Austrian Missionary Killed in South Africa

Leaves Legacy of Service Despite Health Problems

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MATATIELE, South Africa, JUNE 3, 2009 ( An Austrian missionary, Father Ernest Plöchl of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill, was murdered Saturday in his outpost of Mariazell, in the south of South Africa.

In a letter published on the congregation’s Web site, the provincial superior, Father Guy Cloutier, explained the circumstances of the tragedy.

The strangled priest’s body was found in his bathroom early Sunday morning by the cleaning lady.

It is speculated that thieves killed the missionary Saturday evening while trying to rob the money he usually had at the end of the month for paying workers at the mission.

However, Father Plöchl had distributed the wages in the morning, and had nothing to give the unknown assailants.

The house’s safe was open, but not forced, leading authorities to believe that he attempted to show the robbers that there was no money before they tied him to a towel rack and strangled him with a rope.

The missionary was born in 1931 and served as the boarding master of the Mariazell school since 1968. He continued to work even with heart problems, diabetes and impaired hearing.

A eulogy by Father Cloutier noted the faithfulness of the missionary who “went out of his way to get youngsters educated,” people who currently “are all over the country” making it “a better place.” The funeral will be on Friday morning.

South Africa has one of the highest crime rates worldwide, with an average of 50 people meeting violent deaths daily.

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