Spiritan Martyrs…Kongolo @ 50
THIS IS CULLED FROM SPIRITAN NEWSFLASH FROM ROME (28 October 2011: no. 277)
Kongolo Martyrs’ Fiftieth Anniversary
On the 1st of January 2012 it will be fifty years since the death of twenty Spiritan confreres – nineteen Belgians and one Dutch – who were killed in Kongolo in the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo. Many groups are planning to mark this occasion which is at the same time very sad and very inspiring: Kongolo diocese, Congo-Kinshasa Foundation, Belgium Region and the General Council.
Brief reminder of what happened
Shortly after gaining independence on the 30th June 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo was faced with the secession of Katanga Province under the leadership of Moise Tshombe. Soldiers of the central government were sent to the north of Katanga at the end of 1961 to suppress this rebellion. On the 31st of December they entered the town of Kongolo which had been abandoned by nearly all the inhabitants as well as the Katangese soldiers, who had run out of ammunition. Our confreres stayed behind together with two diocesan priests, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Kongolo (CIMKO), two foreigners and the elderly and sick who could not get away. They did not want to show themselves in support of one side or the other and observed that the central government forces were preparing to cross the nearby river in pursuit of the Katangese troops.
On the night of the same day, however, all the Spiritans, a doctor, a trader, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Kongolo and the junior seminarians, were taken to the army barracks where they were put in cells for the night. On the 1st of January, around nine o’clock, our confreres and the two foreigners were taken outside and told to walk in single file. It was at that moment they were killed; they fell while giving their blessing to their executioners. Only one confrere survived, Fr. Jules Darmont, thanks to a soldier who held him back in his cell.
An inspiration to us all as we prepare for the General Chapter
Our confreres knew they risked being killed when they decided to stay in Kongolo; they died remaining faithful to the poor who were confided to their care, as many others have done in Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo-Brazzaville and so on.. As we approach our twentieth General Chapter, to be held in Africa, we are reminded that in one way or another we are called to give our lives for those whom we serve. We are invited to meditate on the inspirational verse chosen for the Chapter: “Be fervent in the Spirit” (Rom.12:11)
Our confreres in Congo-Kinshasa have decided to commemorate this event in every region of the Democratic Republic of Congo where they are working, most especially in Kongolo from the 29th to the 31st of December 2011 and on the 1st of January 2012. The diocese of Kongolo and Belgium Region will organise their own celebrations on Pentecost Sunday 2012. In Belgium, a preparatory committee is working to produce commemorative material – a booklet, poster, video etc.
We hope that the whole Congregation will remember the event on January 1st 2012 and during the whole of the year, especially at Pentecost. Our twenty Kongolo martyrs will be present with us during our General Chapter in Bagamoyo.
In due course we will give you more detailed information on events which are being organised. A lot of information can be found concerning the event on the following sites: