During the Second World War, like the rest of the population, the Sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth at Nowogrodek, on the eastern borders of Poland (today Belarus), suffered under occupation by the Russians and then by the Germans. It was during the latter occupation (1941-1945), on August 1, 1943, that Sister Maria Stella Adelaide Mardosiewicz and ten sister companions were martyred. Only one nun survived: Sister Malgorzata, who had her sisters buried in the Church of the Transfiguration at Nowogrodek.

        The sisters had been invited to Nowogrodek in 1929 by Bishop Z. Lozinski to look after the Church of the Transfiguration and provide education for the local children. The nuns soon settled into the multi-ethnic community and continued to give assistance to the local families in the difficult years of the war. With the German occupation there was a wave of extermination of Jews and many Polish citizens were arrested. On July 18, 1943 over 120 people were arrested to be executed by a firing squad. On two occasions, the sisters asked to replace those among the hostages who had families; on the second such occasion, the executioners accepted their offer. True to the charisma of their foundress, the saintly nuns lived and died to serve and save the family.

  • Fathers Andre de Soveral and Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, along with 28 companions, gave their lives for the faith in Natal, in Rio Grande do Norte state of Brazil, in 1645.

        In 1997 the Church of Natal, metropolitan see and capital of the state, marked 400 years since its evangelization. On December 25, 1597 an expedition of colonists arrived, accompanied by four missionaries-- two Jesuits and two Franciscans, who began evangelizing the people. It was the custom for expeditions to rename the places they reached and they called the region Natal-- or Nativity-- in honor of the birth of Christ.

        Colonized by Portuguese Catholics, the region was invaded by Dutch Calvinists who soon took over the whole territory, persecuting the Catholics. It was in this context that two episodes occurred in 1645.

        The first happened at Cunhau on July 16. It was Sunday and 69 people had gathered in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Candles for Mass celebrated by the parish priest, Father Andre de Several. While Mass was being said, at the moment of the elevation, the doors of the church were barred and a group of Dutch soldiers launched a ferocious attack, murdering many of the faithful. Father Andre was killed with even more cruelty because he was a priest. The people offered no resistance and died professing their faith in "Jesus Christ, the high priest", and asking pardon for their sins.

        On October 3, there was another tragedy. 200 armed Indians, led by a fanatical leader who had converted to Calvinism, and a band of Flemish troops carried out a slaughter among the people of Rio Grande. Several, including the parish priest, Father Ambrosio Francisco Ferro, were cruelly hacked to pieces. One man Mateus Moreiras, had his heart torn out, and with his last breath cried "Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament!"


  • March 6, 2000
    volume 11, no. 46

    To print out text of Today's issue, go to:

    The DAILY CATHOLIC Search for anything
    from the last three
    years in past issues of
    the DailyCATHOLIC: