Saturday, July 01, 2006

If the Madonna saves us, we will return to work in Congo (Francesco Spoto)

In August, 1964, Francesco Spoto, the general superior of the Missionaries of the Poor, visited the missionaries in Congo despite the civil war. A few days after his arrival in the mission in Biringi, the Simba rebels occupied the city. The other missionaries adviced Fr. Spoto to leave the country and return to Italy, but he refused to leave his brothers in trouble. He added, "What good would it bring me? I cannot, I do not have to leave."

The situations worsened in November. Fr. Spoto wrote in his diary that he and his confreres lived in "fear and anxiety."On November 14, the rebels arrested Fr. Spoto and the four other missionaries. Fr. Spoto was beaten by the rebels and was mortally wounded. He prayed, "Lord, I offer my life to you, but sve my confreres!"After a few days, the missionaries escaped and hid in the bushes. They lived in the so-called "green catacombs." They hid in the savana for twenty days. Fr. Spoto suffered alot in the ordeal. He told his confreres, "Pray, pray alot. If the Madonna saves us, we will return to work here in Congo." Fr. Spoto's health aggravated. He died on December 27, 1964.

On June 26, 2006, the Vatican recognized his martyrdom as authentic, thus declaring him venerable and opening the way for his beatification.

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