21 Died Violently for the Gospel in ’07

Group Includes 15 Priests

ROME, JAN. 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Twenty-one people involved in ministry suffered violent deaths in 2007, including a priest and three deacons in Iraq.

The Fides news agency, of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, released the list of names of the dead today. The group includes mostly priests and deacons. One seminarian, one brother and one woman religious are also included.

“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, aware of the risk they were taking by preferring to remain at their posts, rather than give up their commitment to Christian witness and charity,” the news agency clarified.

2007’s statistics show three fewer deaths than in 2006 and four less than two years ago.

Last year’s list of 21 pastoral workers includes 15 priests. Father Ragheed Ganni and the three deacons killed with him in Iraq in June are four of the eight pastoral workers who died in Asia.

The woman religious, Sister Anne Thole of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family, perished when a hospital for AIDS patients caught fire in South Africa. The 35-year-old nun had already helped bring five patients to safety. She returned to the flames for three more, but the roof collapsed before she and the patients could escape.

The complete list and the circumstances of the ministers’ deaths, as far as they are known, can be found at www.fides.org.