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Catholic World News News Feature

26 Catholic missionaries killed in 2005 December 30, 2005

Twenty-six Catholic priests, religious, and lay catechists were killed while serving the Church in the year 2005, according to year-end statistics furnished by the Congregation for Evangelization.

Each year the Fides news agency, an arm of the Vatican Congregation, publishes a list of the year's "martyrs for the faith." In 2004, there were 16 people on the list; for 2005 the list in nearly twice as long. In previous years Fides had listed 30 slain evangelists in 2000, 33 in 2001, 25 in 2002, and 29 in 2003.

In this year's list Fides includes 1 bishop, 20 priests, 2 nuns, 2 monks, and 1 lay catechist.

The annual list compiled by Fides includes only Church personnel, and thus does not necessarily account for all lay Catholics who die for the faith. The list includes missionaries who knowingly accepted the risks of serving in areas where violence can occur, even if their deaths might be attributed to accidents or ordinary crimes such as robbery.

The Americas saw the greatest bloodshed among Catholic missionaries in 2005. (The Vatican treats North and South America as a single continent.) There were 8 priests, 2 nuns, and 2 monks killed in Latin America. Colombia, where 4 priests and 1 nun died violently, was the single bloodiest country. But Church personnel also died in Mexico, Brazil, and Jamaica.

Africa also saw considerable violence against Catholic evangelists, with 1 bishop, 6 priests, and 1 lay evangelist dying, in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, and Nigeria.

In Asia there were 3 priests killed in India, and 1 in Indonesia.

Nor was Europe spared: 1 priest was killed in Brussels, and 1 in Moscow. The Americas also furnished the greatest number of "martyrs for the faith" on the Fides list, with 10. Colombia and India each saw 5 natives killed.

The complete list includes:

  1. Father Thomas Richard Heath, an American Dominican priest, killed by gunmen during a robbery in Kisumu, Kenya on January 13.
  2. Father Thomas Harsidiyono, killed in another apparent robbery attempt in Java, Indonesia, on January 14.
  3. Father Jan Hermanovsky, a Slovakian priest serving in Russia, killed by intruders at his parish in Brjansk on January 20.
  4. Father Manuel Delgado, a Franciscan priest, whose badly beaten body was found outside Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, on February 6.
  5. Sister Dorothy Stang, and American sister of Notre Dame and naturalized Brazilian citizen, was killed at Anapu, Brazil, on February 12. An outspoken defender of indigenous tribes, she had received several death threats before her assassination.
  6. Father Mathew Uzhuthal, an Indian priest, died on May 1 as the result of multiple stabbing wounds he had received 19 days earlier when he was assailed by a young man with a long criminal record at his rectory in Patna, India.
  7. Father Rene de Haes, a Belgian Jesuit priest who had served in Africa since 1959, was killed by gunfire as he drove north of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on May 7.
  8. Father Robert De Leener, a Belgian priest, was killed on June 5 by a homeless man whom he had invited into his rectory in Brussels.
  9. Bishop Luigi Locati, an Italian native who was preparing to retire after 40 years in the missions, was killed on July 14 near the office where he worked as apostolic vicar of the Isiolo diocese. The bishop had received death threats after taking disciplinary action against his own diocesan priests; a priest was arrested for the killing.
  10. Msgr. Luis Enrique Rojas, died on July 21, three weeks after being fatally wounded by robbers at the cathedral rectory in Barranquila, Colombia. Msgr. Rojas had survived another assault in December 2004.
  11. Father Paulo Henrique Machado, a Brazilian priest, was killed by unknown assailants near Rio de Janeiro on July 25. Although money and a wristwatch were taken from his body, police believe that the killing was prompted by his active denunciation of human-rights abuses and drug trafficking.
  12. Father Godwin Okwesili, a Nigerian priest, was killed by intruders at his parish in Lago on August 2.
  13. Father Vicente Rozo Bavona, a Colombian priest, was killed along with Father Jesus Emilio Mora on August 15, when rebel guerrillas ambushed the car in which they were driving to celebrate Mass.
  14. Father Jesus Emilio Mora, a Colombian priest, died witih Father Bavona (above) on August 15.
  15. Father Jesus Adrian Sanchez, also a Colombian priest, was killed on August 18 by a rebel guerrilla who burst into a classroom where he was teaching religious education, in the Chaparral region.
  16. Father Francois Djikulo, was killed sometime in August by rebels in Mutendele, in the Democratic Republic, as he attempted a personal peace initiative. He died alongside his lay associate, Simon Kayimbi, apparently after brutal treatment.
  17. Simon Kayimbi, a Congolese lay catechist, died with Father Dikulo (above) in August.
  18. Father Mathew Nellickal, an Indian priest and vicar general of the Tezpur diocese, was found dead at his home on September 3. He had been severely beaten--according to police, by a priest who was refused an assignment in the diocese.
  19. Father Giuseppe Bessone, an Italian missionary priest, was killed by a young robber at his parish in Blumenau, Brazil, on September 2.
  20. Father Angelo Redaelli, an Italian Franciscan priest serving in Africa, was killed by a mob in Owando, in Congo-Brazzaville, on September 12.
  21. Father Ignazio Bara, an Indian priest, was killed on September 12 when he tried to intervene during an attack by Hindu fundamentalists on Christian villagers in Simdega, India.
  22. Father Luis Velasquez Romero, a Mexican priest, was killed by gunmen in Tijuana on October 25. The killers are believed to have been involved in drug trafficking.
  23. Sister Suresh Barwa, an Indian nun of the Miissionaries of the Poor, was killed alongside Brother Marco Candelario Lasbuna in Kingston, Jamaica, on October 27.
  24. Marco Candelario Lasbuna, a native of the Philippines who was also a member of the Missionaries of Charity, died with Sister Barwa (above) on October 27. The two were killed by a single bullet, shot by an unknown attacker, as they worked in the kitchen of a community residence.
  25. Sister Margarita Vásquez Sandino, a Colombian nun, was killed on November 11 in Medellin as she was traveling to visit a sick relative. The motive was believed to be robbery.
  26. Father Philip Valayam, a Salesian priest from India, was killed by intruders in the rectory of the parish where he was serving in Nairobi, Kenya, when he returned home after celebrating midnight Mass for Christmas.
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