Among the guests are President Ollanta Humala of Peru and about 200 Poles, including the relatives of Polish missionaries. A beatification mass is celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Prefect of Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Michał Tomaszek, Zbigniew Strzałkowski and Alessandro Dordi were killed by the guerrillas of Shining Path, Peru’s Maoist insurgency. They were targeted because of their pastoral work among the inhabitants of the Andes and the assistance they granted to those in need.
In August 1991, the guerrillas escalated their violence against the Roman Catholic Church and announced that they would kill a priest every week in the Diocese of Chimbote. The first priest they picked out luckily escaped execution.
On 9 August, they abducted two Polish friars from the church at the end of the evening's Eucharistic celebration. After a brief show trial, they were led out of the village and killed near the cemetery, along with the local mayor. On 25 August, they ambushed the car in which Father Alessandro Dordi was travelling to a church and executed him after he got out of the vehicle.
Michał Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzałkowski arrived in Peru two years earlier and were based in Pariacoto, the Diocese of Chimbote. They were 31 and 33 years of age respectively at the time of death.
Abimael Guzman, founder and leader of Shining Path, now serving a life sentence, confessed in a conversation with a Peruvian bishop: “I ordered to kill those Polish missionaries out of hatred for religion. I thought then that it was the opium of the people. That’s what I thought and now I plead for forgiveness.”
A thanksgiving service for the beatification of Polish Franciscans is planned at the Franciscan Monastery in Kraków in the afternoon, with Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, former long-time secretary to Pope John Paul II, presiding.
The Peruvian Ambassador in Poland Alberto Salas-Barahona and representatives of the Peruvian community in Poland are expected to attend.
On the eve of the beatification ceremony, Friday, Polish Television aired, in prime time, a documentary film about the Polish martyrs. Earlier in the week, after the general audience with the Pope, the director of the film Krzysztof Tadej and Chairman of the Board of Polish Television Janusz Daszczyński presented to Pope Francis a copy of the film (in two language versions, Spanish and English) and an album with the photographs of the martyrs and from the film’s location shooting in Poland and Peru. (mk/rg/rk)