In 2006, 24 priests, religious and lay workers are known to have been killed in the course of their missionary work. This is one less than last year. Fides News Service has sent us their stories below.
From the article
We avoid using the term ‘martyr’ leaving this for an eventual official judgement on the part of the Church and also because of the scarcity of information on the respective lives and circumstances of death. However we ask you to pray for them and to remember their sacrifice, known to God, for all they did to foster the growth of the Church all over the world at the service of human promotion and evangelisation.
Their names and short bios:
Fr Elie Koma, Society of Jesus (SJ), a Burundian aged 59, killed in the capital Bujumbura, in the evening of Saturday 4 February. The priest was shot dead while driving in his car in central Bujumbura, after a group of armed men opened fire on Major Ruguraguza of the Burundian army and his wife. It appears that Fr Koma was eliminated because he was a potential witness of the crime. The bandits shot the tires of his car and then shot him five times in the back. Fr Koma was held in high esteem by all and he was very active in pastoral care and as a spiritual director and retreat master for women religious and members of Marian movements. He was ordained in 1980, and for the past 3 years in charge of the Jesuit church in Kamengem one of Bujumbura's poorest districts.
Fr Andrea Santoro, Fidei Revum priest from the diocese of Rome, killed in Trabzon, Turkey on 5 February while praying after Mass in Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Kilisesi. Rev Santoro was born in Priverno, 7 September 1945 and ordained on 18 October 1970. After serving in various parishes in Rome in 2000 he went to Turkey to serve as a Fidei Revum missionary, in Trabzon, on the coast of the Black Sea, where he was entrusted with St Mary's Catholic Church, Kilisesi. In 2003 he started an association "Finestra per il Medio Oriente": a group for study, prayer and dialogue between the western world and the Middle East. Rev Andrea was killed only days after returning to Turkey having made his usual annual week's visit to Italy to lead days of study and prayer.
Fr José Alfonso Moreira, a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), of Portuguese nationality, killed on 9 February at his home in Bailundo, Angola. The 80 year old missionary, (40 years spent on mission in Bailundo), died of seven gun wounds shot at close range. The missionary had just gone to bed when about 15 armed men broke into his room and shot him dead without even giving him time to get out of bed and then sacked the modest dwelling. Fr. Moreira was loved by all for his witness of service and love for mission even in times of difficulty. During the long years of civil war 1975-2002. Bailundo was occupied by the UNITA rebel forces (National Union for Total Independence of Angola) and then by the regular army. Fr Moreira always remained neutral, refusing any comprise so he could continue to announce the Gospel and serve others in the freedom of the children of God.
Fr Michael Gajere, Nigerian priest, killed by a gang of armed men in Maiduguri, capital of the Nigerian state of Borno, on 18 February, during violence which erupted following a peaceful demonstration. At least 15 people were killed in the violence, four Catholic churches were torched, the Bishops' residence, homes and structures belonging to other Christian denominations. Only last month the priest, ordained 14 years ago, had been appointed parish priest at Santa Rita parish in the Bulunkutu district of Maiduguri. Before being shot Fr Michael helped the leaders of the parish youth group to reach safety.
Sr Maria Yermine Yamlean, aged 33, a member of the congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred (DNDSC), born in Arui Das-Ambon (InRevesia) and living at a convent in Jalan Pattimura, Ambon, capital of the Moluccas Islands, was killed on 10 March 2006. The nun caught an intruder in the convent who reacted violently stabbing her with a knife. When the other Sisters found her she was in a serious condition. She was rushed to hospital where she died.
Sr Yermine was very active in pastoral care and the local Catholic Charismatic Renewal group, she was a member of the Provincial Council of her Congregation, Vice superior of the DNDSC Community in Ambon and guide for the formation of aspirants.
Fr Eusebio Ferrao, aged 61, parish priest at St Francis, Macasana, southern Goa, India, killed during the night of 17 March. When the priest failed to appear for morning Mass, a few of the parishioners went to look for him and found him dead in his room, apparently suffocated with a pillow. According to the people Fr Ferrao was a man of peace and had no enemies. He was a member of the diocesan Commission for liturgy and served his parish community of about 3,200 faithful with zeal and humility.
Mgr Bruno Baldacci, Fidei Revum priest from the diocese of La Spezia Italy, aged 63, was found dead on 30 March in his room at the parish of Nossa Senhora das Candeias where he served as parish priest, at Vitória da Conquista, Bahia State, Brazil. His secretary and housekeeper found him on his bed with evident signs of beating and the room was in a shambles. Mgr Baldacci spent 42 years on mission in Brazil, where he came following a missionary bishop and where he was ordained in 1968. In recent years he dedicated himself to caring for the poor and rehabilitating young drug addicts.
