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THE NAMES OF PASTORAL WORKERS, PRIESTS, MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS AND LAY CATHOLICS KILLED DURING 2008
“As in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today!”
(Pope Benedict XVI, 28 June 2007)
THE NAMES OF CATHOLICS KILLED
WHILE ON MISSION IN 2008
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – Once gain this year, as 2008 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 following persons have died this year: Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mossul for Chaldeans (Iraq), 16 priests, 1 religious, and 2 lay volunteers.
A call for gratitude and an inspiration to continue bearing witness to our faith with ever greater courage
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, not only as a result of “odium fidei.” 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.
Thus, we present them to be recalled and prayed for by everyone, aware of the fact that, as the Holy Father Benedict XVI has said: “To remember and pray for these brothers and sisters of ours - Bishops, priests, religious and lay people - who died while carrying out their missionary service is a duty of gratitude for the whole Church and an incentive for each one of us to witness ever more courageously to our faith and hope in the One who on the Cross triumphed over the power of violence and hatred for ever with his almighty love” (Regina Coeli, 24 March 2008)
Today, also, Christ is in need of apostles ready to sacrifice themselves; He needs witnesses and martyrs like Saint Paul
“Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today!” (Benedict XVI's Homily, 28 June 2007).
In this Year of Saint Paul 2008-2009, the Holy Father Benedict XVI called the entire Church to turn its head and heart towards the Apostle to the Gentiles, “the greatest missionary of all times,” in that, “Paul For us Paul is not a figure of the past whom we remember with veneration. He is also our teacher, an Apostle and herald of Jesus Christ for us too. Thus we are not gathered to reflect on past history, irrevocably behind us. Paul wants to speak to us – today.” (Benedict XVI's Homily, 28 June 2008).
Reflecting on the biographical notes if these, our brothers and sisters killed in 2008, we cannot help but think of the fact that all of them had consecrated their lives, situations, and various different circumstances, according to their own charisms and within the limitations of their human nature, to the sole mission of preaching and bearing witness to the love of Christ, who died and rose for the salvation of the world. Without any false heroism or solemn proclamations, they were not afraid to risk their own lives on a daily basis, often in situations of suffering, poverty, tensions, so as to offer all those around them the vital force of Christian hope, so that “the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey” (Spe salvi, 1). With the simple witness of their lives, they have shown their brethren the greatness of the goal that justifies the effort of the journey: “to come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope” (ibid. 3).
Many have been killed in apparent kidnapping attempts, attacked in their homes by brutal men who thought only of finding, perhaps, a hidden treasure, or on the street while they were busy going about their ministry, perhaps with the sole purpose of stealing their car. Others were killed only because they used love to fight hate, hope to fight despair, dialogue to fight violence. Still others were attacked while immersed in prayer, from whence they gathered their spiritual food and strength to carry on with their mission, and thus they have passed from adoration of the Father to the encounter with Him.
In the face of so many lives lived without human comforts and in constant sacrifices for love of Christ and His Gospel, we are reminded of the figure of Saint Paul and the difficulties he faced in preaching the Good News. “In Paul's apostolate difficulties were not lacking, which he faced with courage for love of Christ. He himself recalls having endured 'labours... imprisonment... beatings... numerous brushes with death.... Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, cold and exposure. And apart from these things there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the Churches' (II Cor 11: 23-28)...It is clear that he would not have been able to face such difficult and at times desperate situations if he did not have a reason of absolute value, before which no limit could be considered insurmountable. For Paul, this reason, as we know, is Jesus Christ” (Benedict XVI, General Audience, 25 October 2006).
Even today, 2,000 years later, Paul continues to journey through the world, in our time on the thousands of missionary posts, through Bishops, priests, religious, and in a growing manner, laity who for the cause of the Gospel are imprisoned, in danger of death, and even killed; they embark on perilous journeys, and undergo dangers of rivers, robbers, in the city, the desert, and on the sea, fatigue and toil, hunger and thirst, up to the point of offering the greatest witness of a violent death. Their blood, like that of Paul, “does not invoke revenge but reconciliation. It is not presented as an accusation but rather as the "fairer light", in the words of the hymn for First Vespers: it is presented as the force of love that overcomes hatred and violence, thus founding a new city, a new community” (Benedict XVI's Homily 29 June 2008).
