Missionary death toll doubles in 2005

27 individuals involved in missionary work, including a bishop, were murdered last year, almost twice as many as in 2004, according to figures released by the Vatican missionary news agency Fides.

The Irish Times reports that Fides said many of the murders were robbery attempts or other assaults that were often carried out in poor areas.

The victims included one bishop, 20 priests, two members of religious orders, two nuns and one lay missionary, Fides said.

Yesterday Fides revised upward the original figure of 26, when it took into account a nun killed in South Africa on 28 December. Swiss born Sr Margaret Branchen, aged 74, was shot dead on the premises of St. Mary's Clinic in the East Cape town where she served as a nurse and midwife.

The highest number of casualties per country occurred in Colombia, where four priests and one nun were killed.

Eight people were killed in Africa, including 76-year-old Bishop Luigi Locati, who was shot to death in Kenya in July.

Only one - Indonesian Fr Thomas Harsidiyono - was killed in the South-East Asia/Oceania region. The 50 year old Indonesian national was found dead in his central Java parish on 14 January last year, probably murdered by thieves.

The list also included two priests killed in Europe - one in Brussels and one in Moscow - who worked with immigrants and homeless people.

The killing which received the most media coverage was that of US-born Brazilian national Sr Dorothy Stang (pictured), who was murdered for her work to defend rural communities in the Amazon region.

Fides said its list included "not only missionaries in the strict sense of the word, but all church staff who have been killed in a violent way or who have sacrificed their lives aware of the risks they were running".

26 people involved in missionary work killed in 2005 (Irish Times 4/1/06)
Another name added to those of pastoral workers killed on mission in 2005 (Fides 9/1/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Roll of missionaries killed in 2005 (Independent Catholic News 9/1/06)

Five face trial in Brazil for nun's murder (CathNews 13/7/05)
Seventeen missionaries martyred in 2004 (CathNews 4/1/05)
25 Catholic martyrs died in 2002 (CathNews 6/1/03)

Eight Catholics Murdered on Mission in 2005 (Catholic Information Service for Africa 8/1/06)

10 Jan 2006