Chimbote (Agenzia Fides) – On 9 August 1991 Fr. Michal Tomaszek and Fr. Zbigniew Strzalkowski, two young Polish conventual friars from Krakow, who had lived in the Peruvian Andes for a couple of years, bringing the Gospel to the people of Pariacoto, were kidnapped by a commando of about twenty guerrillas of the revolutionary Maoist "Sendero Luminoso" organization. They broke into the village and into their small convent, took them away and soon after were killed in the countryside not far away, in the place they had called "San Damiano" and where they retired in prayer. The guerrillas motivated the killing of the two friars with these words: "they deceive the people because they distribute food of Caritas, which is imperialism; with the recitation of the rosary, the worship of Saints, Mass and the reading of the Bible they preach peace and they therefore make people fall asleep".
A few days later, not too far from this place, in the same diocese of Chimbote, another missionary, Italian priest Don Alessandro Dordi, 60, in Peru for 11 years, who belonged to the Paradise Missionary Community, suffered the same fate, and fell victim of an ambush of Sendero Luminoso. After celebrating Mass in Vinzos, a village in the Valley of Santa River, his car was stopped by hooded men, the two catechists who accompanied him were sent away and Don Alessandro was killed. It was August 25, 1991.
The blood of two young Polish Franciscans, together with that of an Italian diocesan priest who came from other lands to proclaim Christ, is added to the tens of thousands of innocent victims of the internal conflict that since 1981 opposed the formations of Sendero Luminous of Maoist inspiration, to military operations of the army.
The three missionaries, united by martyrdom, considered the protomartyrs of Peru, were also united in the recognition of the Church, and were beatified on 5 December 2015 in Chimbote, in front of a crowd of thirty thousand faithful. In his message for the occasion, the Bishop of Chimbote, His Exc. Mgr. Angelo Francisco Simon Piorno, explained the expression chosen for the logo of the beatification: "Martyrs of faith and of charity, witnesses of hope". "Martyrs of faith, because this was what gave them the strength to face the imminent death and martyrs of charity, because their whole life was dedicated to rural communities, with people living in poverty and marginalization. For these reasons, they become not only for our diocese, but for the whole Church of Peru, witnesses of hope".
In his visit to Peru, Pope Francis will not be able to go to the place of martyrdom, however he knows the story well, and on 3 February 2015 he approved their martyrdom "in hatred of the faith". During World Youth Day celebrated in Krakow in July 2016, the Pope made a brief visit to the church of Saint Francis, where the relics of the two Franciscan martyrs are venerated, pronouncing in this place a prayer for peace: "made strong by the example of the blessed martyrs of Peru, Zbigniew and Michele, who you made valiant witnesses of the Gospel, to the point that they offered their blood, we ask for the gift of peace and to eliminate the scourge of terrorism".
"The two Franciscan missionaries can rightly be considered as models to be proposed to young people on their way towards the October Synod, dedicated to young people, to faith and to vocational discernment", says to Agenzia Fides Alberto Friso, a journalist who deepened the life, formation, vocational choice and violent death of the two Polish religious. "We are talking about two young people, just over thirty years of age, recently ordained priests, who founded the presence of Conventual Friars in Peru. Their radical choice, the desire to follow Christ, the meaning of a life spent for others can say a lot to young people today".
Friso captures another aspect of harmony with the teaching of Pope Francis with regards to the theme of the suburbs and poverty: "the Peruvian Andes were undoubtedly the periphery of the periphery of the world, and these missionaries chose to live poor among the poor, but always strong in faith and full of love". They dedicated themselves to the difficult task of taking care, from all points of view, of the population of different villages. Everywhere they left the memory of their humility, poverty, affability, ability to work for the common good, for community life, for peace and for the promotion of man, for the authentic hope that comes from the Gospel.
Even Don Alessandro, who with the help of the Spanish Caritas, opened a center for the promotion of women, organized an association for mothers, providing them with tools for small manual cutting and sewing jobs, but also emergency care, hygiene and health courses. From the careful analysis of the documentation that led to their beatification, it clearly emerged that they were killed because the Sendero Luminoso guerrillas considered pastoral work and faith an obstacle to their propaganda. Don Alessandro had repeatedly received death threats, but he did not abandon his mission. "A land that has been watered with the blood of martyrs, is called to generate new Christians under the example of the Gospel" said the Bishop of Chimbote, and that land continues to give the world new missionaries who continue the work of evangelization and for the promotion of man, today confirmed by the Successor of Peter. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 20/1/2018)