Seventy-five years after the martyrdom of Peter To Rot and 25 years since his beatification, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (CBC PNGSI) concluded its annual General Assembly on Thursday, 2 July, with a Mass celebrating the life, example and witness of Peter To Rot, the first Blessed in Papua New Guinea’s history. Bishops, men and women religious and lay people remembered him at a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Anton Bal of Mandang, the newly elected President of the CBC PNGSI; Cardinal John Ribat, MSC, Archbishop of Port Moresby; Archbishop Rochus Josef Tatamai, MSC, of Rabaul, outgoing President of the Bishops Conference; and Bishop Otto Separy of Bereina, the newly elected Vice President of the Conference.
During his homily, Archbishop Tatamai, who is a close descendant of the Blessed’s family, described To Rot as a radiant example of holiness in the daily life of lay people and families, a man of courage and fortitude in his faith and in his determination to follow Jesus Christ with his life, unto death.
Archbishop Tatamai, Agenzia Fides reports, retraced the Blessed’s life from the moment that his parents became first generation Christians (when the missionaries landed on Matupit Island in 1882). Peter To Rot was a second generation Christian who followed in his parents’ footsteps. He was a family man, who worked hard, with discipline and obedience, to become a good teacher and catechist. He lived the life of husband and father in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, defending the values of matrimony and resisting the traditional culture of polygamy as well as the laws of Japan’s Imperial army. When religious activities were banned in March 1944, an order which Peter found unacceptable, he built an underground shelter on his property to administer the Sacraments regularly. He died a martyr, defending his Christian faith.
To Rot left behind many great examples of obedience and exemplary family life, Archbishop Tatamai said, and he lived and represented his faith even when some members of his family betrayed him. Lay people in particular, the prelate added, are challenged to carry forth his example especially in today’s difficult and uncertain times, persevering in the pastoral work of teaching and catechesis. Archbishop Tatamai urged the faithful to be resilient and to continue to grow in the faith during the lockdown caused by Covid-19.