First South African sainthood cause goes to Vatican

Servant of God Benedict Daswa
Servant of God Benedict Daswa

.- The cause for beatification and canonization of the South African-native Benedict Daswa, who was killed for his refusal to support witchcraft, has arrived in Rome.

Bishop Joao Rodriguez of South Africa’s Tzaneen diocese said he hopes devotion to “this apostle of life” will spread and that people “will receive special graces” from Daswa's intercession, especially for “problematic family life relations and bondage to the occult and witchcraft.”

Although his cause is still being investigated, Bishop Rodriguez told CNA March 14 that Catholics may express private devotion to Daswa and report any favors received through his intercession to the Diocese of Tzaneen.

Daswa’s case was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints after he was declared “Servant of God” and diocesan-level inquiries were completed.

If approved, Daswa would be on his way to being declared blessed, making him one step away from becoming the first South African-born saint.

Consistently loyal to his profession of Christianity, Daswa refused to take part in anything related to witchcraft or the occult, which is still very much a part of the local culture.

His denouncement of witchcraft and the occult eventually led to his violent murder in 1990.

Benedict Daswa, born Samuel Daswa in 1946, belonged to the Jewish Lemba tribe in rural Limpopo in South Africa.

Up until the start of the official investigation into Daswa's life in 2005, the members of the Catholic community of the Nweli District gathered every All Soul's Day to pray at his grave.

Daswa grew up observing Jewish customs, but was baptized in the Church at the age of 17. He took the name Benedict after the sixth-century monk and Benedict Risimati, his catechist who instructed him on his faith as a teen. Daswa was confirmed shortly after his baptism.

After his confirmation, Daswa took a particular interest in teaching younger members of his community about Catholicism.

After a series of unusual thunderstorms and lighting strikes in the area, a group of local men suggested hiring a traditional healer to determine the cause. In order to do this, the men collected money from members of the community.

Daswa refused to give any money to the cause. Seeing this act of defiance as derogatory to their cultural beliefs, members of his community conspired to kill him.

While driving home from a visit to his sick sister-in-law, some men blocked Daswa's way with several tree logs. When he got out of his car to investigate, Daswa was violently attacked and beaten to death by men from his own community.

According to the diocesan investigation, when Daswa saw a man coming towards him with a club to deliver the final blow, he said, “God, into your hands, receive my spirit.”

The Diocese of Tzaneen opened an inquiry into Daswa’s death in 2005 completed it on July 2, 2009. The investigation, which was made public in 2010, resulted in more than 850 pages of testimony from reliable witness to the life and death of Daswa.

A copy of the investigation was sent to Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The documents were signed by Bishop of Tzaneen Hugh Slattery, Sister Sally Duigan, diocesan chancellor Father Andre Bohas, and Promoter of Justice Eddie O’Neill.

As one the poorest and most rural dioceses in South Africa, the Tzaneen diocese is accepting donations through a special bank account dedicated to Daswa's cause for canonization.

A 40 minute biography was filmed on location in Limpopo to spread Daswa's story to an even greater audience.

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