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Day of Missionary Martyrs 2024

Missionary Martyrdom 2023: A Global Call for Reflection and Solidarity

On the 24th of March 2024, the 32nd Day of Missionary Martyrs,  coincides with the remembrance of the assassination of Msgr. Oscar Romero, on the same date in 1980, in San Salvador. Msgr. Oscar Romero’s dedication to the Salvadoran community in their struggle against an oppressive regime, which turned a blind eye to the plight of the most vlnerable and marginalized, remains a poignant reminder. His legacy speaks volumes about the importance of leading a Christian life rooted in prayer and the compassionate care of one’s fellow brethren.

This annual observance serves as a moment for deep reflection on the enduring impact of his teachings and to honor the memory of all those, like him, who selflessly gave their lives in the service of others.  Recent data compiled by the Fides Agency in its 2023 Report (Missionaries and pastoral care workers killed in 2023) sheds light on the tragic loss   of 20 missionaries worldwide in 2023. This includes 1 Bishop, 8 priests, 2 non-priest religious members, 1 seminarian, 1 novice, and 7 lay individuals. Alarmingly, there was an increase of 2 more missionaries killed compared to the previous year. The statistics also reveal that Africa witnessed the highest number of fatalities, with 9 missionaries losing their lives, comprising 5 priests, 2 religious members, 1 seminarian, and 1 novice. In America, 6 missionaries were brutally murdered, consisting of 1 bishop, 3 priests, and 2 lay individuals. Additionally, in Asia, 4 lay persons fell victim to violent crimes, while one lay missionary was tragically killed in Europe.

A striking commonality among the pastoral workers who lost their lives in 2023, as highlighted by Fides, was the unassuming nature of their daily routines. They were not involved in grand gestures or extraordinary endeavors that would draw attention and make them targets. Instead, they were merely carrying out their duties, such as celebrating Mass or engaging in pastoral outreach in remote communities. These individuals fell victim to armed assaults on bustling streets, attacks on religious institutions where they were actively involved in spreading the message of evangelization, providing charitable services, and promoting human welfare. Despite being fully aware of the dangers they faced daily, they chose to persist in their Christian mission rather than seek safer havens or scale back their commitment.

These unsung heroes, who Fides describes as “ flowers not sprouted in a desert,” play a pivotal role in propelling the Church and the world forward. Their exemplary lives, marked by acts of compassion and unwavering hope, serve as a testament to their deep-rooted gratitude for the love of Christ, which they express through their daily deeds of solidarity and optimism.

For the new martyrs, witnesses of Christ”  is the intention of prayer for the month of March 2024 of the Video of the Pope’s global initiative to spread the monthly prayer intentions of the Holy Father developed by the Pope’s World Prayer Network.

These are the words of the Holy Father: “..Brothers, sisters, there will always be martyrs among us. This is a sign that we’re on the right path.A person who knows told me there are more martyrs today than at the beginning of Christianity. The courage of the martyrs, the witness of the martyrs, is a blessing for everyone.  Let us pray that those who risk their lives for the Gospel in various parts of the world might imbue the Church with their courage and missionary drive. And to be open to the grace of martyrdom.”

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