Roll of missionary workers killed in 2010

During 2010, at least 23 missionary workers were killed. They included one bishop, 15 priests, one male religious, one religious sister, two seminarians and three lay people.

The most violent continent for missionaries was South America, where ten priests, one male religious, one seminarian and three lay people lost their lives. In Asia, one bishop, four priests and one religious sister were killed. In Africa, one priest and one seminarian died violently. Most of their stories follow below.

Father José Luis Parra Puerto, 50, was killed in Mexico on 17 February, 2010, Ash Wednesday, after having his truck robbed. Fr Puerto and his companion were attacked by several unknown persons as they left a store in Vasco de Quiroga. Immediately after, the men took the truck with the wounded priest, while his companion was forced out of the car at Avenida 508, where he asked for help to the security forces. Fr  Puerto's body was found inside the truck in the area of Netzahualcóyotl.

A native of Merida, he was vicar of the Metropolitan Church of “El Sagrario” in Mexico City and chaplain of the Knights of Columbus. Bishop Antonio Ortega Franco, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Mexico, during the homily at the funeral, recalled Fr José as an exemplary priest and a Good Samaritan, who throughout his life devoted himself to carrying out pastoral-social ministry along with the other priests.

Father Dejair Gonçalves de Almeida, age 32, died Tuesday, 16 March at 7 am, at St John the Baptist Hospital in Volta Redonda, about 80 km from Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), after having been attacked.  On Sunday, March 14, the priest was attacked while returning from the “Good Lord Jesus” Church Community in Volta Redonda, in the district of Agua Limpa. With him was a former seminarian Epaminondas Marques da Silva, 26, who died from a blow to the head.
According to information from the Diocese of Barra do Pirai in Volta Redonda, Fr Dejair and Epaminondas were kidnapped and taken to the rectory in the early hours of Sunday, 14 March. The kidnappers wanted money and as they found nothing, they struck both in the head. The former seminarian died instantly and the priest immediately underwent surgery, however did not survive. The former seminarian had been coordinator of the Ecclesial Community of Santa Cruz.

Fr Dejair  was born in Arantina (MG), was Chancellor of the Diocese and Assessor of the Diocesan Apostolate of Prayer. He worked as a priest in the Our Lady of Grace area, where he served eight Ecclesial Communities.

On Saturday, March 20, 2010, Luis Enrique Pineda, Salesian Coadjutor from the “Saint Peter Claver” Province of Colombia-Bogotá (COB), was killed in the city of Bogotà, at 8:00 in the evening. On his way to visit relatives, Brother Luis Enrique Pineda was attacked by three thugs who robbed him at knife-point, stabbed him and left him in the street. Despite his wounds, he was able to stop a taxi and ask to be taken to the first aid emergency centre where he died. Luis Enrique Pineda was born on 24 May, 1953 at Otanche-Boyacá, and had made his first religious profession in Rionegro, Antioquia, on 24 January, 1977. To be professionally competent to serve young people, he graduated in Psychology. He was the author of several research papers and studies which he undertook to help children to develop a coherent plan for life.

The lifeless body of Father Román de Jesús Zapata, a Colombian, was found on 24 March in the rectory of the parish of the jurisdiction of Currulao, in Turbo, about 500 km from the capital city of Bogota, where he was pastor. The diocesan priest, age 51, was found in the bathroom, naked, with his hands tied and with half of his body covered with a sheet, which makes authorities believe that he died from asphyxiation.

According to family members, the religious man had not received any death threats.  The priest's lifeless body was found by the woman in charge of ringing bells, who saw him that he did not arrive for Mass in the morning and went looking for him.

American priest,  Father Esteban Robert Wood, aged 68, parish priest of “Sagrada Familia” parish in Puerto Ordaz, was murdered in the evening of Wednesday, 28 April, near the parish house in the Unare district of Puerto Ordaz, in the state of Bolivar, Venezuela. Fr Wood, originally from Vancouver in the state of Washington (United States), had been on mission in Venezuela for more than 23 years. One of the workers who works in the parish found the priest dead with wounds inflicted with a knife. Both the Bishop and the local press attribute the murder to a robbery perpetrated by strangers which ended with the murder of the priest. Those who knew him remember Fr Wood as “an excellent person and very humble”, who was “committed to the community and worked hard, even for projects in Ciudad Guayana.” A few weeks before the criminal act he had started a “Campaign for the Defence of Life and of Peace”, against the violence of which he was the victim.

Father Peter Bombacha, 74, was murdered by strangers during the night of 28 April, 2010 at the ashram he founded in Baboola, about a kilometre from the residence of the Bishop of Vasai, an ancient centre near Mumbai (India). The body of Fr Peter was in a pool of blood. He had a rope around his neck and scissors stuck in his throat.

