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THE NAMES OF PASTORAL WORKERS, PRIESTS, MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS AND LAY CATHOLICS KILLED DURING 2007
“Stephen's story tells us many things: for example, that charitable social commitment must never be separated from the courageous proclamation of the faith. He was one of the seven made responsible above all for charity. But it was impossible to separate charity and faith. Thus, with charity, he proclaimed the crucified Christ, to the point of accepting even martyrdom. This is the first lesson we can learn from the figure of St Stephen: charity and the proclamation of faith always go hand in hand. Above all, St Stephen speaks to us of Christ, of the Crucified and Risen Christ as the centre of history and our life. We can understand that the Cross remains forever the centre of the Church's life and also of our life. In the history of the Church, there will always be passion and persecution… But in our life too, the Cross that will never be absent, becomes a blessing. And by accepting our cross, knowing that it becomes and is a blessing, we learn Christian joy even in moments of difficulty. The value of witness is irreplaceable, because the Gospel leads to it and the Church is nourished by it. St Stephen teaches us to treasure these lessons, he teaches us to love the Cross, because it is the path on which Christ comes among us ever anew”.
(Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience 10 January 2007)
THE NAMES OF CATHOLICS KILLED
WHILE ON MISSION IN 2007
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – Once again this year, as 2007 comes to an end, Fides has drawn up a list of the names of pastoral workers killed during the past 12 months. As far as we know the total number of Catholic priests, men and women religious and seminarians killed during 2007 was 21, three less than last year and four less than two years ago.
In recent years our list has included not only the names of missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense, but all pastoral workers who died a violent death, sacrificing their lives, aware of the risk they were taking preferring to remain at their post, rather than give up their commitment to Christian witness and charity. “Charitable social commitment must never be separated from the courageous proclamation of the faith… charity and the proclamation of faith always go hand in hand. ” Pope Benedict XVI recalled as he reflected on the figure of Saint Stephen (General Audience 10 January 2007).
We choose not to refer to these persons as “martyrs”, since it is up to the Church to judge their possible merits, and also because of the scarcity of available information in most of cases, with regard to their life and even the circumstances of their death. We wish simply to remember them and to ask everyone to pray for them that they may rest in peace. Each in their own way, and in different parts of the world, gave their life to further the growth of the Church.
As Pope Benedict XVI recently recalled, “If loving Christ and one's brethren is not to be considered as something incidental and superficial but, rather, the true and ultimate purpose of our whole existence, it will be necessary to know how to make basic choices, to be prepared to make radical renouncements, if necessary even to the point of martyrdom. Today, as yesterday, Christian life demands the courage to go against the tide, to love like Jesus, who even went so far as to sacrifice himself on the Cross.” (pastoral visit to Velletri, 23 September 2007).
Each of these pastoral workers without a doubt made a radical decision: to be witnesses of God's Love often in situations of violence, degradation, material and spiritual poverty, total disrespect for the dignity and rights of the human person. This year again the bodies of some of these persons were not found until hours or days later, victims - apparently - of those acts of aggression, robbery, theft to which the people whom they served were indiscriminately subject and which are continually denounced by the voice of the local Church and the local Catholic Bishops' Conferences. This was the case of ninety year old missionary Fr. Mario Bianco, who died in Manizales (Colombia) of the consequences of an attack by bandits searching for money and objects of value. And the same was true of Fr. Fernando Sanchez Duran, a parish priest in the Mexico City area known for his work with young drug addicts, abducted and murdered, and with him the parish motor vehicle, television set and a computer also disappeared. Another missionary Fr Ricardo Junious, found dead inside the parish priest's house with his hands and feet tied, had been strangled and there were evident signs of torture. Deeply appreciated for his missionary work, his pastoral zeal and assistance to the poor, he was also committed to eradicating drug trafficking and the sale of alcohol to minors.
We remember also South African Fr. Allard Msheyene, a member of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (OMI), killed by car-jackers. Car-jacking in South Africa is widespread with more than 12,000 cases every year, although in recent years since a peak 16,000 in 1998 they have diminished slightly in number. Another example of altruism and generosity was Fr. Nicholaspillai Packiyaranjith, Jesuit Refugee Service coordinator in the Mannar district of Sri Lanka, killed in a bomb explosion on the road the priest was travelling to bring assistance to people at a refugee camp and an orphanage in Vidathalvu.
