The Papua New Guinean community in Sydney celebrated recently the feast day of Bl. Peter To Rot, himself a Papuan who was martyred during World War II for his defence of marriage. On July 6, Papua New Guineans gathered at St. Brigid's parish in Marrickville, a Sydney suburb, to celebrate their blessed with a Mass and with traditions of their native home. “We are deeply touched by the enormous faith of the Church in Papua New Guinea, represented by these visitors,” local parishioners commented. St. Brigid's is under the care of the Passionists, who also run parishes in the Papua New Guinean capital, Port Moresby, as well as its suburb of Boroko. Papua New Guinean emigrants were joined in the celebration by more than 50 visitors from Boroko and other parts of the Melanesian nation; local Sydney politicians; and a group of Sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. A choir from Papua New Guinea sang as a procession was held, and Mass was concelebrated by priests from Papua New Guinea; Fr. Tomas McDonough, Passionist provincial; and Fr. John Pearce, pastor of St. Brigid's. Following the Mass a “bung kaikai” — potluck — and “sing-sing”, or Papuan intertribal gathering with dance and music, were held. Bl. Peter To Rot was born in Rakunai village in 1912 to converts, who had their son educated by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Following his education, Bl. To Rot was appointed a catechist, and when the Japanese invaded New Guinea in 1942, interning foreign missionaries, he was left in charge of his parish. He married at the age of 24 and had three children, one of whom is still alive. He continued to lead prayer meetings and to administer the sacraments of baptism and marriage even when the Japanese prohibited all religious activities and promoted polygamy and licentiousness. After denouncing a local policemen who wanted to practice polygamy, Bl. To Rot was incarcerated, and then was executed by the Japanese, by lethal injection, in the summer of 1945. He is now venerated as the patron of the youth of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. He was beatified by St. John Paul II during a Mass in Port Moresby said Jan. 17, 1995; the Pope said the beatification “opens a new period of Christian maturity” for the Church in Papua New Guinea. “In the history of the local Church in any country, the first native-born martyr always marks a new beginning.” St. John Paul II noted the martyr's example for married couple, saying he “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.”
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