29 Catholic Missionaries Killed This Year

The Fides list includes all Catholics-- clerics, religious, and laymen-- who are known to have died while engaged in missionary work. As Fides explains, the list includes "not missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense of the term, but all members of Church personnel who chose to risk their lives rather than give up their mission and apostolate: they are 'martyrs of charity,' as Pope John Paul II fondly calls them." Fides points out that this list is not exhaustive; many other Catholics may have died for the Gospel without attracting public notice.

This year's list of slain missionaries includes one archbishop, 22 priests, one nun, 3 seminarians, and 2 lay missionaries. For the first time, an apostolic nuncio is listed in the year's martyrology: Archbishop Michael Courtney, who died in Burundi on December 29.

Africa was once again the continent where the greatest number of missionaries died this year: 17 people were killed there, including 6 in Uganda and 5 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The most deadly nation in the Western hemisphere was Colombia, where six missionaries were killed.

The overall number of missionaries slain in 2003 is similar to that of previous years. In 2002, 25 people were listed in the Fides martyrology. In 2001 that figure was 33, and in 2000 it was 30.

The list of missionaries slain in 2003, according to Fides, includes:

Father Dieudonné Mvuezolo-Tovo of the Democratic Republic of Congo, killed in that country on March 11.

Father Nelson Gomez Bejarano of Colombia, killed there on March 22.

Father Martin Macharia Njoroge of Kenya, killed in Nairobi on April 11.

Father Raphel Ngona of Democratic Republic of Congo, killed there on May 6.

Three students from the minor seminary in Lachor, Uganda, who were killed on May 10. (Another 38 students from the same institution, kidnapped by rebels, are believed to still be captives.)

Fathers Aime Njabu and Francois Xavier Mateso, both of the Democratic Republic of Congo, killed on May 10 along with several parishioners.

Father Jairo Garavito of Colombia, killed there on May 15.

Father Manus Campbell OFM, an Irish missionary working in South Africa, killed near Durban on May 21.

Ana Isabel Sanchez Torralba, a Spanish mission volunteer, killed in Equatorial Guinea on July 1.

Father George Ibrahim of Pakistan, killed there on July 5.

Father Taddeo Gabrieli, OFM Cap, an Italian missionary stationed in Brazil, killed there on July 19.

Father Mario Mantovani, an Italian Comboni missionary, killed in Uganda on August 14.

Brother Godfrey Kiryowa, of Uganda, killed alongside Father Mantovani on August 14.

Father Alphones Kavendiambuku of the Democratic Republic of Congo, killed there on August 26.

Father Lawrence Oyuru of Uganda, killed along with 25 other people in a rebel attack on September 1.

Father William de Jesus Ortez and Jaime Noel Quintanilla of El Salvador, killed inside the cathedral of Santiago de Maria diocese on October 5.

Annalena Tonelli, an Italian medical volunteer, killed on October 5 at a hospital in Somalia.

Father Sanjeevananda Swami of India, killed there on October 7.

Father Saulo Carreno and Maritza Linares, both of Colombia, killed there on November 3.

Father Henry Humberto Lopez Cruz of Lebanon, killed in Colombia on November 3.

Father Jose Rubin Rodriguez of Colombia, killed there sometime after being kidnapped on November 14. (His body was discovered on November 21.)

Father Jose Maria Ruiz Furlan of Guatemala, killed there on December 14.

Father Anton Probst, a German Claretian missionary, killed in Cameroon after midnight Mass on Christmas Day.

Archbishop Michael Courtney, the apostolic nuncio in Burundi, killed there on December 29.