People - Peter ToRot

Catholic Catechist

Born: 1912  Rakunai Village, New Britain.  Died: July 1945  New Britain.

Peter ToRot was a Catholic catechist killed by the Japanese in 1945. In 1995, he became the first indigenous person of Oceania to be beatified.

From Robie, David, 'ToRot's Beatification Revives Forgotten Stories of Martyrs', The Evening Post (Wellington), 15 February 1995, page 7:-

ToRot was born in 1912 in Rakunai village on the island of New Britain - barely three decades after Christianity was introduced. His parents, Angelus To Puia - a village "big man" - and Maria la Tumull, were baptised as adults. They were among the first Catholics in the region and To Puia became a dedicated helper of missionaries.

In 1930, when he was 18 years old, ToRot enrolled at St Paul's College and graduated three years later as a catechist. He was appointed to Rakunai mission station. Three years later he married a young Catholic woman, Paula la Varpit, who bore three sons and a daughter.

When the Japanese invaded Rabaul in early 1942, missionaries were herded into prison camps. ToRot defiantly carried on by organising the community with prayer meetings, baptisms and catechism readings, and caring for the sick and poor. In May 1943, after banning religion, Japanese authorities summoned ToRot and ordered him to cut down on his pastoral activities. A year later he was barred from carrying out any Church work.

ToRot became a bigger target when, the Japanese encouraging polygamy to entice village "big men" to co-operate, he exhorted people to remain faithful to their religion and not practise polygamy. ToRot was arrested in April 1945 after being denounced by a Papua New Guinean civil servant working for the Japanese. Accused of having officiated at two marriages, he was jailed for two months. When ToRot was about to be freed, he was beaten and two military officers abducted him from prison. The officers were helped by a military doctor who injected a lethal dose of a poison into ToRot's body. ToRot's fellow villagers were convinced he had been executed because of his faith.


Edited Books

  • Theo Aerts (ed.), The Martyrs of Papua New Guinea : 333 Missionary Lives Lost During World War II, University of Papua New Guinea Press, Port Moresby, 1994, 276 pp.

Newspaper Articles

  • David Robie, 'ToRot's Beatification Revives Forgotten Stories of Martyrs', The Evening Post (Wellington), 15 February 1995, p. 7.

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Created by Joanne and Jenny Evans, July 2002. Updated 29 May 2011