Blessed James Berthieu

As the Church prepares to welcome seven new saints this month, ZENIT will feature an article, from Oct. 11 -21, on each of these remarkable servants of God.

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ROME, OCT. 15, 2012 ( Blessed James Berthieu was of French nationality, borrn in 1838 and he died in Madagascar on June 8, 1896. Ordained a diocesan priest in 1864, he later entered the Society of Jesus in 1873 with his bishop’s permission.

Before finishing his time in the novitiate, Blessed Berthieu was appointed to the missions in Madagascar where he took his first vows. For the next five years he was active in catechising children, administering the sacraments and looking after the sick on the island of St. Mary off the Madagascar coast.

In 1880, the French government closed the Jesuit schools and forced the Jesuits into
exile. Afterwards, once the Jesuits were accepted once more, he reopened a mission at
Ambrositra in 1885. A few years later he went to evangelize the Merina people in the district
of Anjozorofady, a short distance north of Tananarive.

In 1886 another rebellion broke out a short distance from his mission and Fr. Berthieu
ordered his villagers to flee. He and his people headed for the capital of Tananarive. On
their way, however, they were attacked by one of the tribes and forced to scatter. Within a
few days Fr Berthieu was captured and led away to a village where the chief tried to get him
to apostatize, but without success.

Faced with the demands that he renounce his faith he replied: “I cannot consent to that. I
prefer to die.” Thus, in the village of Ambiatibe, 60 km from Tananarive, he was killed. They
took his body and threw it into the river, never to be recovered. It was 8 June 1896.

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