By Robin Gomes
During this year that is coming to an end, 23 pastoral workers of the Catholic Church were killed across the globe. They include 13 priests, a male and a female religious and 8 lay people. Fides, the news agency of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, that compiles the list every yearend, released the figures for 2017 on Thursday.
America tops the list
Fides noted that for the 8th consecutive year, the highest number of killings took place in the Americas, where 11 pastoral workers were killed (8 priests, 1 religious, 2 lay persons). Africa came next with 10 (4 priests, 1 religious, 5 lay people); and in Asia a priest and a lay person were killed. From 2000 to 2016, 424 pastoral workers were killed around the world, including 5 bishops.
Violent deaths amid disregard for human life
Fides clarified that its list does not concern missionaries “ad gentes” in the strict sense of the term, but includes all pastoral workers who were killed not explicitly "in hatred of the faith", i.e. as martyrs. The majority of pastoral workers were killed, sometimes violently, during attempted robbery, in situations of economic and cultural poverty, and moral and environmental degradation that generate violence and disregard human life.
Many remain unknown
Fides explained that those killed are just the “tip of the iceberg” of a long list of simple Catholics, who are assaulted, beaten, robbed or threatened. There are Catholic institutions and facilities in the service of entire populations that are targeted, vandalized or looted. The Vatican’s news agency said there are also many unknown Catholics in every corner of the world who never make news but “suffer and even pay with life for their faith in Christ”.
Please find below the complete list of pastoral workers killed in 2017:
In America, 8 priests, 1 religious brother, 2 lay people were killed.
In Mexico alone 4 priests were killed. Fr. Joaquin Hernandez Sifuentes disappeared on 3 January and his dead body was found a few days later. Fr. Felipe Carrillo Altamirano who was killed on 26 March was apparently a victim of robbery. Fr. Luis Lopez Villa was killed on 5 July by criminals who broke into his parish. Fr. José Miguel Machorro who was stabbed on 15 May at the end of a Mass, died in hospital on 3 August.
In Bolivia, Helena Agnieszka Kmiec, a young Polish volunteer of the Salvatorian Missionary Volunteers, was murdered on 24 January in Cochamamba in an attempted robbery.
In Venezuela, Franciscan Brother Diego Bedoya was found dead on 10 April following a robbery.
In Colombia Fr. Diomer Eliver Chavarría Pérez was killed on 27 July in his parish. Another priest, Fr. Abelardo Antonio Muñoz Sánchez was killed on 3 October, during an attempted theft.
In Brazil, Fr. Pedro Gomes Bezerra was found dead in the rectory on the morning of 24 August.
In Argentina Ricardo Luna, a layman, wiho looked after a parish, was killed on 23 August.
In Haiti Fr. Joseph Simoly was killed during an apparent robbery on 21 December.
In Africa, 4 priests, 1 religious sister, 5 lay people were killed.
In South Sudan, catechist Lino of Kajo-Keji was killed on 22 January in a chapel along with five others.
In Madagascar, Capuchin priest Fr. Lucien Njiva was killed by robbers on 23 April in Ambendrana Antsohihy.
In Burundi Fr. Adolphe Ntahondereye died on 11 May, two weeks after his release, due to stress he suffered during his abduction.
In Nigeria, Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo was kidnapped and killed in the state of Imo on 1 September. George Omondi was killed on 18 March in an attempt to stop thieves who had targeted the church under his charge. Elsewhere in Pulka, 3 lay catechists, Joseph, John and Patrick, were killed in an attack by the Boko Haram Islamist militia.
In Kenya Fr. Evans Juma Oduor was found unconscious on 22 October. He was taken to the hospital where he died. Sister Ruvadiki Plaxedes Kamundiya was raped and killed on October 22.
In Asia, a priest and a lay person were killed.
In the Philippines, Fr. Marcelito Paez, a social justice activist known for defending the rights of prisoners and the poor, was killed on December 4 by four gunmen. Elsewhere, lay catechist Domingo Edo was killed on 20 August, while he was going to lead a liturgy of the Word.