John Paul II Remembers Murdered Missionaries

Reminds Faithful of Their Responsibility to Evangelize

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2004 ( On the occasion of World Mission Sunday John Paul II expressed his gratitude for the testimony of martyred missionaries and reminded the faithful of their evangelical responsibility.

On this day, «dedicated to prayer and concrete support for the missions,» the Holy Father prayed for new missionary vocations during his Angelus address at midday in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

«[A]ll believers are invited to revive their own responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples,» the Pope said, adding his encouragement to «the diocesan and parish initiatives directed to this objective.»

In his brief address he expressed his «profound gratitude to all men and women missionaries, committed on the frontiers of evangelization. I assure them of a special remembrance in prayer.»

«I remember in particular all those who crowned their testimony of Christ and service to man with the sacrifice of their lives,» he continued.

John Paul II concluded with the prayer that Mary will intercede to grant “obtain everywhere in the Church the gift of numerous vocations to the missionary life.”

In the year 2003, 35 missionaries were killed, according to the Fides News Service of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Among the victims was Irish Archbishop Michael Courtney, 58, apostolic nuncio in Burundi, who was killed on Dec. 29 for his commitment to reconciliation in that African country, lacerated by an internal war.

Last year alone 20 priests, three men religious, two women religious, three seminarians, one catechist, three lay volunteers and two lay people involved in missionary activities were killed.

The most dangerous continent for missionaries is Africa with 22 of the martyrdoms having taken place there, including eight in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and six in Uganda.

Colombia also ranks high on the list with the martyrdoms of six missionaries having taken place there in 2003.

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