Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church

“The Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.”
--Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas 2009

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – As far as we know the total number of Catholic priests, men and women religious and seminarians killed during 2009 was 37, the highest number in the last 10 years and nearly double the number reported in 2008. There were 30 priests, 2 religious sisters, 2 seminarians, and 3 lay volunteers. The continent with the highest number were the Americas, with 23 pastoral workers killed (18 priests, 2 seminarians, 1 sister, and 2 lay persons), followed by Africa, where 9 priests, 1 religious, and 1 laymen lost their lives. In Asia, 2 priests were killed, and in Europe, one priest was killed.

Our list does not only include the names of missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense, but all pastoral workers who died a violent death. We choose not to refer to these persons as “martyrs”, since it is up to the Church to judge their possible merits, and also because of the scarcity of available information in most of cases, with regard to their life and even the circumstances of their death.

This provisional list compiled annually by the Fides News Agency must nevertheless always be added to the long list of many who perhaps will never be known of, who in every corner of the planet suffer and even give their lives for their faith in Christ. This is the "cloud of unknown soldiers of the great cause of God" - in the words of Pope John Paul II - to whom we look with gratitude and reverence, even without knowing their faces, because without them, the Church and the world would be enormously impoverished.

North and South America --

In the United States, Sr. Marguerite Bartz, of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS), was killed in her convent of Saint Berard in the Navajo area of New Mexico. After earning a degree in Literature and a Masters in Religious Education, for over 40 years, Sr. Marguerite served in the missions in different places. She was known as a woman who was always passionate for justice and peace. Fr. Ed Hinds, Pastor of St. Patrick Church in Chatham, New Jersey, was found dead in the rectory beside the church, covered with numerous injuries and wounds caused by sharp weapon. Very involved in supporting the oppressed, the priest was considered the heart and soul of the community of St. Patrick, where he was pastor for 7 years.

Those killed in Brazil included Spaniard Fr. Ramiro Luden, who worked for 34 years in an association for supporting children, especially street children, and was murdered by a 15-year-old young man for robbery. Italian Fidei Donum missionary Fr. Ruggero Ruvoletto, killed in his parish, after having been robbed of 50 Real (about 19 euros). Fr. Evaldo Martiol, murdered by two young men, was the victim of a robbery that ended in murder. "His method of evangelizing was through friendship," the bishop recalled during his funeral. Fr. Gisley Azevedo Gomes, National Leader of the Youth Section of the Bishops' Conference of Brazil, was killed in his car during a robbery by several young people. He had suffered a shot to the face and two to the head. Very dedicated to working with young people, he joined the Youth Ministry of Brazil in organizing the National Campaign on the theme "Youth in the march against violence." "In a regrettable way - the bishops said – he was the victim of violence that wanted to fight against." Fr. Hidalberto Henrique Guimaraes, beloved pastor of the church of Our Lady of Grace in the town of Murici was found murdered two days after his disappearance. The bloodied body of the priest was found in his home with many cuts all over his body. Fr. Alvino Broering was stabbed by a man who then stole his car. Fr. Alvino was chaplain of the University of Vale do Itajai and director of the community radio station Conceição FM.

In Columbia, two Redemptorist priests, Fr. Gabriel Fernando Montoya Tamayo and Fr. Jesús Ariel Jiménez, were killed by a man who broke into the priests' living quarters at “Colegio de La Pascua,” most likely looking for money, killing them both while they were using the Internet. The lifeless body of Fr. Danilo Oscar Cardozo Ossa was found in the parish rectory of St. Louis Marie de Montfort to Villavicencio, along with a gag and some ropes. Most likely the assassins were known by the priest. Also, Fr. Emiro Jaramillo Cardenas was stabbed to death in his home. He worked at the chapel dedicated to “Our Lady of Humility,” a place rich in history and spirituality, often visited by the faithful of Medellin. Fr. Juan Gonzalo Aristizabal Isaza, was found dead inside the car he owned, abandoned on the local highway. A parish pastor and psychologist, he was distinguished by his spirit of charity towards the needy, his pastoral dedication, intelligence, and giving to others. In addition, there is the layman Jorge Humberto Echeverri Garro, a professor and pastoral workers, who worked as a catechist and advocate for social peace, killed by a group of guerrillas during a meeting concerning certain Church projects.

In Mexico, Fr. Habacuc Benítez Hernández and the young seminarians Oregon Eduardo Benitez, and Silvestre Gonzalez Cambron were killed on their way to a pastoral meeting for vocations. Their vehicle was overtaken by another, they were made to exit the vehicle, and were beaten to death with firearms. The Archbishop of Acapulco has reported that in that region, there is a prevailing logic that everything can be solved with a gun, the logic of settling of accounts with bloodshed, and the armed forces are unable to control drug trafficking and violence.

Particularly disturbing were the violent deaths of two Spanish priests in Cuba. Fr. Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano died following a stabbing in a street on the outskirts of the capital. He had worked for three years in Cuba as a parish priest in the Church of St. Clare of Assisi, where he was engaged in humanitarian work. Fr. Mariano Arroyo Merino was killed in his parish. The attackers stabbed Fr. Arroyo and then set him on fire. His body was handcuffed, gagged, and partially burned. He had served in Cuba during the last 12 years in the residential area of Havana, carrying out an intense pastoral work with a special charism.