According to Bishop Felix Machado, “Fr Peter had created and operated, with the help of lay people, a recovery home for alcoholics. He was born in Vasai and came from a fishing community: that's why his name was 'Peter'. He was well liked and respected by all. We have no idea of the reasons for the murder, perhaps a theft or maybe someone had it in for him,” said the Bishop, excluding the trail of violence by Hindu fundamentalists: “We do not think it was Hindu extremist groups. First of all because in this area there are none. Indeed, relations with the Hindu community in the area are excellent. Many faithful Hindus have come today to express dismay and solidarity.”

Father Rubens Almeida Gonçalves, 35, was murdered while he was in his parish of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in the City of Campo Belos (GO), the Brazilian Diocese of Porto Nacional. According to accounts, Fr Rubens was seriously wounded by a gun shot to the head on 20 May 20 and died the next day in Brasilia, where he had been hospitalized. According to several witnesses at the origin of the crime was a denied request by the priest to lease the parish hall to man who then shot and killed him. Known for his work among the poor and the marginalized, “Fr Rubens died in the full exercise of his priestly ministry, which has always been marked by missionary zeal and faith in the Risen Christ. All the communities for which he worked offered their testimony to the passionate commitment with which he pursued his mission of evangelization,” said the note signed by Fr Paulo Sergio Maya Barbosa, Chancellor of the Diocesan Curia.

Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia and President of the Turkish Episcopal Conference, was stabbed to death by his driver at his home in Iskenderun (Turkey), on 3 June, 2010. Born in Milan on 31 March, 1947, Padovese had entered the Capuchin Order of Friars Minor on 3 October, 1964. Ordained a priest on 16 June, 1973, he was the head professor of Patristics at the Pontifical University Antonianum and for sixteen years was the director of the Institute of Spirituality in the same university. He also held a professorship at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Academy Alfonsiana. For 10 years he was also guest lecturer at the Oriental College of Rome for the Congregation of Eastern Churches. On 11 August 2004 he was appointed Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, and ordained a Bishop.

A Seminarian Mario Dayvit Pinheiro Reis, 31, of the Archdiocese of Sao Luis (Brazil), was killed in the Capital on the evening of 4 July, 2010, struck by a bullet that hit his abdomen. At around 8.30 pm he was in front of the house of his family, in the car with his grandmother, when he was approached by two robbers who forced them to get out of the car. After handing over the keys, he was suddenly hit by a gunshot fired by one of the criminals that severed his aorta and reached a lung. Transported to the hospital, he died at around 9.30 pm. The fourth year student of theology, was to be ordained deacon the next year and would have travelled to France for Bible studies. During his homily at the funeral Mass, Archbishop José da Silva Belisario emphasised that even though he was still quite young, Mario was a true testimony of faith and commitment to the priesthood, and had awaited with great trepidation his ordination to the diaconate.

Father Joseph Zhang Shulai, 55, Vicar General of the Diocese of Ningxia, and Sister Mary Wei Yanhui, 32, of the same diocese, were killed in the house for the elderly in Wuhai, Wuda district, in Inner Mongolia. Their bodies were found the morning of 6 July, 2010, by house staff who, when they failed to arrive for Mass, went to look for them in their rooms and found them in a pool of blood. The priest's body, found in his room on the ground floor, had numerous stab wounds and there were clear signs of a struggle, while the sister was killed in her room on the floor above, with a single blow, the chest. The religious sister was the director of the house for the elderly, home to about sixty persons, both men and women. The police arrested the murderer several days after the event, a layman who had been dismissed from the house for the elderly and who took revenge.

Father Carlos Salvador Wotto, 83, parish priest of the church of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, was found dead in his parish on the evening of 28 July, 2010. The priest had been gagged and bound, had cigarette burns on his arms and cut marks on different parts of the body, but he died from suffocation because he had a plastic bag over his face. The sexton of the parish discovered the body and called an ambulance, but emergency efforts were useless because the priest was already dead. The city of Oaxaca is often the scene of several clashes between gangs of drug cartels and Mexican State authorities.

In a very confusing situation, Father Herminio Calero Alumia, 36, a native of Buenaventura, parish priest of the church of Santiago de la Atalaya, in the town of Bosa (Colombia). The incident occurred around 3.00 am, Friday, 20 August, 2010, on the road between Bogota and Soacha, in an area called Quintanares. There are several versions of the incident. According to some sources, the priest was travelling in a taxi with other people, when the vehicle was stopped at a police roadblock and a dispute began between them and a police officer. The agent pulled out his gun and set off an accidental shot that killed the priest at once. In other versions, the men who travelled with the priest were drunk, and in the scuffle that followed at the police block, they tried to attack the policeman and steal his gun when the tragic event occurred. Fr Reynaldo Vargas, Chancellor of the Diocese of Soacha, referred to Fr Calero as “a very peaceful man.”

