Burma Martyrs to be Beatified

Catechist to be First Blessed of Country

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On the eve of the 64th anniversary of their martyrdom in Burma, missionary Father Mario Vergara and catechist Isidore Ngei Ko Lat will be beatified in the cathedral of Aversa, Italy.

Their beatification, say the bishops of Burma, is «a great encouragement to the entire Catholic community in Myanmar to live their faith more in line with the Gospel and to witness it in a courageous and heroic way, following the example the catechist Isidore who did not hesitate to offer his life for the Gospel together with Fr. Vergara.”

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside over the beatification ceremony on Saturday, 24 May. The following day Bishop Angelo Spinillo of Aversa will preside over a thanksgiving Mass in the Basilica of San Sossius in Frattamaggiore. On 1 June, the 69th missionary congress will take place at the seat of Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).

Fr. Vergara and Isidore Ngei Ko Lat were martyred early on 25 May 1950 in Shadaw, eastern Burma. Soon-to-be Blessed Isidore, who is the first Burmese to be beatified, was baptized on September 7, 1918 at Taw Pon Athet. He came from a family of farmers who had converted to Catholicism under Blessed Fr. Paolo Manna. Although poor health prevented him from attaining his desire of becoming a priest, he chose to live a celibate life and became a catechist, eventually becoming a companion of Fr. Vergara in 1948.

Born in Frattamaggiore, on 18 November, 1910, Fr. Vergara is the 19th missionary of the PIME to die a martyr, and the fifth to be beatified. He was ordained a priest in PIME in 1934. That same year he left for Burma and suffered a series of hardships in the years leading up to his meeting Isidore. Condemning the war civil war between government and rebel forces which erupted in 1948, he became hated by the rebels.

On 24 May 24, 1950 Fr. Vergara and Isidore went to the center of Shadaw to secure the release of another Catholic catechist who had been arrested. The two were arrested themselves, and were martyred the following morning.

The beatification will be preceded by a series of events, beginning with an historical convention May 15 at the De Rosa cinema in Frattamaggiore, followed by a prayer vigil on May 22 in Frattaminore in the parish of St. Simeon, presided by the Superior General of PIME, Fr. Ferruccio Brambillasca. 

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