Fr Luis Montenegro, aged 77, more than 30 years as parish priest at Nuestra Senora del Rosario a La Calera, near Cordoba, Argentina, found dead early on 12 April. He had been stabbed to death in his sleep. Police charged and arrested a young man a previous offender.
Sr Karen Klimczak, 62, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph (SSJ), was killed Buffalo, state of New York (USA), on Good Friday, 14 April . The nun had dedicated her life to helping the poor. Sr Klimczak was a member of the staff at Bissonette House for the rehabilitation of former prisoners. One of the inmates wanted to rob her and killed her and hid her body in an empty house a few miles from Bissonette House, where it was found on Easter Sunday. Sister Klimczak was known in Buffalo for her work to help the poor and promote peace.
Rev Galgalo Boru, A Kenyan priest from the parish of Bulesa, apostolic Vicariate of Isolo, Kenya, killed in the month of April in Lososia, Samburu district by bandits who attacked his car opening fire on both sides of the road. A passenger in the car was also killed.
Rev Jorge Piñango Mascareño, under secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Venezuela, è found dead on Monday 24 April in Caracas. A Conference statement said: "The human and priestly life of Fr Piñango was marked by over 20 years of priestly ministry, a spirit of the Beatitudes and a clear vocation to serve. The competent authorities will investigate the cause of his death which happened under strange circumstances. For our part we are ready to cooperate if necessary and to guarantee that truth and justice are respected". Fr Jorge Pining Macarena was born in 1959 in Barquisimeto and ordained a priest on 10 August 1985. He studied for the priesthood at the Javeriana University Colombia and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He had been a docent at a number of universities and Seminaries. He was appointed under secretary of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference in 2002.
Rev Josè Carlos Cearense, Brazilian diocesan priest aged 44, was found dead on 9 May in his room in the parish house next to Santa Maria dos Anjos church in Delta, Minas Gerais state, Brazil where he was parish priest. The priest had died of stab wounds and his hands were tied behind his back. His body was discovered by the cleaning woman. The murder reportedly took place around 10pm on 8 May. Some days later the police arrested a man on charges of several murders in late April and early May.
Rev Jude Kimeli Kibor, Kenyan priest aged 57, activity, prison pastoral care. He was found dead on 11 May near Eldoret, probably killed by thieves while on his way to say Mass. The priest's car was found ten kilometres away from his body and his briefcase was missing. Fr Kibor studied in Springfield (USA) while ministering in various parishes. Aware of the risks and dangers, he had returned to Kenya to help his own people.
Friar Luis Alfonso Herrera Moreno, Franciscan (OFM) Colombian aged 46, stoned to death in a place called Bonda, Colombia. Friar Moreno was bursar at San Luis Beltran College, run by the Franciscan community of Santa Marta. On 28 June he went by car to do some errands. The next day he was found dead. The police suspect he was killed by robbers.
Rev John Mutiso Kivaya, 35, Kenyan priest assistant at Masinga Catholic parish, Kenya, was murdered at Tala, diocese of Machakos, during the night of 31 July by bandits who assaulted a restaurant where Fr Kivaya and two other priests were eating a meal. The priest was in his home two Tala to visit his family. The banditstook money and mobile telephones before killing the priest and two other persons and wounding three.
Rev Chidi Okorie, a Nigerian priest aged 31, killed during the night of 4 August in his room at the priests house adjacent to St Mary's Catholic parish church at Afikpo, Ebonyi State, Nigeria. The priest, stabbed by the aggressors, probably robbers since money and other objects were taken, died of his wounds in hospital. Father Okorie had only been a priest for two years, having been ordained in 2004.
Brother Augustine Taiwa, aged 40, a member of the St John of God Brothers Hospitaller Brothers, was murdered in the evening of Monday 28 August, near Port Moresby. capital Papua New Guinea. He was attacked near the Xavier Institute at Bomana, where he had been attached as co-ordinator for pastoral courses at the institute for the past three years. Brother Taiwa, originally from New East Britain was known and loved by the local people and was probably driving at low speed to avoid the many street vendors. Three apparently drunken youths were throwing stones and other objects at passing cars and one threw a spear at Brother Taiwa's car. The spear went through the head of the Religious killing him instantly. The police intervened immediately rushing the Brother to hospital, but all the doctors there could do was to confirm his death.