How can we forget, Sr Anne Thole the only women religious who died a violent death in 2007. She was not murdered, she sacrificed her life to save the lives of others. After pulling five AIDS patients from the fire which was devouring the poor structure in which they were hospitalised, Sr Anne went back to fetch three more, but the ceiling collapsed and she was killed. “We can still save the others” were her last words as she walked into the flames.
Panorama of continents
The continent which registered the highest number of pastoral workers killed in 2007 was ASIA. Asia soil was bathed in the blood of 4 priests, 3 deacons and one seminarian. In Iraq on the steps of Holy Spirit Chaldean Catholic Church in Mosul, the parish priest, Fr Raghiid Ganni was shot dead with three deacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid and Wahid Hanna. Pope Benedict XVI, expressing his condolences to Chaldean Catholic Bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, said he prayed their sacrifice “would inspire the hearts of all men and women of goodwill to new commitment to reject paths of hatred and violence, to fight evil with good and to cooperate to accelerate the dawn of reconciliation and justice and peace in Iraq”. In the Philippines 2 priests, Divine Word missionary Fr. Fransiskus Madhu, and diocesan priest Fr Florante Rigonan, were killed and while at home for his holidays a seminarian was murdered by burglars who broke into his home. In Sri Lanka Fr. Nicholaspillai Packiyaranjith was assisting civil war refugees when he was killed in a bomb explosion.
In AMERICA 6 priests and 1 religious were killed. Mexico was the country in which the Church paid a triple tribute of blood, with the murder of three priests: Rev Humberto Macias Rosales, Rev Fernando Sanchez Duran, and missionary Fr Ricardo Junious. In addition 2 priests were killed in Colombia (Fr. Mario Bianco, of the Consolata Missionaries, and Rev. José Luis Camacho Cepeda), Rev Wolfgang Hermann a Fidei donum priest was killed in Brazil and Brother Enrique Alberto Olano Merino, a religious, was killed in Guatemala.
AFRICA saw the violent death of 3 priests and 1 women religigious. The country with the most victims was South Africa, 1 priest and 1 Sister: Fr. Allard Msheyene, OMI, and Sr Anne Thole, who perished when a hospital for AIDS patients caught fire. Then comes Kenya (Fr. Martin Addai, a member of the Missionaries of Africa) and Rwanda (where Congolose Fr Richard Bimeriki, died in hospital of wounds suffered in an attack in his home country).
In EUROPE two priests were killed, both in Spain: Rev Salvador Herandez Seller, with years of missionary experience in Ecuador, and Rev. Tomas Perez.
A list which is never complete
To this provisional list made by Fides News Service, must be added the long list of many “'unknown soldiers' as it were of God's great cause” (TMA 37) whose names we may never know, who in every corner of the planet suffer and pay with the life for their faith in Christ. “Not rarely in fact, today also we have news from different parts of the world of missionaries, priests, bishops, men and women religious, lay faithful, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, deprived of their freedom or prevented from exercising it because they are disciples of Christ and apostles of the Gospel; very often people suffer and die for communion with the universal Church and loyalty to the Pope” (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus 26 December 2007).
In this context we conclude recalling three emblematic stories, which reflect the situations and risks faced every day, almost always in silence, by persons on the frontiers of evangelisation. Fr Jim Brown and lay man Wenceslaus Vimalathas disappeared on 20 August 2006 in Jaffna, in northern Sri Lanka, a hot spot of the civil conflict between regular army forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam: of these two Catholics, despite repeated appeals, nothing more has been heard.
The second episode concerns Divine Word missionary Fr Ho Tran Bach, who on 9 August 2007 a Sydney (Australia), was stabbed by an unidentified man who broke into the college. Despite his serious wounds the missionary survived. However the local press reported that he was dead and never even bothered to correct the false news given.
Last of all, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi Italian PIME missionary whose long experience in the hands of kidnappers in the Philippines happily concluded with his release: “I am thinking of the missionaries, priests, women religious and lay people, who have fallen in the trenches of love at the service of the Gospel. Fr Giancarlo Bossi, for whom we prayed when he was kidnapped in the Philippines, will have much to tell us about this and today we rejoice to have him with us. Through him, I would like to greet and thank all those who spend their lives for Christ on the frontiers of evangelisation.” (Pope Benedict XVI, prayer vigil with young people in Loreto, 1 September 2007). (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 29/12/2007)
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF DEATH
Fides News Agency welcomes any extra
information or correction to this year's list or to those of previous years.
