VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II observed World Missions Sunday by beatifying two adolescent Ugandan catechists martyred for their faith, and four missionaries.
At the end of the celebration in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope thanked men and women missionaries for their selfless dedication to proclaiming the Gospel.
“I am with you every day!” the Pope said. “‘I am with you,’ Jesus says to the pilgrim Church in the world. I am with you, young ecclesial communities in mission lands. Do not be afraid to engage in dialogue with all. Take the message of salvation to each one. Be courageous!”
The Holy Father said this was precisely the testimony left by Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa, catechists of northern Uganda, who were brutally killed for the faith on Oct. 18, 1918. Historical sources say Daudi was 16 and Jildo was 12.
Pictures of the two Ugandan adolescents were placed on the central facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, after the Pope pronounced the solemn formula of beatification.
“They are given to the entire Christian community as examples of holiness and virtue, and as models and intercessors for catechists throughout the world, especially in those places where catechists still suffer for the faith, sometimes facing social marginalization and even personal danger,” the Pope said later, during the homily.
The Holy Father explained that the Ugandan catechists’ example can inspire the lives of “many men and women — in Uganda, in Africa, and elsewhere — to answer with generosity the call to be a catechist, bringing knowledge of Christ to others and strengthening the faith of those communities that have recently received the Gospel of salvation.”
An African dance was performed during the ceremony. A large delegation from Uganda attended the beatification Mass, led by the country’s vice president, Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe. Numerous Africans wore their traditional dress.
During the celebration, there were songs in Tamil, to remember another of the new blessed, Mary of the Passion.
Born Hélène Marie de Chappotin de Neuville (1839-1904) in France, she founded the religious Institute of the Missionaries of Mary in India, in 1874. Today the group has 8,000 religious in 77 countries.
Also beatified was Italian Liduina Maneguzzi (1901-1941), an evangelizer of Ethiopia, the first religious of the Order of Sisters of St. Francis de Sales. Her missionary work was cut short at age 40 by cancer.
Italian Giacomo Colombo, 52, was among those attending today’s celebration. Colombo was inexplicably cured in 1976 of injuries resulting from a serious car accident, after his family prayed for his recovery through Liduina’s intercession.
The last two new blessed are also Italian. Andrea Giacinto Longhin (1863-1936) was a Capuchin religious and, for 32 years, bishop of Treviso, where he was outstanding for his poverty and humility. He was known as “the bishop of the essential.”
Marcantonio Durando (1801-1880), a priest of the Mission Congregation, was founder of the Nazarene Sisters. Like St. Vincent de Paul, “he knew how to recognize in the humanity of Christ the greatest and at the same time most accessible and disarming expression of God’s love for each man,” the Pope said.
The beatification of these six Christians “reminds us that the first service that we should offer the mission is the sincere and constant search for holiness,” the Holy Father stressed. “We cannot witness the Gospel with consistency if we do not first live it faithfully.”
At the end of the celebration, before praying the Angelus, the Pope paid homage “to the men and women missionaries — priests, men and women religious, and laity — who spend their energies on the front line in service of Christ, at times even paying for their witness with blood.”
According to the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, last year 33 Catholic missionaries were killed in Asia, Africa and Latin America while working to spread the Gospel.
John Paul II has proclaimed 1,303 blessed in his 24-year pontificate.