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50th Anniversary of the death of the Kongolo Martyrs - 31/01/2012

On 1st January 1962, the Spiritans (Holy Ghost Fathers) suffered one of the greatest tragedies in their missionary work overseas. On that Monday, New Year’s Day, 20 members of the Congregation, 19 Belgians and one Dutch, were killed in the terrible massacre at Kongolo, a small town in Northern Katanga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A few months earlier, another Belgian Spiritan had been killed in the course of the same war when he was tending to an injured soldier.

Fr Jules Darmont, who survived the ordeal, recorded, “What a scene of disaster … the mission work has to begin all over again … I had to do the work of under- taker … A cross has been erected with the inscription “Here 20 Holy Ghost missionaries gave their lives for love of Africa 1.1.1962”. Requiescant in pace!

Sr. Celine Kyambi, a member of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Kongolo (CIMKO) who lived through the events, gave an eye-witness account. According to the ‘Spiritan News’, July - September 2011, she said: “for (us), our missionary priests of the Holy Spirit, killed on January 1st 1962 are authentic martyrs. We are absolutely convinced of this. As the Gospel states: “There is no greater love than to give one’s life for those whom one loves.” (Jn 15:13). Who is a real martyr if not the one who freely sheds his blood for the love of God and his neighbour? Numerous opportunities for escape were available to our missionaries. They could have crossed the river Congo and sought refuge on the river bank as the leaders of the Katangan army had suggested to them. They could have left on the last relief plane, towards the south of the country (to Lubumbashi) in order to save their lives. No, they preferred to remain with the Christians and to help them in their misery and distress…”

Spiritans in Congo-Kinshasa commemorated this event on the 1st of January 2012, in every region of the Democratic Republic of Congo where they are working, especially in Kongolo. The diocese of Kongolo and Spiritans, Region of Belgium are organising their own celebrations on Pentecost Sunday 2012.

Spiritans all over the world, would, as well, join in the commemoration of the event on Pentecost Sunday 2012.

The twenty Kongolo martyrs will also be present in a special way during Spiritans’ General Chapter in Bagamoyo 2012.

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