VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The list of missionaries killed on active duty in 2008 includes an archbishop, several priests, religious and laypeople, reported the Vatican’s Fides agency.
This list, compiled by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, includes the names of missionaries as well as all pastoral workers who died violent deaths, sacrificing their lives as a result of hatred of the faith or other reasons. The list avoids using the term “martyrs,” leaving this judgment of merit to the Church.
Nonetheless, Fides affirmed the need to recall and pray for the deceased who, “without any false heroism or solemn proclamations, […] were not afraid to risk their own lives on a daily basis, often in situations of suffering, poverty and tensions, so as to offer all those around them the vital force of Christian hope.”
Asia was the continent that saw the greatest number of violent deaths in 2008, including Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, who was killed in Iraq. As well, three priests and one layperson lost their lives in India, and one priest was murdered per country in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Nepal.
Five priests were killed on the continent of America: two in Mexico, one in Venezuela, one in Columbia and one in Brazil.
Africa lost five missionaries to violent deaths, including two priests in Kenya, one religious brother in Guinea Conakry, one priest in Nigeria and a layperson in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Two Jesuit priests lost their lives in Russia.
The number of slain missionaries decreased from the 21 violent deaths recorded in 2007. Though, the report clarified that this list is provisional, and does not include the long list of those whom Pope John Paul II called “unknown soldiers, as it were, of God’s great cause.”
Referring to the significance of the 2008-2009 Pauline Year for every missionary, Fides affirmed that “The same love that led Paul to endure so many circumstances that only as a euphemism could we describe as ‘uncomfortable’ […] 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.”