Missionaries' Deaths Stun Jamaica

Founder of Congregation Expresses Grief

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, NOV. 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The founder and leader of the Missionaries of the Poor says he «grieves from the depth of my soul» after the shooting deaths of two religious in Jamaica.

This island nation’s Catholic community was stunned by the Oct. 27 deaths of Brother Marco Laspuna, 22, and Brother Suresh Barwa, 31, in the capital, Kingston.

In a report sent through Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Richard Ho Lung, the founder of the congregation, wrote: «I grieve as a father for his children, and for all my spiritual sons who are with us in Jamaica, saddened by the death of their brothers.»

He said that the Missionaries of the Poor would continue with their work, providing help for HIV/AIDS sufferers and shelter for the homeless.

«On the morning after the deaths,» wrote Father Ho, «I went to all our centers — Faith Center, The Lord’s Place, Bethlehem Home, Good Shepherd and Jacob’s Well — where we cater for 500 Jamaicans … I watched them smiling and gently greeting me.»

Mystery surrounds the shooting deaths. Father Ho said that Catholics are hated in some areas of the island.

«Was it an accident?» he asked. «We do not know — the detectives are carefully attending to all options.»

Breakdown of law

But Father Ho, whose work has received ACN funding, linked the killings to concerns over a breakdown of law and order in the West Indies nation.

«As a father of my brothers and the poor, I beg that we pray in this nation for a halt to this violence,» the 66-year-old priest said.

He described how people in Kingston had been riveted by the vast media coverage of the killings. «Hundreds — and even hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans — have poured out their hearts in the streets,» the priest wrote.

Born in Jamaica of Chinese parents, Richard Ho Lung converted from Buddhism to the Catholic Church. He was ordained a priest in 1971 and founding the congregation, whose initials are M.O.P., in 1981.

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