VATICAN CITY, MAR. 25, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II publicly praised the work of missionaries who serve the weakest people, sometimes at the risk of their own lives, as witnessed by the violent deaths of men and women religious in recent years.
The Pope mentioned the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Martyred Missionaries, which for the past decade has been held on March 24.
“This initiative, promoted by the Youth Movement of the Pontifical Missionary Works, invites the ecclesial community to remember the men and women who died out of fidelity to Christ and the Gospel,” he said after the noon Angelus today.
To the already numerous array of murdered missionaries, the Bishop of Rome said “29 names were added in the year 2000. … May their sacrifice, united to Christ´s, be a leaven of love, justice and peace so that the Kingdom of God will grow in history.”
The Holy Father´s statements were made at the end of a week in which the media have reported cases of sexual abuse by priests and missionaries against nuns in mission territories. The Vatican has denounced the incidents, which it has been investigating.
It also defends the commitment and credibility of the countless missionaries who work among the poor and persecuted, at times to the point of spilling their own blood.
The day for martyred missionaries is held March 24 in remembrance of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador, killed in 1980 while celebrating Mass.
The Vatican missionary agency Fides reports that over the past 11 years, 603 missionaries have been killed. This year at least three religious have been killed: two in India and one in Brazil.