Burundi Puts Martyrs on Sainthood Course
By Francis Njuguna – The grisly murders of missionary priests and a local priest, a lay volunteer and 40 seminarians in Burundi are the focus of a recently opened investigation into their sainthood cause.
Catholic bishops in this central African nation welcomed the step petitioned to the Vatican by the Xaverian Missionaries, founded in 1898 by St Guido Conforti as the Pious Society of St Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions.
The Church in Burundi “wants to celebrate a group of people who, in the name of Jesus, offered their lives to show that our fraternity in Christ is more important than belonging to an ethnic group”, the country’s bishops said in a statement.
The step was approved by the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
The killings occurred at different times and places in the country. Those who died include two Italian Xaverian Missionary priests, Frs Ottorino Maule, 53, and Aldo Marchiol, 65; lay volunteer Catina Gubert, 74; local priest Fr Michael Kayoya, 38; and the seminarians.
The Italian missionaries and Ms Gubert were killed on September 30, 1995, at Buyengero parish.
Fr Kayoya was executed in Gitega on May 17, 1972, with 50 others imprisoned by the government during a dispute between majority Tutsi and minority Hutu people. Those imprisoned were Hutu.
“He was a priest, poet and philosopher,” the Burundi Church recounted. “He always emphasised those ethnic differences, more than being a threat, are a wealth, and a mutual gift. ”
The killing of the 40 seminarians, according to a Church account, occurred in the pre-dawn hours of April 30, 1997, when rebels attacked the minor seminary of Buta in the diocese of Bururi.
Faced with the refusal of the seminarians to separate according to ethnicity, the bandits opened fire, killing 40 young people.
The rebels fled after ransacking the seminary and adjacent pastoral centre.
The Burundian bishops in their message stressed that “these brothers and this sister in Christ are the heroes that we, the bishops of Burundi, present to the universal Church, to be officially declared martyrs and are for us all models of fraternity in Christian life and also in our whole Burundian society.”—CNS
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