The same love that led Paul to undertake so many circumstances that only as a euphemism could we describe as “uncomfortable” - “The love of Christ urges us on...so that those who live may live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and rose for them” (2 Cor 5:14-15) – now continues to inspire men and women all over the globe to go to the encounter of their brethren, in the name of Christ, savior and redeemer of man. As for the apostolic and missionary events that Paul told of, they are certainly not a result merely of human capability, but also his total dedication to Christ, which was not afraid of the risks, the difficulties, or the persecutions. “From this we can draw a particularly important lesson for every Christian. The Church's action is credible and effective only to the extent to which those who belong to her are prepared to pay in person for their fidelity to Christ in every circumstance. When this readiness is lacking, the crucial argument of truth on which the Church herself depends is also absent” (Benedict XVI's Homily, 28 June 2007).
Panorama of continents
Analyzing the list of pastoral workers killed in 2008 by continent, this year the location with the most deaths has been ASIA, with 1 Archbishop, 6 priests, and 1 lay volunteers killed in Iraq, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Nepal.
Particularly tragic was the death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mossul for Chaldeans (Iraq), who was kidnapped after having celebrated the Way of the Cross, as he exited the Church of the Holy Spirit, the same one where on June 3, 2007, the parish priest and three deacons had been killed. His corpse was later found. “Archbishop Rahho took up his cross and followed the Lord Jesus, thus he contributed to bringing justice to his martyred country and to the whole world, bearing witness to the truth. He was a man of peace and dialogue,” the Holy Father Benedict XVI recalled.
Among the priests killed in India, we mention Fr. Bernard Digal, of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, in Orissa (India): the first Catholic priest to be killed from the campaign of anti-Christian violence in Orissa that has provokes, according to statistics from the Indian Bishops' Conference, 81 deaths; 22,236 refugees in government-run camps, and over 40,000 people who have fled the district of Kandhamal; 450 villages were affected by the violence; 4,677 houses, 236 churches, and 36 convents, institutes, and religious structures were destroyed; 5 Catholic priests and 15 pastors were violently beaten, and a religious sister was raped and publicly humiliated. Fr. Bernard was attacked on August 25, at the beginning of the wave of violence, and died two months later after suffering severe wounds. “During his life, Fr. Bernard showed great determination and courage in bearing witness to Christ and dying for Him. He has died as a true Christian. Immediately following his attack, he forgave his enemies and persecutors,” said Fr. Mrutyunjay Digal, a priest from the same Archdiocese.
In India as well, in the state of Andra Pradesh, Carmelite priest Fr. Thomas Pandippallyil was killed while he was in a town to say Mass. Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad has denied any accusations of “proselytism and forced conversions,” directed towards Fr. Thomas. According to the Archbishop, the crime is a result of the climate of “jealousy towards the Catholic Church,” which is only guilty of having worked for the development of the poorest and most abandoned areas of the country, and being committed to sustaining and helping those who are victims of violence and oppression. In the state of Uttarakhand (northern India), the lifeless bodies of a Catholic priest, Fr. Samuel Francis, and a lay volunteer, Mercy Bahadur, were found. They were living the life of a hermit in an “ashram,” a Hindu monastery adapted to the Christian tradition. According to the Indian Bishops' Conference, the homicide seems to be the result of a kidnapping attempt, since the place was robbed.
In Sri Lanka, Ambalkulam (Diocese of Jaffna), a region of heavy fighting between the military and Tamil rebels, was the site of the death of Fr. Mariampillai Xavier Karunaratnam, parish pastor of the church in Vannivi'laangku'lam, human rights activist and advocate of dialogue and reconciliation, and founder/president of the organization North East Secretariat on Human Rights, that denounced the violence and abuse of the war and provided psychological assistance to victims of the conflict.
Father Jesus Reynaldo Roda, OMI (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate) was killed by gunfire in Tabawan (Philippines), where he ran a small missionary post and led a community of about 30 Catholics involved in programs of basic instruction and inter-religious dialogue. A gang of gun men broke into the mission chapel where Fr. Jesus was saying his Rosary and tried to kidnap him, and upon his resistance he was shot and killed. According to the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, the priest had received threats in recent months from dissident Islamic groups connected with Abu Sayyaf, but refused to move about with guardsmen.
