Three Franciscan priests who were killed in the early 1990s by Shining Path rebels in Peru are to be beatified, according to Monsignor Luis Bambaren, bishop emeritus of Chimbote.
Bambaren, who is in currently in Rome, said that Pope Frances might travel to Peru next year in order to preside over the ceremony, RPP Noticias reported.
The three European priests – Michael Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski of Poland and Sandro Dordi of Italy – were killed by Shining Path rebels in 1991 for “spreading the word of God,” Bambaren said.
Bambaren said the leftist rebels accused the priests of impeding the message of their armed revolution to spread among the young people in the Andean towns of Pariacoto and Santa, located in Ancash region.
“We hope that the pope approves the decree next year and that he comes to Peru for the beatification ceremony,” Bambaren said. “If he can’t, Cardinal Angelo Amato would come.”
Bambaren said that imprisoned Shining Path founder and leader Abimael Guzman had asked him for forgiveness for ordering the murder of the priests.
The Shining Path specifically targeted community leaders, religious and school teachers who tried to provide alternatives to the violence, particularly in the provinces and rural areas.
Almost 70,000 people were killed during the internal conflict launched by the Shining Path in 1980. Most of the victims were rural, Quechua speakers caught in the crossfire of the Shining Path and the military.
Peru has several saints — including Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres and Toribio de Mogrovejo— as well as confessors and others recognized for their faith, but the three Franciscan priests are the first who directly suffered martyrdom.