2 Ugandan Martyrs to Be Beatified in October

Were Catechists of Acholi Ethnic Group

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ROME, SEPT. 12, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II on Oct. 20 will beatify two young catechists of the Acholi ethnic group of Uganda, who died for their faith in 1918.



The Acholis live in the area now occupied by the guerrillas of the Lord's Resistance Army, who kidnap their children and force them into their ranks.

Daudi (David) Okelo, about 16 to 18 years of age, and Jildo Irwa, about 12 to 14 years of age, were speared and knifed to death in Palamuku, near Paimol, a northern village, in the Upper Nile basin.

They were dragged out of a hut, where they had sought refuge, by two local chiefs. The chiefs had demanded that the pair stop teaching the Gospel.

Since the day of their martyrdom, the place of their death has been called Wi-Polo ("In Heaven"), a reminder of the two youths' reward.

On Sunday, Oct. 20, John Paul II will present the two Ugandans as models of fidelity to their Christian calling.

Uganda already has a history of martyrdom. In 1969 in Namugongo, Paul VI proclaimed the first 27 martyrs of this African country. They had died a century earlier.

Before going to Paimol, David Okelo and Jildo Irwa were asked by Father Cesare Gambaretto, the missionary superior: "And if they kill you?"

"We will go to heaven. Anthony is already there, no?" David answered, referring to another catechist.

Seeing the missionary worried and perplexed, Jildo added: "No, Father, do not be afraid. Jesus and Mary are with us."

Christians comprise almost 70% of Uganda's 23.9 million people.