VATICAN CITY, JULY 3, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kium, retired bishop of Hong Kong, as his special envoy to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Blessed Peter To Rot. The celebrations honoring the catechist and martyr of Papua New Guinea will take place in Rabaul on Saturday.
Born in Rakunai in 1912, Blessed To Rot was known as a pious young man who led a life of prayer and received Communion daily. He was also a lay catechist and served the people in his own village. At the age of 24, he married and had three children, two of whom have died.
Blessed To Rot’s virtue became evident during the Japanese invasion in Papua New Guinea in 1942. It was a difficult time for the Catholic Church, where missionaries were housed in concentration camps. To Rot, however continued ministering to his village by caring for the sick, baptizing and teaching catechism, and aiding the poor and needy.
As the war progressed and the Japanese were slowly being defeated, harsher laws and a ban on worship was enacted by the occupying force. Fearing that the locals were praying for their defeat, the Japanese attempted to bring back people to their pre-Christian way of living by legalizing polygamy. Despite punishment for resisting the law, Blessed To Rot openly opposed the law and was arrested in 1945. He was imprisoned for several months before he was murdered by his captors on July 7, 1945.
Blessed To Rot was beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1995 in Papua New Guinea. In his homily, the Holy Father described To Rot as an example and defender of the sanctity of marriage. “Blessed Peter To Rot had the highest esteem for marriage and, even in the face of great personal danger and opposition, he defended the Church’s teaching on the unity of marriage and the need for mutual fidelity,” he said.
The delegation accompanying Cardinal Ze-kium to Papua New Guinea for the celebrations will consist of Bishop Rochus Josef Tatamai of Bereina. Bishop Bereina’s recently deceased father was a nephew of the blessed. Also accompanying the delegation is Fr. Francis Mell, a priest and judicial vicar in the tribunal of the Archdiocese of Rabaul.