The first priest to be killed in the small Catholic community of Nepal was Salesian Fr. Johnson Moyalan. In the middle of the night, a group of armed men broke into the Salesian mission of Sirsia, 15 km from the Indian border, firing on the missionary from two firearms. Among the reasons for the homicide, which looked like burglary or extortion, there is also the possibility that it was an act carried out by Hindu extremists who operate in the area and have often threatened Christian and Muslim communities.
There are 5 priests who have been killed in America: 2 in Mexico, 1 in Venezuela, 1 in Colombia, and 1 in Brazil.
In Mexico, Fr. Julio Cesar Mendoza Acuma was killed, and later died in the hospital from the attack suffered in his parish residence the night before, and Fr. Gerardo Manuel Miranda Avalos, killed by a gunshot to the chest was entering the “Fray Juan de San Miguel” School, of which he served as Director.
In his room in Caracas (Venezuela) was found the lifeless body of Fr. Pedro Daniel Orellana Hidalgo. On his body there were marks of strangling, his hands were tied, he had a gag in his mouth and several abrasions. Personal objects had been stolen from his apartment.
Fr. Jaime Ossa Toro, of the Institute for Foreign Missions of Yarumal, was stabbed in Medellin, in northeastern Colombia. His body was found in his room, next to the Church of Emmaus, where he was Pastor.
Lastly, Fr. Nilson José Brasiliano, was stabbed to death in the Brazilian state of Parana, and his body thrown along the side of the road, hidden among straw and greenery. He had also been robbed.
In Africa, 3 priests, 1 religious, and 1 lay volunteer have suffered violent deaths in Kenya, Guinea Conakry, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Kenya, the following were killed: Fr. Michael Kamau Ithondeka, Vice-Rector of Mathias Mulumba Senior Seminary of Tindinyo, and Fr. Brian Thorp, of the Mill Hill Missionaries, whose lifeless body was found in the parish residence in Lamu, Archdiocese of Mombasa. Fr. Michael was killed at an illegal road block placed by a gang of armed youth on the Nakuru-Eldama road, in Rift Valley, site of the most intense ethnic conflict and violence, while Fr. Brian was apparently victim of a robbery carried out by armed men in the night.
Brother Joseph Douet, 62 years of age, of the Christian Brothers of Saint Gabriel, was killed in Katako, in Guinea Conakry, at the school he had founded. While he was in prayer, he was attacked by thugs who bound him and placed a sack on his head, suffocating him, although their original plan was possibly that of robbing him.
Fr. John Mark Ikpiki was killed in Isiokolo (state of Delta, Nigeria), a short ways from the local police station, by robbers who wanted to steal his car, which was later found abandoned.
Amongst the tragic deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a lay volunteer has also been killed: Boduin Ntamenya, a native of Goma (North Kivu) who was killed while he was carrying out his work in a war zone. He worked for the Italian NGO, AVSI, and was part of a team of teachers that support and assist teachers and students working and studying in areas of conflict. He had been working for years, with courage, generosity, and zeal, to give hope to his country and his brethren, entering the hills and forests of the Congo in the areas where the guerrillas rule the land.
In Europe, two priests were killed, both in Russia. The two Jesuits, Father Otto Messmer and Father Victor Betancourt, were killed in their rooms in Moscow. The Russian media has issued information saying that the arrested gunmen has confessed. It seems he is a psychologically disturbed person that had already been arrested on previous occasions by the police.
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” - as Pope John Paul II said. We look to them with gratitude and veneration. These are the unknown faces that without which the Church and the world would be greatly impoverished.
“To live in the belief in Jesus Christ, to live in truth and love implies daily sacrifice, implies suffering. Christianity is not the easy road, it is, rather, a difficult climb, but one illuminated by the light of Christ and by the great hope that is born of him.” (Benedict XVI, General Audience, 5 November 2008) (SL) (Agenzia Fides 30/12/2008)
PRIESTS AND RELIGIOUS KILLED IN 2008
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF DEATH
Agenzia Fides welcomes any extra
information or correction to this year's list or to those of previous years.
