|Fr Frans van der Lugt SJ Killed in Syria April 2014|
In the past decade (2004-2013), 230 pastoral workers, including 3 Bishops were killed worldwide.
The pastoral care workers who died violently in 2014 are: 17 priests, 1 religious man, 6 religious sisters, 1 seminarian, 1 lay person. In America: 14 pastoral care workers were killed (12 priests, one religious man, one seminarian); in Africa 7 pastoral care workers were killed (2 priests, 5 religious sisters); in Asia two pastoral care workers were killed (one priest, 1 religious sister); in Oceania two pastoral care workers were killed (1 priest, 1 lay person); a priest was killed in Europe.
We cannot but mention those who were killed not by the hand of a criminal but by the Ebola virus, which is claiming thousands of victims in West Africa, where the Catholic facilities, and not just healthcare, have been mobilized since the outbreak of the epidemic. Four confreres who belonged to the Religious Family of the Hospitaller Brothers (Hospitaller Order of St. John of God) died in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and a religious sister and thirteen employees of the hospitals in Monrovia and Lunsar died after having contracted the virus. "Our Confreres gave their lives for others, just like Christ, to the point of dying infected by this epidemic" wrote Friar Jesús Etayo, Prior General.
A similar fate befell the six Italian missionary Sisters of the Poor of Bergamo who died in Congo in 1995 after having contracted the Ebola virus in order not to leave the population without health care. In 2013 the beatification process of the six Italian missionaries was opened.
As it has been for some time, Fides’ list does not only include missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense, but all pastoral care workers who died violent deaths. We do not propose to use the term "martyrs", if not in its etymological meaning of "witnesses" since it is up to the Church to judge their possible merits and also because of the scarsity of available information in most cases, with regard to their life and even the circumstances of their death.
Once again the majority of the pastoral care workers in 2014 were killed in attempted robbery, and in some cases violently attacked, a sign of the climate of moral decline, economic and cultural poverty, which generates violence and disregard for human life. They all lived in these human and social contexts, carrying out the mission of proclaiming the Gospel message without making sensational acts, but by witnessing their faith in the humility of daily life.
Some were killed by the same people they helped, others opened the door to those who asked for aid and were attacked, others were killed during a robbery, but the reason why many other assaults and kidnappings ended tragically remain unclear.
In 2014 the murderers of the Bishop of La Rioja (Argentina), Mgr. Enrique Angelelli were sentenced, 38 years after the assassination of the Archbishop and where it was thought that he had died because of a car accident; also the instigators and perpetrators of the assassination of Mgr. Luigi Locati, Apostolic Vicar of Isiolo (Kenya), who was murdered in 2005, were sentenced; those responsible for the death of the Rector of the Seminary in Bangalore (India), Fr.Thomas, killed in 2013 were also arrested.
There is still much concern regarding the fate of other pastoral care workers kidnapped or have disappeared, of whom we have not had any news, such as the three Congolese Augustinian priests of the Assumption, kidnapped in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in October 2012, the Italian Jesuit Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, abducted in Syria in 2013, or Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar, who was kidnapped on June 2 in Herat, Afghanistan.
On May 24, the PIME missionary (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) Fr. Mario Vergara, and the lay catechist Isidore Ngei Ko Lat, killed in hatred of faith in Burma, in 1950, were beatified. "Their heroic fidelity to Christ can be encouragement and example to missionaries and especially to catechists who in mission lands carry out a valuable and irreplaceable apostolic work", said Pope Francis.
The provisional list compiled annually by Fides, must therefore be added to the long list of many of whom there may never be news, who in every corner of the world suffer and even pay with their lives for their faith in Christ.