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Blessed Peter To Rot

Killed for teaching about Jesus

Born: 1912 in Rakunai,

Papua New Guinea

Died: 1945

Feast: July 17

Claim to fame:

Peter To Rot was a Catholic and catechist who stood firm in the faith during the Japanese occupation of his homeland in World War II. He was arrested for his opposition to polygamy and was poisoned to death.

Tribe of origin:

Peter’s parents were baptized as adults and belonged to the region’s first generation of Catholics. Peter’s father Angelo was a powerful chief who welcomed the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and led his entire village in an embrace of Catholicism.

A catechetical calling:

As a teen, Peter displayed piety and obedience. The parish priest was convinced he had a vocation to the priesthood, but Peter’s father felt his people were not ready for native priests yet, so Peter was trained as a catechist instead.

A modest man:

Peter was humble, intelligent, and a natural leader. According to one account, “He let the older catechists guide him in his work and accepted their advice, but eventually eclipsed them all and soon became their recognized leader, although he was younger.”

A married man:

On Nov. 11, 1936, the only documented date in Peter’s life, he married Paula la Varpit. Their wedding was in a Catholic church, but included many tribal traditions, such as the payment of 50 shell necklaces to “buy” the bride. They had three children, and one of them, Rufina, is still alive.

Fidelity forbidden:

The occupying Japanese decided to crack down on Christianity. They decreed that polygamy should be reinstated. Peter refused to comply, was arrested, and jailed.

A doctor of death:

Peter told his mother during one of her prison visits that the “police have told me … the Japanese doctor will be coming to give me some medicine. I suspect that this is a trick. I am really not ill at all.” Later, another prisoner saw the Japanese “doctor” give Peter an injection, then something to drink, and then stuffed his ears and nose with cotton wool. Peter’s body was displayed to fellow prisoners the next morning.

The Sixth and Ninth Commandments:

Blessed Peter To Rot stood for the value of Christian marriage and fidelity, and gave his life to prove it.