Pope declares two men martyred in Laos, 'Servants of God'

(Photo: Kenneth Conboy in Wikipedia, public domain)Guerilla fighters of the Pathet Lao, the group which martyred Fr. Mario Borzaga and Paul Thoj Xyooj in Laos in April 1960, seen in Sam Nuea, 1953.

Pope Francis has recognized the heroic virtues of 10 men and two women killed by communist revolutionaries in Laos in 1960.

Francis granted on May 5 the title of Servant of God to the martyrs Mario Borzaga, a priest from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate order, and Paul Thoj Xyooj, a young lay catechist who accompanied the missionary.

Those martyred because of faith are bestowed the title of Servant of God, the first step in the process to become a saint.

Borzaga was sent to Laos in 1957 as part of the first Oblate mission there. At that time, the Pathet Lao, which had been supported by North Vietnam, ruled huge swaths of the country. The communists sparked the civil war in the early 1950s.

In Laos, Borzaga, who joined the Oblates order at the age of 20, first studied the Lao language, spending his first year as a missionary there.

He compiled his experience as an Italian missionary into his diary titled "To be a Happy Man," which chronicled his early life in the country, ucanews.com reported.

He cared for the sick and guided Hmong Christian communities wherever they were.

A Hmong community from Pha Xoua, a mountainous area, asked the priest for a visit in 1960 and Borzaga obliged.

Borzaga and Xyooj went on a three-day trek for the village beginning April 25, 1960, and the pair planned to spend two weeks in the village.

But a day after they started work in the village, they vanished without a trace, and were never found.

Those who testified for the missionaries pointed to the Pathet Lao as having a hand in the disappearance.

The Pathet Lao defeated the royalist forces in 1975, imposing communism in the country from that date. Foreign missionaries had been expelled that year, and today, fewer than two percent of the Laos population is Christian.

Copyright © 2015 Ecumenical News