Fr. Mario Bianco, a ninety year old Italian Consolata missionary, died in Manizales, Colombia, on 15 February after being attacked by thieves ten days earlier on 4 February. The bandits broke into what was formerly a Consolata Seminary building where the priest lived with another Italian missionary and a couple of local housekeepers. Some time ago the Consolata seminarians moved to other premises in Manizales, where the Consolata Missionaries have two communities. In the early evening on 4 February a gang of bandits broke into the house, beat and tied up Fr. Mario and one of the housekeepers and attacked the other priest who arrived home soon afterwards. The criminals searched for money and valuables for several hours and in the end made away with the community car, found two days later, taking with them objects for a value of a few thousand Euro. Fr. Mario was taken immediately to hospital as soon as the attackers had gone, however despite treatment he died of heart failure ten days later on 15 February. see Agenzia Fides 17/2/2007
Fr. Martin Addai, Ghanaian age 46, a member of the Missionaries of Africa, (or White Fathers) was killed on Saturday 10 March 2007 in a Nairobi Kenya. He was on his way to visit friends not far from the local seminary of which he was rector, when he was attacked by a gang of criminals who shot him dead and stole the car. His body was found abandoned on the edge of the road. At the seminary, his confreres and the seminarians were not worried knowing he was with friends. The search for the missionary was started only late the next evening. Fr. Martin Addai was born at Adamsi, diocese of Kumasi, in Ghana, on 12 November 1960. He entered the Missionaries of Africa novitiate in Kasama (Zambia) on 19 September 1984 and was ordained a priest on 1990. He then served in Mozambique in the diocese of Chimoio. Between 1993 and 1996 he continued his studies in Rome for a Licentiate in moral theology and then went to Canada for a year in spirituality. On returning to Mozambique he taught at the major seminary of Maputo, before being appointed at the end of 2004 rector of Ejisu philosophy seminary in Ghana. Elected a member of the general chapter in 2004, he was sent to Nairobi as Rector of the Missionaries of Africa theology seminary a Nairobi. see Agenzia Fides 13/3/2007
Fr. José Luis Camacho Cepeda, aged 54, Peruvian, was stabbed to death during the night of 11 March 2007 in his home in Bogota (Colombia). He had lived in Colombia for about 20 years. When he failed to appear to say Mass for two consecutive days at the church of St Charles Borromeo in Bogota the concerned parish priest went to look for him at his home. The priest was found dead in his apartment.
Fr. Fransiskus Madhu, aged 30, Divine Word Missionary (SVD) born in Flores (Indonesia), was killed on Palm Sunday 1 April 2007, in the village of Mabungtot, diocese of Tabuk, in the north of the Philippines (Luzon Island ), while on his way to say the evening mass at the chapel of the village where he was parish priest. He was shot by a group of men carrying army weapons. Hit in vital body organs by five bullets, the priest was dead by the time local people got him to hospital. For the local people Fr Madhu, who had been a missionary in that area since 2005, will be remembered as a “very caring person, active and straightforward”. See Agenzia Fides 3/4/2007
Sr Anne Thole, aged 35, born in Swaziland and raised in South Africa, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family (known as the Nardini Sisters). Sr Anne Thole died on 1 April Palm Sunday trying to save patients from a fire at Duduza Hospice for people with AIDS at the Santa Maria Ratschitz Catholic mission near Wasbank in the north of KwaZulu-Natal, 30 km from Dundee, South Africa. The straw roof of the hospice caught fire, perhaps because of a cigarette lit by one of the patients, and the flames spread immediately. The nursing staff saved five of the eight patients at the hospice and then Sr Anne returned to fetch the remaining three but the ceiling collapsed and she and the three patients died. Sr Anne had been working for two years at the hospice as well as being in charge of the novitiate of her Order. see Agenzia Fides 4/4/2007
Rev. Richard Bimeriki, Congolese, from the parish of Jomba, north Kivu (D. R. Congo) died of his injuries in a Rwandan hospital on 7 April 2007, following an attack in his parish in Congo on 12 March. Eyewitnesses say the aggressors wearing military uniforms broke into the parish demanding a drink, and then opened fire on the priest.
