DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 10 December) – Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, is Pope Francis’ personal representative to Sunday’s beatification in Vientiane, Laos of 17 martyrs, six of them members of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI).
The Pope in September named Quevedo, a member of the OMI, as his representative to the beatification rites.
According to the OMI’s Oblate Communications website, the 17 were martyred between 1954 and1970 during the Indochina war.
“Seventeen followers of Christ in Laos suffered martyrdom for the sake of His name,” it said.
Pope Francis authorized the promulgation of the decrees for the beatification of Fr. Mario Borzaga, OMI of Italy and his Laotian catechist on May 5, 2015 and on June 5, of 15 others who were martyred in Laos, the Vatican Radio reported on August 27 last year.
The Martyrs of Laos, who will be collectively referred to as “Father Joseph Tiên and his Companions” are: Joseph Tien (1918 – 1954), catechists Paul Thoj Xyooj (1941-1960), Joseph Outhany (1933-1961) Thomas Khampheuane Inthirath (1952-1968), Luc Sy (1938-1970), Maisam Pho Inpeng (1934-1970)]. Members of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP) — Fr. Jean-Baptist Malo (1899-1954), Fr. René Dubroux (1914-1959), Fr. Noel Tenaud (1904-1961), Fr. Marcel Denis (1919-1961), Fr. Lucien Galan (1921-1968)] and the six members of the OMI — Fr. Mario Borzaga (1932-1960), Fr. Louis Leroy (1923-1961), Fr. Michel Coquelet (1931-1961), Fr. Vincent L’Hénoret (1921-1961), Fr. Jean Wauthier (1926-1967), Fr. Joseph Boissel (1909-1969).
Two of the 17 – Denis and Tenaud – are desaparecidos. They disappeared in 1961. Fr. Malo died from exhaustion in his march as a captive in 1954, Father Dubroux was killed in 1959, and Father Galan in 1968.
According to an account of the disappearance of Denis, cited in the liturgical text for the beatification published in the OMI website, the 17 were martyred during the Indochina war
“The vast expanse of his area was alternately crossed by government or revolutionary troops without one or the other able to impose their law. Depending on the ebb and flow of each, you could come across an ambush, or be caught in a skirmish or a shootout. Depending on the direction in which you were traveling, you could be accused of treason or espionage, and all this amid the looting, burnings, and denunciations, which led to bloody repression and vengeance. It is in this climate that the missionaries moved about every day, with the quiet conviction of doing their duty in an ordinary world,” wrote F. Marcel Vignalet-Verges, MEP in “In memory of Father Marcel Denis, missionary in Laos, who disappeared in 1961.”
The account said Denis was in Thakhek when he learned that the village of Phon Sa-at, some 30 kilometers away, “was threatened by the Viêts who had already taken the entire eastern part of his sector.”
“He had left his catechist Unla and his family there. He decided that he needed to go cover for them and take responsibility for all the complaints that the revolutionaries were surely going to make against the head of the small Christian community. He was fully aware of the risks and knew that he would be treated as an enemy of the people, a servant of imperialism, a spy of colonialism and other similar crimes. He knew how little concern the Viêts had for human rights, for the dignity or the lives of those who were not on their side. Yet he went to parry the blows and divert to himself the charges he foresaw.”
Unla last saw Denis leave Phon Sa-at “at the wheel of his jeep, surrounded by his jailers who could not drive.” (MindaNews)