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14th Anniversary of the Death of Friar Vjeko Ćurić
Saturday, 04 February 2012 Written by fra Ivica Perić

14th Anniversary of the Death of Friar Vjeko Ćurić14 years have passed since our brother Franciscan Vjeko Ćurić was murdered in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. It was on 31st of January, 1998. Today, fourteen years later, on the anniversary of the day of his murder, many Rwandans, together with us, came to honour his accomplishments, his sacrifice, his life lived in service of others.

Fra Vjeko dedicated his time, his efforts, his life to those who needed help the most. Even during the horrible Rwandan war he did not abandon his parishioners. He remained the whole time in Kivumu, where he saved thousands upon thousands of men, women and children from certain death.

He unselfishly dedicated his life to serving others, and then, in the difficult post-war period, he was killed by those whom he loved the most – his Rwandans. He was murdered at the age of 41 in front of the Holy Family Church in Kigali, and up to now the murderer has not been identified.

This year the commemoration of the 14th anniversary of fra Vjeko’s death was particularly solemn. The Provincial of the Bosnian Franciscan Province, fra Lovro Gavran, arrived from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Guardian of the Podsused Franciscan Monastery fra Tomo Anđić came from Croatia, and fra Ilija Krezo who is also a member of the Bosnian Province came from Germany. Their presence only proves that the sacrifice of our Vjeko isn’t and never will be forgotten. They travelled great distances just to pay respect to our Vjeko.

The commemoration of fra Vjeko began on Tuesday, at 8 AM, with the Holy Mass in the Kivumu church which was built by him and in which he was put to his final rest. The Bosnian Provincial, fra Lovro Gavran, celebrated the Mass together with fra Tomo Anđić, fra Ilija Krezo, and myself. The church was very crowded, which is normal, because people gather around fra Vjeko’s tomb to pay him respect, thank him and pray to him all the time. The Mass passed with singing, drumming, and giving praise to the Lord, just like our late brother preferred.

“The whole Church is a mission in itself and it has always supported missions. It has always sent missionaries to preach the Gospel of Christ. Among the famous missionaries of Christ’s Church was also our dear brother, late fra Vjeko, your long-time parish priest and benefactor, who lost his life performing his duty fourteen years ago, exactly on this day,” said the Provincial in his homily and continued, addressing the parishioners: “In a special way we offer this Holy Mass in honor and glory of God for our late brother fra Vjeko Ćurić. We are certain that his spirit is also with us here today, and so we hope that he, in turn, prays for us."

After the mass, the students of Padri Vjeko Center performed a play in which they presented fra Vjeko’s missionary work, how he helped others, how he socialized with his parishioners and shared their joys and sorrows. The play was brilliantly performed. We were at once moved and cheered because our students were very good at preparing and acting it out!

After that we all set out together to the 50-kilometer-distant capital of Kigali. There, in a procession we visited the site of the murder, where several years ago a monument was erected to honor fra Vjeko, and then we went to the Holy Family church where another Mass was celebrated in which all the orders of our Franciscan family from Rwanda took part.

We were joined in the Eucharistic celebration by our missionaries, Salesian priests don Danko Litrić and don Sebastijan Marković. The Mass was presided over by a Rwandan friar, fra Philipe, who is also the president of the Franciscan communities in Rwanda.

We were all united in prayer so that fra Vjeko’s life and death could be a pledge of peace and blessing for the Rwandan people.

Translated by: Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

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