On December 30, 2011, the Catholic News Agency, Fides, published a list of 18 priests, 4 religious Sisters, and 4 Catholic pastoral workers who suffered violent death in the course of their ministry during 2011.
Most of these deaths took place in the Americas, where 15 people were killed; 13 priests and 2 lay workers. 6 priests and one layman were killed in Colombia; 4 priests and one laywoman were killed in Mexico. In Brazil one priest was killed in his home; in Paraguay a priest was found dead in his home, bound hand and foot and strangled; in Nicargua one priest was kidnapped and killed.
In Africa a Salesian missionary priest was killed in Tunisia; in Kenya a priest died after being shot in the chest; in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a Sister was killed in an ambush; in Burundi, during a robbery attempt, a Sister of Charity was killed, along with a lay volunteer; in Southern Sudan a Sister was killed while bringing medical aid to refugees.
In India a priest was killed in his room during a robbery; a Religious Sister working for the poor was killed in her home; a lay catechist was kidnapped and killed.
In the Southern Philippines a missionary priest was killed when two gunmen shot him in the head and back, possibly because he had consistently condemned criminal gangs in the area.
In Europe there was one death by violence, when a priest in Spain was killed by thieves who broke into his home.
As in previous years, some of these victims of violence died during attempted robbery or kidnapping; others were killed because they were trying to help the weak, and to protect them against crime, oppression or exploitation.
Pope Benedict spoke about these martyrs during his reflection at the Angelus on December 26th: “As in ancient times, today the sincere adherence to the Gospel may require the sacrifice of life, and many Christians in various parts of the world are exposed to persecution and martyrdom”.
Pope Benedict spoke these words on the feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr in the first century. The Fides report reminds us that even in the 21st century there are martyrs, because there are men and women willing to risk their lives for the sake of God and neighbor.