Father Pedro Daniel Orellana Hidalgo, 50 years old, was found dead in his room in Caracas (Venezuela) on the morning of January 6, 2008. The priests' body held marks of signs of strangling, his hands were bound, he had a gag in his mouth and several abrasions. His apartment was in disorder and personal objects stolen. A native of Caracas, for many years he had carried out pastoral activity in the Archdiocese of Cumana. Upon his return to Caracas, he was given various administrative positions and a position as a teacher. He was not working in any specific ecclesial position at the time and celebrated Mass at “Immaculate Heart of Mary” Parish in the El Rosal district. When the priest failed to arrive to say Mass on Sunday 6, which was also the anniversary of his mother's death, his relations with whom he had spoken on the telephone the day before, went to his apartment in the Manzanares district of the capital of Venezuela, where they found the door half open and the priest dead. See Fides 8/1/2008
Father Jesus Reynaldo Roda, OMI (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate), aged 55, who had been working in Tabawan for ten years was shot dead on January 15, 2008. The priest was in charge of a small mission station and a community of about 30 Catholics involved in programs of basic instruction and inter-religious dialogue. He was also head of the local Notre Dame Catholic School for Christian and Muslim children. According to testimonies of witnesses and local police forces, a gang of at least 10 gun men broke into the mission chapel where Fr. Jesus was saying his Rosary. The attackers took him and one of the school teachers, with the intention of kidnapping them. It seems that when the priest reacted saying he wanted to stay with his community, the gunmen opened fire and shot the priest dead. According the the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, the priest had received threats in recent months from dissident Islamic groups connected with Abu Sayyaf, but refused to move about with guardsmen. See Fides 16/1/2008; 22/1/2008
Fr. Michael Kamau Ithondeka, Vice-Rector of the Mathias Mulumba Senior Seminary of Tindinyo (Kenya) was killed on January 26, at an illegal post established by a gang of armed youth on the Nakuru-Eldama road, in Rift Valley, site of the most intense ethnic conflict and violence. Fr. Michael was on his way to Nakuru. According to the investigation, it seems that the priest left the seminary alone, however along the way he must have given several persons a ride. Several youth in an illegal roadblock stopped him and then killed him. Those who accompanied him were taken to the hospital, where they recovered. According to testimonies taken from the area, Fr. Michael was killed because the youth were trying to avenge the death of one of their friends. Fr. Kamau was born in Kiambu, near Nairobi, in 1966. He entered the Minor Seminary in Molo in 1986, studying in St. Augustine Seminary in 1986 and St. Mathias Mulumba. He was ordained for the Diocese of Nakuru on January 1993. From 1998-2002, Fr. Kamau studied Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Institute for Biblical Studies in Rome. In 2005, he became Vice-Rector of St. Mathias Mulumba Seminary. See Fides 28/1/2008
Brother Joseph Douet, 62 years old, of the Order of Christian Brothers of Saint Gabriel, was killed on April 8 in Katako, Guinea Conakry. Brother Joseph was a native of Pin-en-Mauges, France and had spent 37 years in Africa, having taught in Cholet. In 1971, he began the mission in Senegal, as a teacher, school director, and head of formation. He returned to France for serious health trouble, however as soon as he had recuperated he returned to Africa. In 1989, he was appointed Superior of the young Province of Senegal, which he served for two terms. He then moved to Guinea, where the Province of Senegal had founded two mission, in Ourous and Katako, with a literacy learning center and agricultural school. Brother Joseph was killed in his school, where he was alone at the time. All the other staff was outside the premises preparing for the inauguration of the new school, which had been made possible above all by the efforts of Brother Douet. While he was in prayer, he was attacked by thugs who bound him and placed a sack on his head, suffocating him, although their original plan was possibly that of robbing him. Brother Douet was buried in Katako, as he had previously requested. See Fides 14/4/2008
Fr. Brian Thorp, Mill Hill Missionary, 77 years old, was found lifeless in the parish residence in Lamu, Archdiocese of Mombasa (Kenya), apparently the victim of an armed attack which occurred on the night of April 9-10, 2008. Fr. Thorp was born January 30, 1931, in Yorkshire Bridge in Bamford, Derbyshire (England), the fourth of five children. After a life working as a carpenter and construction worker, following the death of his youngest brother in 1967, Brian decided to reflect on his future. The following year, he entered the program for studies with the Mill Hill Missionaries. He made temporal vows in June 1970 and perpetual vows June 29, 1972. He carried out his first mission from 1973-1976 in Basankusu (in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo), where he worked on various projects for building structures for the mission. He later worked in the missions in Kenya and Uganda. In 1999, Fr. Brian was named parish pastor in Lamu, where he worked on the reconstruction of the parish buildings. See Fides 14/4/2008
Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mossul for Chaldeans (Iraq), 65 years old, was kidnapped on February 29, in Mosul after having celebrated the Way of the Cross, as he exited the Church of the Holy Spirit. At the time of the kidnapping, three persons were killed: two bodyguards and the driver. The Archbishop's body was found, following information given by the kidnappers, on March 13. It was buried in the area surrounding Mosul. The Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq, Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikat, mentioning that up until the last moment, good news had been awaited with hope and trepidation, recalled that “Archbishop Rahho was a man of peace and dialogue, a link between Christians and Muslims.” “Archbishop Rahho took up his cross and followed the Lord Jesus, thus he contributed to bringing justice to his martyred country and to the whole world, bearing witness to the truth. He was a man of peace and dialogue”: with these words, the Holy Father Benedict XVI remembered the Archbishop of Mossul for Chaldeans during a funeral mass held in the “Redemptoris Mater” Chapel on March 17. “I know he had a particular fondness for the poor and the disabled,” Benedict XVI continued. “In order to offer physical and psychological care, he founded a special association called ‘Joy and Charity’ (‘Farah wa Mahabba’), with the task of helping these people and their families, many of whom learned from him not to hide these relatives and to see them in Christ. May his example sustain all Iraqis of good will, Christians and Muslims, to build peaceful coexistence founded on human fraternity and mutual respect.”
See Fides 3/3/2008; 13/3/2008; 14/3/2008; 17/3/2008; 10/4/2008; 12/4/2008; 20/6/2008
Fr. Mariampillai Xavier Karunaratnam, parish pastor of the church in Vannivi'laangku'lam, human rights activist and advocate of dialogue and reconciliation. He was killed April 20 in Ambalkulam (Diocese of Jaffna). The priest was wounded while he was in his car, in a region of heavy fighting between the military and Tamil rebels. According to reports issued by the rebel forces, he was wounded by military gunfire. Other sources report a mine attack that destroyed his vehicle. The priest was Founder and President of the North East Secretariat on Human Rights, that denounced the violence and abuse of the war and provided psychological assistance to victims of the conflict. The faithful of his parish remember him as a Pastor who was always concerned for the flock, in every circumstance, always ready to remedy their spiritual and material needs, especially for those who had lost their homes or jobs due to the conflict. See Fides 22/4/2008
Fr. Julio Cesar Mendoza Acuma, Mexican, 33 years old, died on May 2, 2008 in a hospital in Mexico City, following attacks suffered the night before in his parish residence. He was the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, in a southern district of the Mexican capital. He was found in his bathroom, still alive, lying face down with his hands bound and his head an face covered with blood. He was taken to the hospital and died from the reported wounds.
Salesian Fr. Johnson Moyalan, 60 year-old missionary from India, was killed on July 1, in Sirsia (Nepal) by a group of armed men. The episode took place in the Salesian mission in the Nepalese town of Sirsia, 15 km from the Indian border. Gunmen broke into the mission during the night forcing the gate keeper to take them to the priests' house. Assistant priest Fr. Mathew Puthuppallil, tried to go for help but was stopped. The men went into the room of Fr. Johnson Moyalan, shot him and ran off about 15 minutes later. The local people came running and found the missionary, shot to death by two firearms. Among the reasons for the attack which looked like burglary or extortion, there is also the possibility that it was an act carried out by Hindu extremists who operate in the area and have often threatened Christian and Muslim communities. Fr. Johnson Moyalan was born in Ollur, Kerala, in 1948. He had been a Salesian since 1967, and served as parish priests in various places in the state of Andhra Pradesh. He went to Dharan in 1996, and in 2000 moved to a new Salesian mission in Sirsia, to assist the poor, run an elementary school and a parish. In Nepal, he had taken the name of Fr. John Prakash. “Fr. Johnson was a very committed priest, an excellent religious, a person with great compassion for the poor and the marginalized. In the past, at the mission in Nepal, he had worked at the then “Missio Sui Iuris” Apostolic School preparing priest-candidates for the Mission. He was also very involved in village development programs and education, beneficiaries of which were mostly non-Christians of the area - among whom were many from the tribal communities and the so-called 'untouchables.' His work in the Don Bosco School in Sirsia was appreciated by everyone.” These were the words of the Apostolic Vicar of Nepal, Monsignor Anthony Sharma. See Fides 2/7/2008; 3/7/2008
Fr. Jaime Ossa Toro, Colombian, from the Institute for Foreign Missions of Yarumal, was stabbed on August 13, in Medellin, in northeastern Colombia. His body was found in his room, near Emmaus Church, where he had served as a parish pastor for three years. Born in Medellin (Colombia) on November 1937, he was ordained a priest in October 1962 and was a missionary in Angola for 14 years. In 1995, he returned to Medellin. According to testimonies from the faithful, the priest was known for his spirit of charity towards those most in need, for his sincerity, intelligence, and culture. Very well-esteemed by his faithful and brothers in the order, he was especially dedicated to promoting the participation of the laity and the youth in missionary activities.