Rev. Wolfgang Hermann (aged 46), from the Germany diocese of Trier, was murdered by a young man who broke into his home probably to commit a robbery on 10 April at Belém in the north of Brazil. Fr Herrmann was born in Bad Kreuznach (Germany) he was ordained a priest in 1985 for the diocese of Trier. In 1995 he as sent as a Fidei donum missionary to work in the diocese of Parnaiba in Brazil. He returned in 2000 to the diocese of Trier, where he served as parish priest in a number of parishes until September 2006 when he returned to Brazil. see Agenzia Fides 12/4/2007
Spanish born Rev Salvador Herandez Seller, aged 75, found dead in his home in Murcia, Spain on 11 April 2007, reportedly died of blows to the head. A happy, generous and peace-loving and tolerant person the priest came from Cehegin. Ordained a priest in 1959, he went in 1962 on mission to Ecuador, as a member of the Organisation of Hispanic-American Priestly Cooperation OCSHA. He returned to Spain 19 years ago to serve as parish priest and chaplain for immigrants.
Rev. Humberto Macias Rosales, from Mexico, aged 52, was shot three times on 1 May 2007 at Aguascalientes (Mexico) not far from his home by an unidentified gunman. Immediately rushed to hospital, he died shortly afterwards. Parish priest of Our Lady of the Light at Aguascalientes, the priest was admired and respected by the local community and by his brother priests for his spirit of service and intense work of evangelisation.
Just after noon on Sunday 3 June 2007, in front of the Chaldean Catholic church of the Holy Spirit in a Mosul (Iraq), following the celebration of Mass, the parish priest, Rev. Raghiid Ganni and three deacons: Basman Yousef Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid and Wahid Hanna were attacked by a gunman. The four were about get into a car when a man drew near and opened fire killing all four of the clerics. Fr. Ganni was the first Catholic priest to be killed in Iraq. The Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Mar Emmanuel III Delly and the Bishops of the Patriarchal Synod affirmed in a statement after the tragedy: “This was a shameful crime which must be rejected by every person of conscience. The perpetrators committed a horrible action against God and against humanity, against their brothers who were faithful and peace loving citizens as well as being men of religion who faithfully offered prayers to Almighty God to restore peace, security and stability to all Iraq”. see Agenzia Fides 4/6/2007
Justin Daniel Bataclan, aged 20, Philippines, a seminarian of the Society of St Paul, was murdered in the evening of 7 June 2007 by a robber who broke into the family home where the student was on vacation, a Cubao, Quezon City (Metro Manila). Hearing noises, Justin went to find out what was happening, in the kitchen he was attacked by a thief and died of numerous injuries received. He was due to end his holidays the next day and return St Paul's Vocation Centre at Silang to start his fourth year of formation. Justin was a quiet, diligent, trustworthy person who applied himself to his studies. An expert in computers, Justine had been put in charge of the College computer-study section. His passion was photography.
Brother Enrique Alberto Olano Merino, from San Salvador, aged 29, of the Little Brothers of Mary, was killed during the night of 9 June in Guatemala City, probably by criminals. While returning to his residence with a few confreres, Brother Enrique was attacked by two thieves. At the same time two men in a car drove up and shot at the group from a close range killing the Brother. In Guatemala for seven years, besides teaching at a local high school, Brother Enrique was involved in pastoral care for young people.
The dead body of Rev. Tomas Perez, aged 75, parish priest at Villafranca de Cordoba (Spain), was found with evident signs of violence in the priest's apartment in the morning of 16 July 2007 by a housekeeper. The local community of about 4,000 people is very peaceful and the priest had ministered here for over 30 years. A statement issued by the Bishop of Cordoba's Office said the priest was “of an open and affable character, a person well known and loved by the local people among whom he exercised his priestly ministry ”.
Rev. Fernando Sanchez Duran, parish priest at Santiago Tlaltepoxco parish, at Tepeji del Rio, a northern district of Mexico City, was taken hostage and killed on 22 July 2007. His brother reported his disappearance a few hours earlier, adding that the parish car, television set and computer were also missing. The police found the priest's body in a pond, the death was said to be caused by suffocation. For the parishioners Fr. Fernando was an exemplary priest, known for his tireless efforts to help young people caught in the trap of drug abuse.
Rev. Ricardo Junious, OMI, aged 70, born in the United States, was found dead on 29 July in the priests' house of the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the San Rafael district of Mexico City. A confrere found the body of the priest on the dormitory floor with hands and feet tied, the priest had been strangled and there were evident signs of torture. Highly esteemed for his missionary work and pastoral zeal and assistance for the poor, in recent times Fr. Ricardo had been fighting drug trafficking and selling of alcohol to minors which was happening around his parish.
