Armed attackers shot dead a Catholic priest and two workers when they opened fire on his vehicle in Eastern Uganda on Thursday evening. The Catholic Information Service of Africa (CISA) report that Fr Declan O'Toole, 31, a Mill Hill missionary, died instantly. His driver Patrick and cook Fidelis, both married, also died in the ambush. Two cars were attacked. The second car, which reportedly belonged to the (Anglican) Church of Uganda, managed to escape. Fr O'Toole, was parish priest of the Mill Hill Catholic Mission at Panyangara, five kilometres from Kotido town. He was returning from a board of governors meeting at Moroto, and attacked just five kilometres from Kotido. Fr Wilhem Klaver, MHM, told CISA in Nairobi that the attackers were unknown. The Karamojong, a pastoral nomadic community, whom the Ugandan government has been trying to disarm since last year, inhabit the area where the attack occurred. The army has a strong presence there as well, due to the ongoing disarmament exercise. Born on February 2, 1971 in Headford, County Galway in Ireland, Fr O'Toole was ordained priest in 1997. Kotido was his first appointment. A memorial service will be held today (Monday 25 March) at 12.00 noon at Mbikko Catholic Parish near Jinja. The Papal Nuncio, Bishops and Superior General will attend. Fr. Declan's body will be flown home to Ireland on Tuesday for burial. In a statement issued by the Catholic Communications Office of the Irish Bishops' Conference in Maynooth, the Archbishop of Tuam, Rt Rev Michael Neary said: "Like many people, I am shocked and profoundly saddened at the news that Fr. Declan O' Toole has been murdered in Uganda together with two of his parishioners. Only a few years ago, I had the very great pleasure of ordaining Fr Declan to the priesthood in his parish church of Claran, Headford. It is hard to believe that the life and ministry of this dedicated and thoroughly likable young priest could have been ended in such a brutal and untimely manner. "I offer my most sincere sympathy to his family, neighbours and friends and to his brother priests in the Mill Hill order. May God bring Fr Declan and his two companions to himself and forgive those who have so cruelly murdered them. As Fr. Declan would have wished we should pray especially at this time for Uganda and its people." The Archbishop of Armagh and President, Irish Episcopal Conference, Rt Rev Sean Brady said: "I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic and untimely death of Fr. Declan O'Toole. "On behalf of the Irish Episcopal Conference, I extend to his family and to the Mill Hill Missionaries my heartfelt sympathy on their bereavement and the assurances of my prayers. "Fr O'Toole's death is a reminder of the extraordinary commitment, courageous faith and heroic generosity of our Irish missionaries throughout the world, who minister, often in very difficult circumstances, far from their families and homes. May we continue to support them in every way possible, especially with our prayers."
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