29 Catholic Missionaries Slain in 2003

But List Is Far From Complete, Says Fides

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- At least 29 Catholics were killed in 2003 while carrying out their missionary work, including lay people and an archbishop, says the Vatican missionary agency Fides.



The most recent deaths were those of German Father Anton Probst, a religious of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, killed on Dec. 24 in Akono, Cameroon, and Irish Archbishop Michael Courtney, apostolic nuncio in Burundi, victim of an ambush Monday.

There were four more missionaries killed in 2003 than in 2002, and four fewer than in 2001. Fides, the organ of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, explained that the list is incomplete, since it is only a fraction of the number of Catholics who died because of their faith.

The list includes the names of four lay people, 20 priests, one religious, and three seminarians.

Colombia, where six missionaries were killed, proved once again to be the most dangerous country to carry out missionary work. There were four other deaths in Latin America: two missionaries in El Salvador, one in Brazil, and one in Guatemala.

Seventeen died in Africa: six in Uganda, five in Congo, and one each in Cameroon, Burundi, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Somalia and Kenya.

Two died in Asia: one in India and another in Pakistan.

Here is the list published by Fides:

-- Father Dieudonné Mvuezolo-Tovo from Congo, coordinator for Catholic schools in Bas province, Congo, shot dead on March 11 by a man in military uniform on the Tshimpi Matadi Road.

-- Father Nelson Gómez Bejarano from Colombia, 52, parish priest of the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Armenia, Colombia. Killed on March 22 by robbers.

-- Father Martin Macharia Njoroge from Kenya, 34, died on April 11 in a hospital in Nairobi from injuries inflicted by robbers on the city outskirts. The robbers forced him to get out of his car and then fired several shots at him. They escaped with his car, which they abandoned a short distance away. He was in charge of St. Francis Xavier Parish at Parklands. A brother of his, also a priest, was killed in 2000.

-- Father Raphael Ngona from Congo was shot dead May 6 on the premises of Bunia diocesan offices where he was living temporarily, having been appointed parish priest at Drodro.

-- Three seminarians were kidnapped in Lachor, Uganda (in the Archdiocese of Gulu) during the night of May 10 and subsequently killed. Altogether, 41 boys were abducted by Lord's Resistance Army rebels. Some escaped, and the rest are believed to be still held by the rebels.

-- Father Aimé Njabu and Father Francois Xavier Mateso, from Congo, were found dead on May 10 in Nyakasanza parish, on the outskirts of Bunia. Father Njabu was slain with a machete and Father Mateso was shot dead in the parish compound. A number of parishioners were also found dead.

-- Father Jairo Garavito, 36, of Colombia, was killed May 15 by a group of delinquents who broke into the parish house at Yerbabuena di Chia, in the Cundinamarca region. He died of suffocation after being beaten, gagged and bound.

-- Franciscan Father Manus Campbell, of Ireland, was killed May 21 by robbers who broke into the parish in the outskirts of Durban, South Africa. A member of the Order of Friars Minor, he had been a missionary in South Africa for 45 years.

-- Ana Isabel Sánchez Torralba, 22, of Spain, was on her first mission abroad as a member of the Calasanziano Voluntary Missionary group, when she was killed in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea, on July 1 during a police raid.

-- Father George Ibrahim, 38, of Pakistan, was shot dead at dawn July 5 by armed men who broke into his parish dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima at Renala Khurd, in the Okara district.

-- Capuchin Father Taddeo Gabrieli, 73, of Italy, stabbed to death July 19 at Imperatriz, Brazil, by a person he was trying to assist. The person apparently was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The priest had devoted his life to evangelization.

-- Comboni Missionary Father Mario Mantovani, 84, of Italy, and Comboni Brother Godfrey Kiryowa, 29, of Uganda, were shot dead Aug. 14 on the road between Capeto and Kotido, Uganda, by cattle thieves. Father Mantovani had assisted lepers in Uganda for 45 years.

-- Father Alphonse Kavendiambuku of the Matadi Diocese, in Congo, killed Aug. 26 at Kavuaya, by five former military men who attacked the car in which the priest and another two passengers were traveling.

-- Father Lawrence Oyuru, parish priest at Ocero, in the Soroti Diocese in Uganda, was killed with 25 other people in an ambush staged by Lord's Resistance Army rebels on the Soroti-Manasale road on Sept. 1.

-- Father William de Jesús Ortez, 32, born in Jucuapa, El Salvador, was parish priest at the cathedral in the Santiago de Maria Diocese. He was shot dead inside the cathedral Oct. 5. The sacristan, Jaime Noel Quintanilla, 23, was also shot dead.

-- Annalena Tonelli, 63, of Italy, a voluntary medical worker, was shot dead Oct. 5 as she left the hospital she herself had opened and where she had cared for the local people for 33 years at Borama, Somalia.

-- Father Sanjeevananda Swami, 52, of India, died of wounds inflicted by aggressors in Belur Kolar district, in the Bangalore Diocese, on Oct. 7.

-- Father Saulo Carreño, 38, of Colombia, parish priest at Saravena, was shot dead in his car Nov. 3. Maritza Linares, a hospital worker traveling with him, was also killed, probably by outlaws fighting for control of this oil-rich area, near Sarare hospital on the Saravena-Fortul road.

-- Father Henry Humberto López Cruz, 44, a parish priest at Villavicencio, was stabbed to death in the parish house during the night of Nov. 3. His body, tied to a chair, was found the next day by a cleaning woman.

-- Father José Rubín Rodríguez, 51, of Colombia, parish priest at La Salina, Casanare, was kidnapped Nov. 14 and murdered in the rural area of Tame. His body was found Nov. 21.

-- Father José Maria Ruiz Furlan, 69, of Guatemala, shot dead Dec. 14 at his parish in a poor district of Guatemala City. He was known to be a passionate human rights activist who worked to improve the living conditions of the poor.

-- Father Anton Probst, 68, of Germany, a Claretian missionary, was killed after Christmas Eve Mass at a novitiate in Akono, Cameroon. He was returning to his room when he met with thieves who gagged and bound him and beat him to death.

-- Archbishop Michael Courtney, 58, of Ireland, apostolic nuncio in Burundi, was mortally wounded in his car during an ambush on Monday at Minago.