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Twenty “missionaries” killed in the world in 2020

The Vatican’s news agency has drawn up a list of pastoral workers, men and women they describe as “missionaries”, who were killed in the world during 2020.

By Vatican News staff writer

The annual list says that the 20 “missionaries” killed include 8 priests, 1 male religious, 3 nuns, 2 seminarians and 6 lay people.

Fides uses the term "missionary" for all the baptized, aware of what Pope Francis explains in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium: “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.”  In fact “Every Christian,” the Pope says, “is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries’, but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples’”.

The highest number of casualties this year were in the Americas, with 5 priests and 3 lay people killed.  Africa comes next with 3 nuns, 2 lay persons and a priest and a seminarian each.  In Asia, a priest, a seminarian and a lay person were killed, and in Europe, a priest and a male religious were murdered.

In the last 20 years, from 2000 to 2020, 535 pastoral workers have been killed in the world, including 5 Bishops.

“Witnesses” among their people

For some time now, Fides has been including in its annual list not only missionaries “ad gentes” in the strict sense, that is, those working in largely non-Christian mission territories, but tries to include all the baptized involved in the life of the Church.  Many of these pastoral workers died in a violent way, not explicitly “in hatred of the faith”, i.e. martyrdom.  Without using the term “martyrs” for them, Fides intends to imply the word’s etymological meaning of "witness". 

In this regard, the Vatican’s news agency notes that in 2020, many pastoral workers were killed during robbery or theft, sometimes with ferocity.  Some of them were kidnapped or were caught in crossfires or acts of violence.  They fell while carrying out their commitment in situations marked by economic and cultural poverty, moral and environmental degradation, where violence and oppression in total disregard for respect for life and every human right are a norm.  

In El Salvador, Father Ricardo Antonio Cortéz was killed by gunshots on the road on 7 August. In Brazil, Father Adriano da Silva Barros was kidnapped and his dead body was found on 14 October.

In Burkina Faso, a catechist was killed along with a group on 16 February, during an assault by jihadists on the village of Pansi.  In Gabon, Sister Lydie Oyanem Nzoughe was attacked and killed in March, in a home for abandoned elderly in Libreville where she was working. 

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, the dead body of seminarian Zhage Sil was found in a ditch in  Jayapura on 24  December.  

In Italy, Father Roberto Malgesini was murdered by a homeless man with mental problems in Como on 15 September.  The priest was working among the poor. 

The Vatican news agency notes that none of them was engaged in outstanding projects. They simply shared in their small way the life of most of the people entrusted to their care, bearing witness to Christian hope.

“Martyrs” of the pandemic

Fides also notes that hundreds of priests, religious, hospital chaplains, pastoral workers in the healthcare sector as well as bishops have died during the pandemic, carrying out their service.  They fell doing their utmost to help those afflicted by the virus in places of care, without cutting down on their ministry. 

Fides reports that priests and religious are the second largest group, after doctors, who fell to Covid-19 in Europe.  According to a partial report by the Council of Bishops' Conferences of Europe, from February end to September end, at least 400 priests have died in the continent.  Many of them were missionaries, who worn out by long years in mission lands amidst hardships and difficulties, have succumbed to the virus.  (Source: Fides)

30 December 2020, 16:27