|Christians praying at Mass in Gaza|
According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, in 2016 14 priests, 9 religious women, one seminarian, 4 lay people died violently. In America 12 pastoral care workers were killed (9 priests and 3 religious sisters); in Africa 8 pastoral care workers were killed (3 priests, 2 nuns, one seminarian, 2 lay people); in Asia 7 pastoral care workers were killed (1 priest, 4 nuns, 2 lay people); in Europe one priest was killed.
Once again the majority of the pastoral care workers in 2016 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.
In these situations, the priests, religious sisters and lay people who were killed, were among those who loudly denounced injustice, corruption, poverty, in the name of the Gospel. Fr. José Luis Sánchez Ruiz, of the Diocese of San Andres Tuxtla (Veracruz, Mexico) was one of the victims who was kidnapped and then released with "obvious signs of torture", according to a statement from the diocese. In the days before the kidnapping he had received threats, surely for his harsh criticism against corruption and rampant crime (see Fides 14/11/2016). As Pope Francis recalled on the feast of the protomartyr St. Stephen, "the world hates Christians for the same reason it hated Jesus because He brought the light of God and the world prefers the darkness to hide its wicked works". (Angelus 26/12/2016).
They all lived in these human and social contexts, administering the sacraments, helping the poor, taking care of orphans and drug addicts, following development projects or simply opening the door of their home to anyone. And some were murdered by the same people who they helped. Hardly any investigations conducted by the local authorities lead to identifying the perpetrators and the instigators of these killings or the reasons why they were carried out.
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.
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 scarcity of available information in most cases, with regard to their life and even the circumstances of their death.
The provisional list compiled annually by Agenzia 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. Pope Francis often reminds us that "Today there are Christians who are murdered, tortured, imprisoned, slaughtered because they do not deny Jesus Christ" ... "the martyrs of today are more numerous than those of the first centuries". (SL) (Agenzia Fides 30/12/2016)
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