In the course of the year 2018, 40 “missionaries” and pastoral workers were killed around the world, almost double the previous year’s toll of 23, the Vatican’s Fides news agency reported.
Until 2017, the Americas led the way for 8 consecutive years for the highest number of missionaries killed. In 2018, Africa topped the list.
Fides data showed that of the 40 killed, 35 were priests, 1 was a seminarian and 4 were lay people. Africa accounted for 21 deaths, with 19 priests, a seminarian and a lay woman . South America came second with 15, including 12 priests and 3 lay people. Asia came next with 3 priests and 1 priest in Europe.
“Missionary” according to “Evangelii Gaudium”
Fides explained that it preferred using the word “missionary” for those killed, referring to the Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium”, where Pope Francis says that “in virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.” “All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients,” the Pope says.
This is why the annual list of Fides does not just include missionaries “ad gentes” in the strict sense, or missionaries in mission lands, but comprises all the baptized engaged in the life of the Church dying in a violent way and not strictly “in hatred of the faith”.
Fides said that many missionaries have lost their lives during attempted hold-ups and robberies, at times in ferocious circumstances in impoverished and degraded social contexts, where violence predominates, with authorities helpless or weakened by corruption and compromise, or where religion is misused.
Fides further explained that everywhere priests, religious, and laymen share the same daily life as the common people, bringing them the evangelical witness of love and service for all, as a sign of hope and peace, trying to alleviate the suffering of the weak and raising their voices in defense of their trampled rights, denouncing evil and injustice.
Roll of “missionaries” killed in 2018
AFRICA – 19 priests, 1 seminarian, 1 lay person
- Fr Joseph Gor and Fr Felix Tyolaha were killed during an attack by shepherds/jihadists in the village of Mbalom , in the parish of Sant’Ignazio Ukpor-Mbalom, on April 24, during morning Mass.
Fr. Michael Akawu was killed on August 18, during a robbery.
Fr Stephen Ekakabor died on August 23, as a result of serious brain damage sustained a year earlier, on February 12, 2017, during a robbery.
Fr. Jude Egbom was shot dead during a robbery on 10 September in Umuwala, Imo State.
Fr. Louis Odudu died in a nosocomial in Warri, Delta State on September 19, four days after he managed to escape from the hands of his hijackers.
Central African Republic (5)
- Fr. Joseph Désiré Angbabata, from Bambari Diocese, was wounded on of March 22, during an assault on his parish by an armed group and died shortly afterwards.
Fr Albert Toungoumale-Baba was killed in the parish of Notre Dame de Fatima on May 1, during an attack by an armed group.
Fr Firmin Gbagoua, Vicar General of Bambari Diocese was killed on June 29 by a group of assassins who entered the bishop’s house.
Fr Blaise Mada, the Vicar General of Alindao Diocese and Fr Celestine Ngoumbango, parish priest of Mingala, were killed during the attack on the bishop’s house, where they had taken refuge with other people, on November 15.
Democratic Republic of Congo (3)
- Thérese Deshade Kapangala, a 24-year old young lady, was killed on January 21 in Kintambo, north of Kinshasa, during a violent military repression.
Fr. Florent Mbulanthie Tulantshiedi, of the Congregation of Joséphis, was found dead on March 2 on the banks of the Kasai River.
Fr Etienne Nsengiyumva of Goma Diocese was murdered on April 8 by a criminal in Kichanga
- Fr Alexandre Sob Nougi of Buea Diocese was shot on July 20, during a clash between the military and separatists.
Gérard Anjiangwe, a young seminarian, was killed by a group of soldiers on October 4.
Fr. Cosmas Omboto Ondari was killed by a military patrol on November 21 in Kembong, a few kilometres from Memfe .
Côte d’Ivoire (1)
- Fr. Bernardin Brou Aka Daniel of Abengourou Diocese was killed during a street robbery on April 23. South Sudan (1)
. Fr Victor Luke Odhiambo was mortally wounded on November 14, by a group of armed men who attacked the Jesuit community of Cueibet, in Gok State.
. Fr. John Njoroge Muhia was killed on December 10 while going to a bank in Kikuyu, to deposit the offerings of the faithful.
. Fr. Tony Mukomba, of the Archdiocese of Blantyre, died on 17 January after being seriously injured by a group of bandits the previous week.
AMERICAS – 12 priests, 3 lay people
- Fr. Ivan Jaimes, of the Archdiocese of Acapulco, parish priest of Las Vigas and Fr. Germain Muniz Garcia, parish priest of Mezcala were killed in a road ambush in the state of Guerrero, on February 5.
Fr Rubén Alcántara Díaz, judicial vicar of Izcalli Diocese, was assassinated on April 18 shortly before Mass.
Fr. Juan Miguel Contreras García was killed on April 20 at the end of the Holy Mass he celebrated in the parish of Tlajomulco, state of Jalisco.
Fr. Moisés Fabila Reyes, was kidnapped on April 3 and his lifeless body was found on April 25, in the city of Cuernavaca, Morelos.
Fr. Miguel Gerardo Flores Hernandez was killed on 18 August and his body was found on August 25 in an abandoned plot of land in the town of Nueva Italia, in the state of Michoacán.
Fr. Ícmar Arturo Orta died on October 11 and his body was found on October 13, in Santa María street, in the Ley del Servicio Civil district (Tijuana). His hands and feet were tied with signs of violence.
- Fr. Dagoberto Noguera Avendano, a former priest, was killed on March 10 in his home in Santa Marta, probably during an attempted theft.
Fr. John Fredy Garcia Jaramillo was found dead with stab wounds on July 25 in his house in Bethlehem’s Los Almendros neighbourhood, in the southwest of Medellin.
- José Maltez, a member of the Salesian Oratory, died from a blow to the chest on June 5 in Granada, during clashes between gangs and the city defence groups.
Sandor Dolmus, a young altar boy of the Cathedral of Leon, was shot on June 14 by paramilitaries while walking with other boys in the street.
- Fr. Iraluis José Garcia Escobar, parish priest of the Nuestra Senora de Fatima in Barquisimeto Archdiocese, was killed on July 9 by bandits during an attempted theft.
- Fr. Arturo Rene Pozo Sampaz , parish priest of San Juan, Quito, was found on October 9 near his bed, hands and feet tied.
El Salvador (1)
- Fr. Walter Osmin Vásquez, from Santiago de Maria Diocese, was shot dead on March 29 while on his way to the parish of Lolotique.
- Father Carlos Riudavets Montes SJ was found on August 10 tied and with signs of violence, in the indigenous Peruvian Amazon community of Yamakentsa.
ASIA – 3 priests
- Fr Mark Ventura, in charge of San Isidro Labrador mission station, was shot dead on 29 April.
Fr Richmond Nilo was killed on June 10 by two armed assassins as he prepared to celebrate evening Mass in the village of Mayamot, in Cabanatuan Diocese.
- Fr Xavier Thelakkat, a priest from Kerala, was stabbed to death on March 1 by the former sacristan of Malayattoor Parish Church, who had been fired from his service three months earlier.
EUROPE – 1 priest
- Fr. Alain-Florent Gandoulou, a Congolese priest, chaplain of the French-speaking Catholic community in Berlin, was killed on 22 February, after a violent argument in his office.