Rome (Italy). March 24, 2023 is the thirty-first Day of Missionary Martyrs, on the date that commemorates the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, which took place on 24 March 1980 in San Salvador.
In 1992, the Youth Movement of the Pontifical Mission Societies, now Missio Giovani, proposed to the Italian Church the celebration of a day that would commemorate those who lose their lives every year during their pastoral service. The young people chose March 24 as the date, so that it was clear that the brothers and sisters killed, since they were faithful to the Gospel until the last moment, are sprouts of a new faith, strengthened by the commitment to take care of those who suffer or are crushed by unjust and poorly inclusive systems.
In 2022, according to information collected by Agenzia Fides, the information body of the Pontifical Mission Societies since 1927, 18 men and women missionaries were killed in the world: 12 priests, 1 male religious, 3 female religious, 1 seminarian, 1 layman. At the continental level, the highest number is recorded in Africa, where 9 missionaries were killed (7 priests, 2 women religious); followed by Latin America, with 8 missionaries killed (4 priests, 1 male religious, 1 female religious, 1 seminarian, 1 layman; and from Asia, where 1 priest was killed. In recent years, Africa and America have alternated in first place in this tragic ranking: from 2011 to 2021 for 8 years America and for 3 years Africa). From 2001 to 2021, the total number of missionaries killed is 526.
The little information on the life and circumstances that caused the violent death of these 18 men and women missionaries, explains the Fides report, offer us images of daily life, in particularly difficult contexts, marked by violence, misery, lack of justice, and respect for human life”. Other people who were with them often shared the same fate as the missionaries.”
As Pope Francis wrote in his Message for World Mission Day 2022, they are witnesses of Christ who offer their lives to the end:
“The disciples are asked to live their personal lives in the spirit of mission. They are sent by Jesus to the world not only to carry out the mission, but also and above all to live the mission entrusted to them; not only to bear witness, but also and above all to be witnesses of Christ. The essence of the mission is to bear witness to Christ, that is to say His life, passion, death, and resurrection out of love for the Father and for humanity.”
Link to the material prepared by the Missio Foundation of the CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference) for the animation of this Day and also for the time of Lent:
Manifesto of the Day 2023: “Aftermath After Azerbaijan Shelling Over The Shushi Cathedral” Nagorno Karabakh – Photo by Celestino Arce/NurPhoto – copyright AFP.