In El Salvador, several days after his disappearance, the lifeless body of the Salvadoran Redemptorist Fr. Leopoldo Cruz was found in a canal in a rural area of San Salvador. Since the body was already in an advanced state of decomposition, it is difficult to determine the exact cause and date of death. A young man found driving the car of Father Cruz was arrested. The young layman William Quijano, of the Community of Saint Egidio, was killed by gunshots by one of the many violent organized gangs formed by young people in poor neighborhoods of Central America. For five years, William was involved in the School of Peace for poor children of the neighborhood of Apopa, in the suburbs of the capital.

In Guatemala, Fr. Lorenzo Rosebaugh, of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), was killed following an assault which occurred along a country road, while he and other priests were on their way to a pastoral meeting. Two men armed with rifles and with their faces covered stopped the car and, after robbing the missionaries of all they had, shot and killed Fr. Rosebaugh while seriously injuring Fr. Jean Claude Nowama, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Guatemalan Capuchin priest Fr. Miguel Angel Hernandez, who had been pastor of a parish in Ocotepeque (Honduras) for four years, was found dead in a province of eastern Guatemala. He had died several days prior to the discovery of his body. Fr. Miguel had been principal of a Catholic school and was a close friend of the youth. He was very dedicated in his work, simple, clear in his preaching, always very sincere, and consistent.

Africa --

In the troubled country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Church and local residents have long been the target of brutality and ongoing human rights violations. Both Fr. Jean Gaston Buli and Fr. Daniel Cizimya Nakamaga were killed by unknown persons who entered their homes in the middle of the night, most likely to rob them. These two murders took place in Bunia (Ituri) and Kabare, respectively. Sr. Denise Kahambo Murahirwa, a Trappist nun, was killed by gunmen in uniform who entered the monastery of Notre Dame de la Clarté in Murhesa and after the murder, fled without stealing anything. The day before certain young women were to take the habit and begin their novitiate, Sr. Denise noticed the presence of the gunman and started running and shouting to warn her sisters. She was pursued by the gangsters, who shot her in the leg, causing her death. The young Congolese layman Ricky Sukaka Agus, who had worked for a year as an agricultural engineer in a project of Secours Catholique-Caritas France, was killed in Musezero in North Kivu, by two men wearing army uniforms.

In South Africa, Fr. Daniel Matsela Mahula was killed by four highwaymen while driving in his car. He ministered at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Jouberton. Fr. Lionel Sham, pastor of a parish in Mohlakeng, Archdiocese of Johannesburg, was killed after being abducted from his home. was known to be open to all and generous with all those in need. The body of Austrian Fr. Ernst Plöchl of the Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries, who had been in South Africa for over 40 years, was found in the isolated mission station of Maria Zell. Fr. Ploechl ran a school of 400 pupils in Matatiele, a town in the south. Also, the French Fr. Louis Blondel of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), was killed in the night by some young people who entered in the missionaries' living quarters. He taught philosophy at St. Peter's Seminary, Hammanskraal and founded Cordis, an Emmaus Center.

In Kenya, Fr. Joseph Bertaina of the Consolata Missionaries was attacked and killed by thugs at the Institute of Philosophy in Nairobi, where he was rector and administrator. They beat, bound and gagged him, causing his death from respiratory failure. The body of Irish Fr. Jeremiah Roche of the Society of St. Patrick for Foreign Missions was found with his hands tied and machete wounds to the head. He promoted various development projects and had recently had completed a new church. The act was probably carried out by some local youths, the local police commander said, who thought that the missionary had some kind of treasure and broke into the house for a robbery, which ended tragically. The youth took some clothing, which they left in the street, as well as a CD player and a cellular phone.

An act of altruism cost the life of Fr. Révocat Gahimbare in Burundi. Having heard of the assault to the monastery of the Bene Maria religious sisters, he was going to bring help to the nuns, but on his way, bandits shot and killed him.

Asia --

In India, Fr. James Mukalel was found dead near Mangalore, probably the victim of anti-Christian violence as the area had previously seen attacks by fundamentalists. The young priest was well-liked by all, was always smiling and a zealous pastoral worker.

In the Philippines, Fr. Cecilio Lucero, defender of the weakest and committed to the protection of human rights, was shot and killed by a group of armed men in the Northern Samar province, south of Manila. Two other people in the vehicle with him were seriously wounded. He was responsible for the Human Rights Commission of the Diocese of Catarman and had launched several initiatives and projects to protect the poor and denounce abuse of power.

Europe --

Fr. Louis Jousseaume was assaulted and murdered in the rectory of Egletons, Diocese of Tulle, France, where he was pastor. He was described as a man who was loving, open, who had spent his entire life under the sign of the Gospel, take special note of the poorest and the weakest, especially the handicapped. In fact, it was one of these mentally unbalanced persons who attacked and killed him.

From Agenzia Fides

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