Catholics in Indonesia’s Southeast Maluku regency have staged a special festival to commemorate Dutch missionaries who introduced Catholicism to the region and who were shot dead 75 years ago.
Japanese soldiers shot Sacred Heart Bishop Johannes Aerts, the Dutch Apostolic Vicar of New Guinea, along with five priests and eight brothers on July 30, 1942 in Langgur during World War II.
The festival took place July 28-30, and including arts performance by parishioners from 13 parishes in from Amboina Diocese.
Father Yohanis Mangkey, secretary of Sacred Heart Congregation in Indonesia Province, said a cross procession was also staged on July 29 near the place where Bishop Aerts is buried.
“We also re-enacted the final moments when they were killed,” he said.
A July 30 concelebrated Mass was also held led by Sacred Heart Bishop Benedictus Estephanus Rolly Untu of Manado and Bishop John Philip Saklil of Timika in Papua and attended by more than 10,000 Catholics.
“Muslims and Protestants also attended the Mass,” Father Mangkey said.
Bishop Aerts worked hard for local people that included building schools in remote areas, the priest said. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Mary Mediatrix Sisters in 1926, Indonesia’s oldest native sister congregation, he said.
In 1952 the Sacred Heart congregation petitioned the Vatican unsuccessfully for the beatification of the martyrs and now local Catholics want to try to push their cause again, according to Father Bernard Rahawarin, vicar general of Amboina Diocese.
“Basically, the diocese is open to it,” he said.
“Their influence is so great in the faith formation of Catholics. Their sacrifice inspires them,” he said.
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