On the night of August 16, several people came upon the lifeless body of Indian Carmelite priest, Fr. Thomas Pandippallyil, 38 anni, who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in a village. His body was found in Mosalikunta, on the road linking Lingampet to Yellareddy, in the Indian state of Andra Pradesh. A kilometer away, the moped that he used was also found. Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad has denied any activity of “proselytism and forced conversions,” given that there were only “five Catholic families” in the parish in which Fr. Thomas was killed. According to the Archbishop, the crime was the result of the climate of “jealousy towards the Catholic Church,” which is only guilty of having worked for the development of the poorest and most abandoned areas of the country, and committed to sustaining and helping those who are victims of violence and oppression. A native of Kerala, Diocese of Palai, Fr. Pandippallyil entered the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate in Chanda on June 24, 1987 and took his vows in 2002. For some time he served as Rector of the Provincial Institute and worked as an administrator in the hospital, school, and local missionary center.
The lifeless body of Fr. Nilson José Brasiliano, 44 years old, who was stabbed to death, was found on August 24, in the rural town of Tiete (in Parana, Brazil), along the side of the road, nearly 10 km from the larger city of Araucaria, hidden among straw and greenery. The police arrested four men, acquaintances of his, who according to an investigation had kidnapped him in ordered to force him to hand over his bank savings and later rob him and kill him.
Fr. John Mark Ikpiki, Nigerian, 43 years old, was killed on September 1, in Isiokolo (state of Delta, Nigeria), just a short distance from the local police station, by attackers who took over his vehicle, which was later found abandoned. The priest was very well-known as the author of catecheticalmaterial and formation texts, dedicated to giving spiritual retreats and having encounters for the youth. In the Diocese of Warri, he was the parish pastor of St. Ambrose, Diocesan Chaplain of the Catholic Dramatic Society and Diocesan Director of the Social Communications Office, which published the diocesan paper “The Messenger of Peace.” According to the testimonies of those who knew him, he was a charismatic priest who was very dedicated to his ministry.
Mexican priest Fr. Gerardo Manuel Miranda Avalos, 45 years old, was killed by a shot-wound to the chest in the afternoon of September 2, as he was entering the Institute “Fray Juan de San Miguel,” of which he was Director. The crime took place in the entrance of the educational facility located in downtown Los Reyes, in the Mexican state of Michoacan. The priest was shot from a moving vehicle. Offered assistance by personnel in the school and by several parents of students, he died in the hospital during the initial medical interventions. The priest was originally from Yurecuaro (Michoacan, Mexico), where he was born on December 22, 1961. He was ordained a priest in 1987, and was very loved and respected by the entire region for his dedication in the area of education.
The lifeless body of 60 year-old Catholic priest, Fr. Samuel Francis, and lay volunteer worker Mercy Bahadur were found on September 22 in the village of Chota Rampur, near Dehradun, in the Diocese of Meerut in the state of Uttarakhand (northern India). According to inquiries, the homicide occurred two days beforehand. Fr. Samuel Francis was also known as “Swami Astheya,” given the fact that he led the life of a hermit in an “ashram,” or typical Hindu monastery, adapted to the Christian tradition. The lay volunteer had been collaborating for over a year with the priest, welcoming all those who visited the ashram. According to a statement from the Indian Bishops’ Conference, the homicide does not seem to be part of an anti-Christian hate campaign launched by radical Hindu groups, but rather the result of a robbery attempt in the place where the priest was living, which has in fact been robbed.
The Christian ashram was a place where priests, religious, Church groups, and young people went for a day of retreat and meditation. It was a center of prayer and a place where the poor and needy could find comfort and assistance. It also became a reference point for the organization of encounters and interreligious events, especially between Christians and Hindus.
