Vatican City (Fides Service) - According to information collected by Fides up to 20 March 2004, during 2003 no less than 35 members of the Church priests, religious, lay people and one Archbishop, lost their lives while proclaiming the Gospel. As for previous years we count not only missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense of the term, but all members of church personnel who chose to risk their lives rather than give up their mission and apostolate: they are “martyrs of charity” as Pope John Paul II fondly calls them. Some were found hours or days after their death, some massacred with other people accidentally at the site or who had sought refuge in parishes or who were co-workers in pastoral activity; many were victims - it would appear - of theft and robberies in particularly violent social contexts or situations of dire poverty.
Rev. Dieudonné Mvuezolo-Tovo from the Democratic Republic Congo, co-ordinator for Catholic Schools in Bas Province D. Congo, shot dead on 11 March 2003 by a man in military uniform on the Tshimpi Matadi road.
Rev. Nelson Gómez Bejarano from Colombia, aged 52 parish priest of the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Armenia (Colombia). Killed on 22 March 2003 by robbers.
Brother Clement Igwilo, Nigerian Trappist monk murdered by robbers on 25 March while travelling on a bus back to his monastery of Our Lady of Mount Calvary, in Awhum (Enugu-Nigeria).
Rev. Martin Macharia Njoroge from Kenya, aged 34, died on 11 April 2003 in hospital in Nairobi (Kenya) from injuries inflicted by robbers in the city outskirts. The robbers forced him to get out of his car then fired several shots at him escaping with his car which they abandoned a short distance away. Ordained a priest 4 years ago, he was in charge of St Francis Xavier Parish at Parklands. A brother of Father Martin, also a priest, was killed in 2000.
Rev. Raphael Ngona from Democratic Republic of Congo, shot dead on 6 May 2003 on the premises of Bunia diocesan offices where he was temporarily having been appointed parish priest at Drodro.
Three Seminarians Minor kidnapped in Lachor (Archdiocese of Gulu, Uganda) during the night of 10 May. LRA rebels abducted all together 41 boys: three were confirmed dead, others escaped and the rest are believed to be still in the hands of the rebels.
Rev. Aimé Njabu and Rev. Francois Xavier Mateso from D. Congo found dead on 10 May 2003 in Nyakasanza parish, on the outskirts of Bunia. Rev. Njabu was slain with a machete and Rev. Mateso was shot dead in the parish compound. On the same occasion a number of parishioners were also found dead.
Sister Lorek Czeslawa from Poland, a Sister of the Sacred Heart, aged 65, 19 years on mission in Democratic Congo, where she was died on 21 May 2003, in Kinshasa of wounds inflicted by thieves whom she found inside the church.
Rev. Jairo Garavito from Colombia, aged 36, killed on 15 May 2003 by a group of delinquents who broke into the parish house at Yerbabuena di Chia (Cundinamarca region, Colombia) to steal. He died of suffocation after being beaten, gagged and bound by his killers.
Father Manus Campbell OFM from Ireland killed 21 May 2003 by robbers who broke into the parish in the outskirts of Durban (South Africa). He had been a missionary in South Africa for 45 years.
Ana Isabel Sánchez Torralba aged 22 from Spain on her first mission abroad as a member of the Calasanziano Voluntary Missionary group, killed in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea on 1 July 2003 during a police raid.
Rev. George Ibrahim from Pakistan, aged 38, shot dead at dawn 5 July 2003 by armed men who broke into in his parish dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima at Renala Khurd, Okara district (Pakistan).
Father Taddeo Gabrieli OFM Capuchin, aged 73 from Italy stabbed to death on 19 July 2003 at Imperatriz (Maranhao state, Brazil) by a person he was trying to assist, apparently under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He devoted his entire life to evangelisation.
Sister Mathilde, Congolese Sister of the Servants of Jesus, killed on 9 August 2003 in the village of Fataki, in Democratic Congo, during an attack by Lendu militiamen who sacked the convent and church.
Marko Makuec Shir a lay man, catechist in Kutum Sudan since 1998. Married and father of three children he was killed on 12 August 2003 while going to hospital to visit a friend injured in the fighting when rebels took the city.
Father Mario Mantovani Comboni Missionary, aged 84, from Italy, who had assisted lepers in Uganda for 45 years and Comboni Brother Godfrey Kiryowa from Uganda, aged 29: both men were shot dead on 14 August 2003 on the road between Capeto and Kotido (Uganda) by cattle thieves.
Rev Justin Mandro Kapanga, aged 30, diocesan priest in Democratic Congo, assistant at Fataki parish, killed on 25 August by Lendu militiamen.
Rev. Alphonse Kavendiambuku of the Democratic Republic del Congo (Matadi diocese), killed on 26 August at Kavuaya, Bas Congo province, by five former military who attacked the car in which the priest and another two passengers, one injured the other unhurt, were travelling.
Joe Castillo Venezuelan lay missionary, shot dead on 27 August 2003 while travelling by car to Tinaquillo, Machiques-Venezuela; his wife and little boy were unhurt.
Rev. Lawrence Oyuru parish priest at Ocero, Soroti diocese in Uganda, killed with 25 other people in an ambush staged by LRA rebels on the Soroti - Manasale road on 1 September 2003.
Rev. William De Jesus Ortez aged 32, born in Jucuapa (El Salvador) parish priest at the cathedral in Santiago de Maria diocese (El Salvador), shot dead inside the cathedral in the afternoon of 5 October 2003. The sacristan Jaime Noel Quintanilla aged 23, was also shot dead.
Annalena Tonelli aged 63, from Italy, a voluntary medical worker, shot dead on 5 October as she left the hospital she herself had opened and where she had cared for the local people for 33 years at Borama (northern Somalia).
Father Sanjeevananda Swami from India, aged 52, died of wounds inflicted by aggressors in Belur Kolar district, Bangalore diocese, (India) on 7 October 2003.
Rev. Saulo Carreño aged 38, from Colombia, parish priest at Saravena, Arauca, (Colombia) shot dead in his car on 3 November. A hospital worker travelling with him Maritza Linares was also killed probably by outlaws fighting for control of this oil-rich area, near Sarare hospital on the Saravena - Fortul road.
Rev. Henry Humberto López Cruz from Tolima (Lebanon) aged 44, parish priest at Villavicencio, main town of the central Colombian region of Meta, stabbed to death in the parish house during the night of 3 November. His body, tied to a chair, was found the next day by a cleaning woman.
Rev. José Rubín Rodríguez from Colombia, aged 51, parish priest at La Salina, Casanare, (Colombia) kidnapped on 14 November and murdered in a rural area Tame, Arauca, (Colombia). His body was found a week later on 21 November.
Rev. José Maria Ruiz Furlan aged 69, from Guatemala, shot dead on 14 December at his parish in poor district of Guatemala City. He was known to be a passionate human rights activist and for his work to improve the living conditions of the poor.
Brother Anton Probst aged 68, from Germany, a Claretian Missionary, killed on Christmas Eve 2003 at Akono Novitiate, in Cameroon. After midnight Mass as he returned to his room he met with thieves who gagged and bound him and beat him to death. He came to Cameroon 11 years ago, after spending 24 years on mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Archbishop Michael Courtney from Ireland aged 58, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, mortally wounded in his car during an ambush on 29 December at Minago, 50 km south of the capital Bujumbura. Other persons travelling with him were also wounded, whereas the Archbishop died of his injuries at Bujumbura hospital.
(S.L.) (Fides Service 20/3/2004 - lines 121; words 1,346)