Sr Leonella Sgorbati, Italian Consolata Missionary aged 66, murdered on 17 September in Mogadishu, Somalia, by two gunmen hidden behind a car waiting for her as she made her way to the hospital where she worked. Sr Sgorbati first went on mission to Kenya where she served between 1970 and 1983 at three Consolata Hospitals in Mathari, Nyeri and Nazareth outer districts of Nairobi. In 1985 she became head teacher at the nursing school at Consolata Hospital in Meru, Nkubu. On 26 November 1993 she was elected regional superior of the Consolata Missionary Sisters in Kenya, a position which she held for 6 years. In 2001 Sr Leonella spent several months in Mogadishu in view of opening a School for Nurses at a local hospital run by an NGO. The first course started on 18 April 2002 and the first nurses received their diplomas in 2006. In August after struggling with endless red tape, Sr Lonella succeeded in obtaining World Health Organisation recognition for her courses and new nurses.
Rev Ricardo Antonio Romero, aged 53, Salvadorian, beaten and stoned to death and abandoned in the early hours of 25 September on the road which goes from Acajutia to Sonsonate, El Salvador. The priest's lifeless body was found close to his jeep. The police suspect one of the many youth gangs in the area. Rev Romero, parish priest at Santa Catalina Masthead, diocese of Consonant, was known for his tireless work to evangelise and to assist the poor.
Rev Pascal Kane Noonan, aged 51, of the diocese of Callao, Peru, was killed on 31 October at Divo, Cote d'Ivoire, where he had been on mission since 2003. He was attacked by robbers at Holy Family Parish, Divo. The priest was about to go to bed when he heard some noise in the living room and went to investigate. He found himself face to face with the thieves who did not hesitate to open fire. Taken by his confreres to hospital, the priest died of his wounds. Born in Bouake Cote d'Ivoire to Animist parents, at the age of twelve he asked to be baptised. At 25 he joined the New Catechumen Way and discovered his calling to the priesthood. In 1990, he was sent to Peru to study for the priesthood at Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Callao. In 1999 he was ordained for the diocese of Callao and served in various parishes distinguishing himself for his generous spirit of service. In 2003, at the request of the Bishop of Gagnoa, Rev Pascal was sent to minister at Holy Family parish Divo, in Cote d'Ivoire. He was esteemed by all for his simple manner and commitment for human promotion. He spent much time helping school drop outs to specialise in a trade and find a job.
Fr Waldyr dos Santos, Brazilian Jesuit, aged 69, lay volunteer Ms Idalina Neto Gomes, aged 30, were killed and other persons were wounded in an attack on Angone Residence in Tete Province in Mozambique on Monday 6 November. The bandits escaped with the community vehicle. Idalina Neto Gomes a lawyer and a member of the Portuguese association Laity for Development, was staying other members of the Association at the Jesuit community. Tete province which borders with Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a zone of bandits and attacks on Catholic missions and religious community houses are frequent. The Jesuits have a long history of service in this area in the fields of evangelisation, education, healthcare and development programmes.
Jacob Fernandez, a lay Catholic, who worked in a Religious Bookshop at the Shrine of Mount St Thomas in Chennai, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu was murdered last November 26. He was attacked and killed for no reason in front of a crowd of terrified eyewitnesses present in the bookshop. Reportedly the assailant, in a state of violent excitement, demanded to see the parish priest and loudly claimed the Shrine area as Hindu property. The police said the suspect arrested was "mentally instable", but local Catholics know the man as a fanatical extremist in contact with anti-social groups. Mr Fernandez was known as a devout Catholic who attended daily Mass at the Shrine and lived his life as a mission.
Johnny Morales, aged 34, Salesian Cooperator in Guatemala was killed on 8 December in an ambush. The vehicle in which he was travelling was sprayed with bullets and Mr Morales dies instantly. Johnny Morales and his wife, also a Salesian Cooperator, helped at the Fr Sergio Checchi Salesian Centre. They had been married for a year. Mr Morales was employed by the local Tax office and two days earlier had accepted to work at the Tecún Umám border with Mexico where there is a problem of drug trafficking and smuggling . It seems the man was killed because of his honesty. He refused to be involved in illegal activity and was a fervent upholder of honesty and justice.
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy servants departed full remission of all their sins, that through our devout prayers, they may obtain the pardon, which they have always desired. Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.
v. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
r. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
v. May they rest in peace.