Rev. Florante Rigonan, aged 48, from the Philippines, parish priest at St Isidore parish in Pinili (Llocos Norte Province, in the northern Philippines), was attacked and shot dead just before midnight on 27 August as he returned home after saying evening Mass and having supper with some friends. The police said as the priest got into his van he was shot in the back several times. The van was founded completely empty of all its contents. Fr Rigonan entered the seminary after studying medicine, ordained in 1997, since 2000 he had been parish priest at Pinili.
Rev. Nicholaspillai Packiyaranjith, diocesan priest and coordinator of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the Mannar district of Sri Lanka, was killed when a bomb exploded on the road he was travelling to offer assistance at a camp for refugees and an orphanage at Vidathalvu. The local Catholic community, which held Fr. Nicholas in high esteem, was deeply shocked by the news of the deadly explosion on the Poonery Road, near Kalvi’laan, in the evening of 26 September. In a message of condolence Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo, said: “ We are all deeply shocked by the tragic death of Fr. Nicholas. We condemn these acts of violence which inflict suffering and grief on innocent civilians. We express sincere sympathy to Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar diocese, the clergy, the faithful and to Fr. Packiyaranjith's family”.
“With gratitude for his work as a priest committed to assisting the people we offer fervent prayers to God the Father of Mercies that he may grant eternal rest to Fr. Packiyaranjith and spiritual consolation to those who mourn for him” the Archbishop concluded. see Agenzia Fides 27/9/2007
Fr. Allard Msheyene, 'Mako', a South African Oblate Missionary of Mary Immaculate (OMI), Sudafricano, died on 6 October 2007 after being attacked an shot and killed by roadside carjackers on October 5. OMI sources reported that, Associate Novice Master, Fr. Allard had gone to lend weekend help at St. Peter’s parish in Nelspruit 330 km east of Johannesburg. After celebrating a Friday evening liturgy at 18:00 in Ka Nyamazane, he took a young man home and then was returning to the parish. A short time later, he was found lying by the road at Msogwaba township, and was taken at 19:30 by ambulance to Themba Hospital, Kabokweni. He was soon transferred to a larger hospital in Nelspruit, where he underwent emergency surgery but died in the early hours of the morning of October 6. Car-jacking in South Africa is widespread with more than 12,000 cases every year, although in recent years since a peak 16,000 in 1998 they have diminished slightly in number. see Agenzia Fides 10/10/2007
TABLE FOR YEAR 2007
number by category of pastoral workers killed in 2007
15 priests (2 OMI, 1 IMC, 1 White Father, 1 Divine Word Missionary,
1 Fidei donum missionary, 9 diocesan priests)
3 deacons (diocesan)
1 Brother (Marist School Brothers)
1 woman religious (Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family)
1 seminarian (Society of St Paul)
country of origin
America: 5 (2 Mexico, 1 United States, Peru, El Salvador)
Africa: 4 (Ghana, Swaziland, D. R. Congo, South Africa)
Europe: 4 (2 Spain, 1 Italy, Germany)
Asia: 8 (4 Iraq, 2 Philippines, 1 Sri Lanka, Indonesia)
continent and country of death
America: 7 (3 Mexico, 2 Colombia, 1 Brazil, Guatemala)
Africa: 4 (2 South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda)
Europe: 2 (Spain)
Asia: 8 (4 Iraq, 3 Philippines, Sri Lanka)
(Agenzia Fides 29/12/2007)
Table of Pastoral Workers killed on mission between 1980 and 2007
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - According to the information we have, in the decade 1980-1989 115 missionaries died a violent death. However the number is certainly higher since it refers only to cases reported and confirmed.
In the period 1990-2000, according to our information, a total number of 604 missionaries were killed. The number is considerably higher than in the previous decade due to the following factors: the Rwandan genocide (1994) in which at least 248 members of church personnel were killed;, improved communications and quicker information from even remote parts of the world; the number includes besides missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense, pastoral workers who despite serious risk remained at their post to care for the people entrusted to them (named by John Paul II, our “martyrs of charity”).
Between 2001-2006 a total number of 152 pastoral workers were killed.
* = refers to Rwandan genocide.
B: bishop; C: cardinal; P: priest; D: deacon; B: Brother; SIS: women religious; S: seminarian; IVC: member of Institute of consecrated life; C: catechist; L: lay person; V: volunteer; ct: catechumen. _________________________________________
(Dossier prepared by S.L. - Agenzia Fides 29/12/2007)