See Fides 23/9/2008
Fr. Bernard Digal, of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, in Orissa (India), was attacked on August 25 by Hindu fundamentalists, and died on October 28 in the hospital, due to severe head wounds. The 45 year-old priest was admitted to the hospital Chennai (in Tamil Nadu), to be treated with a delicate surgical operation on his head, however the rest of his body which was full of wounds and abrasions was unable to resist the intervention. “During his life, Fr. Bernard showed great determination and courage in bearing witness to Christ and dying for Him. He has died as a true Christian. Immediately following his attack, he forgave his enemies and persecutors,” said Fr. Mrutyunjay Digal, a priest from the same Archdiocese and Secretary of the local Archbishop Raphael Cheenath. Fr. Bernard is the first Catholic priest to die as a result of the campaign of anti-Christian violence. See Fides 29/10/2008
The lifeless and marked bodies of two Jesuit priests, Fr. Otto Messmer and Fr. Victor Betancourt, were found on the evening of October 28 in their rooms in Moscow, by another fellow Jesuit who was concerned because he had not heard word of them. The double murder took place on October 27, at different moments, with a difference of 15-17 hours between the death of the first Jesuit and that of the second. The Russian media has issued information saying that the arrested gunmen has confessed. It seems he is a psychologically disturbed person that had already been arrested on previous occasions by the police. Fr. Otto Messmer, a Russian citizen, was born on 14 July 1961 in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, in a profoundly Catholic family. Since October 13, 2002, he served as Superior of the Independent Region of Russia of the Society of Jesus. Fr. Victor Betancourt was born on 7 July 1966 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He undertook his Jesuit training in Argentina, Ecuador, Germany and Italy. Since 2001, he had formed a part of the Russian Region. He worked in vocational ministry and at the time of his death he was a theology professor in the St. Thomas Philosophical, Theological and Historical Institute in Moscow. See Fides 31/10/2008; 21/11/2008
Boduin Ntamenya, 52 years old, of Goma (North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo) was killed on December 15, 2008, while he was carrying out his work in a war zone, in the territory of Rutshuru. Boduin had worked for the Italian NGO, AVSI, for almost two years and he took care of emergency education. He was part of a team of teachers that support and assist teachers and students working and studying in areas of conflict. On the morning of December 15, Boduin left bound for Rutshuru with 57 year-old Ciza Deo Gratias, an AVSI driver since 2003. Both were very familiar with the area as they had been working for years, with courage, generosity, and zeal, to give hope to their country and their brethren, entering the hills and forests of the Congo in the areas where the guerrillas rule the land. The goal of the mission was to carefully register all the schools that had been opened following the most recent fighting between government troops and rebels. According to reports, it seems that at just kilometers from the destination, the car was attacked by four armed men who opened fire on the all-terrain vehicle. Deo Gratias was struck in the hand and the side, however, in spite of the wounds continued driving for another kilometer until the jeep, whose motor had suffered damages, broke down. Boduin, heavily struck by the gunfire, died before reaching the hospital. Boduin leaves behind his wife and 6 children.
TABLE FOR YEAR 2008
Killed in 2008
16 priests (9 diocesan, 2 SJ, 1 OMI, 1 SDB, 1 Carmelite, 1 MHM, 1 IMEY)
1 religious (SG)
2 lay volunteers
Countries of origin
Asia: 9 (5 India, 1 Iraq, 1 Sri Lanka, 1 Kazakhstan, 1 Philippines)
America: 6 (2 Mexico, 1 Colombia, 1 Venezuela, 1 Brazil, 1 Ecuador)
Africa: 3 ( Kenya, Nigeria, D.R. Congo)
Europa: 2 (England, France)
Places of death
Asia: 8 (4 India, 1 Philippines, 1 Iraq, 1 Sri Lanka, 1 Nepal)
America: 5 (2 Mexico, 1 Venezuela, 1 Colombia, 1 Brazil)
Africa: 5 (2 Kenya, 1 Guinea Conakry, 1 Nigeria, 1 D.R. Congo)
Europa: 2 (Russia)
(Agenzia Fides 30/12/2008)
Table of Pastoral Workers killed on mission between 1980 and 2008
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
Between 2001-2008 a total number of 193 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.
(Agenzia Fides 30/12/2008)