Catholics celebrate SA’s first martyr‚ Blessed Benedict Daswa
\n Sipho Mabena | 2017-01-24 17:48:05.0\n \n \n \n \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n \n\n \n\n\n \n \n
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\n \n \n \n Congregation members gather at the Assumption of Mary Church to visit the shrine of Benedict Daswa, who is to be honoured at a ceremony today.\n \n \n \n
Image by: KEVIN SUTHERLAND\n \n \n \n
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\n Celebrations for the second Feast of South Africa’s first martyr‚ Blessed Benedict Daswa‚ are well under way in Thohoyandou‚ Limpopo.\n
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The celebrations began on Monday as a build up to the Feast‚ celebrated annually on February 1 following his declaration as a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church’s Pope Francis in February 2012‚ which paved the way for his formal beatification in Tshitanini village on 13 September 2015.
Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa was ambushed and bludgeoned to death in February 1990 by fellow villagers. His sin: refusing to contribute money‚ R5‚ for a sorcerer to sniff out witches villagers believed were behind a string of lightning that burnt several homes to the ground in his home village of Mbahe.
He refused because this was contrary to his Catholic teachings and explained that lightning was a natural phenomenon‚ but this did not sit well with other villagers.
On that fateful evening of his death‚ Daswa‚ a married school principal with eight children‚ drove his sister-in-law and her child to the doctor.
On his way back he found the road blocked with rocks and tree branches.
When he got out of his car to remove the barricade‚ he was ambushed by a group of youngsters who pelted him with stones. Bleeding‚ he ran‚ to a local shebeen for help but was chased away.
A neighbour offered him refuge in the kitchen but had to turn him over when the mob threatened to burn down her house.
Daswa apparently begged for his life but was beaten to death and hot water poured over him.
Chris Mphaphuli‚ Daswa’s close friend‚ said they were expecting about 2‚000 Catholic pilgrims from across the country and as far as Botswana to converge at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Ngovhela‚ near Sibasa‚ outside Thohoyandou‚ where the Feast will be celebrated this year.
He said the first Feast‚ which was last year‚ was held at the site of his beatification in Tshitanini but said they were forced to move it to Ngovhela because of the bad condition of the road due to recent heavy rains.
He said the Feast of Blessed Benedict Daswa‚ to be led by Bishop of the Diocese of Tzaneen Joao Rodriques‚ will start on January 31 from 3pm-6pm. He said this will culminate in a mass the following day where the Feast will be celebrated.
“Other Catholics from around the world will celebrate the Feast in a mass in their own churches‚” he said.
Mphaphuli said the nine-day Novena prayers for the Feast‚ during which pilgrims ask the Blessed Daswa to intercede on their behalf with God‚ started on Monday.
“During the Novena prayers we recall his baptism and community work‚ during which we ask for his intercession‚” he said.
On August 24‚ 2015‚ Daswa’s remains were exhumed and reburied in the Nweli church‚ which he helped to build.
A toe and a piece of the garment he was wearing were removed and sent to the Vatican as relics.
Mphaphuli said the site of Blessed Benedict Daswa’s beatification in Tshitanini will be turned into a shrine‚ where his remains will be relocated permanently.
TMG Digital/The Times
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