The memory of missionary martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel is vivid in many local Churches all over the world. This is seen from reports by National Directors of Pontifical Mission Societies in different countries with regard to annual events in commemoration of missionary martyrs.
The Day of prayer, fasting and charity works in memory of Missionary Martyrs is marked in Poland at the national level by the local Church. The Polish national office of the Pontifical Mission Societies issues a special liturgical handbook with indications for prayers and suggestions for commemorating the missionaries killed in action. Next year Warsaw diocese plans to hold a special diocesan event.
In Spain the Church does not have one special day to remember missionaries because their testimony and life and their sacrifice are constantly remembered with various activities of missionary animation all through the year.
In France the national Pontifical Mission Societies office sends the List of Missionaries killed during the Year to diocesan missionary teams for distribution during diocesan celebrations. Many parishes commemorate missionary martyrs and pray for them on World Mission Sunday and during the Missionary Prayer Vigils organised in every diocese during the month of October.
The Catholic community in England does not keep a special Day for commemorating missionary martyrs but their sacrifice is remembered always. Ever year 200,000 copies of a holy picture with the names of the missionaries killed during the year and a “prayer for those who gave their lives for the Lord in mission lands” is distributed and diffused by Catholic media all over the country.
In English-speaking Canada parishes, communities and institutes hold special celebrations to remember missionary martyrs. In its missionary periodical the English-speaking section of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Canada gives news of missionary martyrs and asks the faithful to pray for them.
In Mexico there are various initiatives particularly by missionary institutes who commemorate their own memebers killed and all the martyred missionaries. Every year the “Ad Gentes” magazine issued by the Pontifical Mission Societies in Mexico publishes an article on the Martyrology of the previous year.
The Church in Paraguay has no special official initiative but missionary martyrs are remembered all through the year during retreats and courses of missionary animation
In Guatemala the Church holds its own Day for Missionary Martyrs on 30 June, the date on which Father Hermogenes Lopez Coharchita was assassinated in 1978. On April 24 the local Church commemorates Bishop Juan Gerardi Auxiliary of Guatemala assassinated in 1998.
In Kenya there is no special celebration of commemoration but the local Church plans to establish a special day on which to recall missionaries killed in Kenya. However the Pontifical Mission Societies are not yet widely known in the local Church so this will take time.
In Democratic Congo every year on 4 January, Kongolo diocese commemorates 20 Holy Ghost Fathers or Spiritan missionaries killed in Kongolo in 1964. This year to mark the 40th anniversary of the tragedy there was a special Mass with the ordination of new priests. Various other dioceses hold their own days of commemoration.
In Sudan although thousands of members of the local Church catechists, missionaries, Religious men and women have been killed because of their faith in the civil war, it is not yet possible to make a precise list.
In Morocco there is no special day for remembering the martyrs of our times. However every year on 21 May many religious communities recall the assassination of 7 Trappist monks at the monastery of Thibirine, in Algeria, in 1996.
In Indonesia, besides recalling the martyrs on the liturgical calendar of the universal Church, religious communities commemorate the martyred missionaries of their own congregation
In Australia missionary martyrs are commemorated particularly through the figure of Sister Irene McCormack, a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, martyred in Peru in 1991. Celebrations are held mainly in Saint Joseph schools and communities. The only Australian missionary killed in recent years, as far as we know, was Fabian Thom killed in Papua New Guinea. A list of Australians killed while working to spread the Gospel has never been compiled.
(S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 20/3/2004 - Righe 57; Parole 696)