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Seventeen missionaries martyred in 2004

Seventeen missionaries lost their lives while spreading the Gospel in 2004 according to a report from the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Each was aware of the dangers they faced and chose to continue in their apostolates.

Zenit reports Africa registered the greatest number of deaths: five priests, and a man and woman religious. In the Americas (in Mexico, Guatemala and Chile) at least three priests died, in addition to a priest slain in Colombia.

Asia "seems to live in a special way fundamentalist tensions," the Vatican dicastery said. It said that three Catholic Pakistani youths were beaten to death under false accusations or under pressure to make them renounce the faith.

In India, a priest was found dead after suffering threats for visiting Hindu families, where he had been well-received, the congregation said.

The victims paid "a heavy price of blood for the growth of the Church in the world, a price that rarely made it into the news, said Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Vatican congregation.

"We don't know all the motives that caused their death," the cardinal added. But "among some of them the causes for the faith were clear, which determined their witness."

"Nor can we forget the long list of slain Catholics in Iraq or the many 'unknown soldiers of the faith' in all corners of the world, of those who perhaps will never make news," the dicastery said through the Fides agency.

Due to the circumstances of the conflict in Iraq, it is difficult to determine the number of missionaries who died, or the motivations of their killers.

2004's Martyrs for the Faith (Zenit 1/1/05)

Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

15 missionaries killed in 2004 (Catholic World News 30 Dec 2004)

4 Jan 2005