Father Linán Ruiz Morales, OFM, 80, was found dead the morning of Friday, 27 August, 2010 in his bedroom on the first floor of the convent of San Francisco, located in the centre of the Peruvian capital, with a series of cuts to his neck. The body of his colleague, Ananias Aguila, 26, was found suffering from numerous stab wounds in the kitchen next to the church, where there is a canteen for the poor. According to the police report when the offenders entered the home it is likely the parish priest was aware of their presence. In fact the room was a mess and the safe was open and empty. Father Ruiz, of Puerto Rican nationality, arrived in Peru in 1978 to bring the Movement “Encuentros de Promoción Juvenil” to young people, a kind of youth ministry that made him known and loved by the many young people of the Archdiocese of Lima. In recent years he had devoted himself particularly to the poorest: the kitchen for the poor for which he was responsible provided food to 1,200 people, among them children and the elderly, very needy who came from different parts of the city.

Julien Kénord, 27, a Caritas worker, was killed in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, on 8 October 2010, following an attempted robbery. He had just received a check for $ 2,000 in a local bank when he was attacked with blows from a firearm by strangers while he was in his car.

Transported to hospital, he died shortly after due to his injuries. The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Lesley-Anne Knight said he was “a very loyal colleague and dedicated to his work. He had helped the victims of the earthquake to rebuild their lives.” Caritas has worked in Haiti for a long time, and immediately after the tragedy of the earthquake of 12 January, 2010 has provided food, water, medicine, health care and support to the devastated population.

Father Wasim Sabieh and Father Thaier Saad Abdal, were killed on the evening of 31 October, 2010, during a serious attack on the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, causing dozens of deaths and injuries among the faithful who had gathered for Sunday Holy Mass. A third priest was seriously injured. According to eyewitness accounts, Fr Thaier said to the terrorists who broke into the church: “Kill me, not this family with children”, shielding them with his body. The two priests killed, not even in their thirties, were very active in their Biblical apostolate, in interreligious dialogue and charity. Fr Thaier was in charge of a Centre for Islamic Studies while Father Wasim was very involved in helping poor families.

Father Christian Bakulene, pastor of Saint Jean-Baptiste de Kanyabayonga, south of Butembo in the territory of Lubero, in North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, was assassinated on 8 November 2010. The priest was returning on a motorcycle with a friend, when in his parish, near the village of Mapere, two armed men in military uniform stopped him. The villain in uniform asked: “Who among you is the pastor?” Father Bakulene replied, “I am.” After taking money from the priest's companion, the gunman killed Father Bakulene with several shots. Before stopping Fr Bakulene's motorbike, the murder had stopped other motorcycles, and the occupants had been asked the same question: “Are you a priest?”. It was therefore a targeted killing, disguised as a street robbery degenerated into murder.

Father Bernardo Muniz Rabelo Amaral, 28, associate parish priest in the city of Humberto de Campos (Brazil), died around 9:00 pm on Saturday, 20 November, 2010, in the city hospital, where he had been transported after being attacked by a man who he had given a ride in his car. The priest was hit in the neck and chest by several bullets fired by the robber who then seized the vehicle, more than $ 400 Brazilian and the priest's phone. When he was discovered, the priest was still conscious. Taken to the hospital, he could not overcome the severity of injuries. The fifth of six children, he was ordained priest on 5 September this year.

A Jesuit seminarian of Togolese nationality, Nicolas Eklou Komla, was killed on Sunday, 5 December, 2010, on Belair Road in Mont Ngafula on the outskirts of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the night between 4 and 5 December, the seminarian was returning on foot with some colleagues to the Jesuit school "St Pierre Canisius" in Kimwenza, when a masked gunman blocked their path, presumably to rob them. A discussion soon degenerated: the bandit fired a few rounds of gunfire that hit the seminarian, who died several hours later. Nicolas Eklou Komla, was born on 4 June, 1985, in Togo, and entered the Society of Jesus on 7 October, 2008. He made his first vows on 2 October, 2010. Nicolas Eklou Komla had arrived in the DRC only two months ago to study philosophy. See Fides 9/12/2010

Father Miroslaw Karczewski, 45, Polish, priest of the Convent of Friars Minor (OFM Conv), was killed on the afternoon of Monday, 6 December, 2010 in the rectory of the parish of St Anthony of Padua in Santo Domingo de Los Colorados (Ecuador), in the north of the country, about 300 km from Quito. The priest, who for five years carried out his ministry in this parish, was to celebrate Mass at 7pm, but did not appear, so the parishioners went to look for him at home, and found him dead, with wounds on the neck and other parts of the body. After killing him by hitting him with a large crucifix, the thieves stole his phone and computer. Police said that the priest had been assaulted a year ago, in his house, and had seen the criminals, who threatened to kill him if he denounced them.

Source: Fides

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