On Saturday, March 24, 2018, the Church celebrated a day of commemoration and prayer for contemporary missionary martyrs. This is a special day in which the Church prays and fasts for missions.
Included among today’s missionary martyrs are Blessed Zbigniew STRZAŁKOWSKI and Blessed Michał TOMASZEK, two Conventual Franciscan friars from the Province of St. Anthony and Bl. James of Strepar in Poland (Cracow). They were both martyred on August 9, 1991, in Pariacoto, Peru. They were beatified on December 5, 2015.
At the end of each year, Agenzia Fides, the news outlet of the Pontifical Mission Societies, publishes a list of missionaries and pastoral workers who had been killed the previous year.
In 2017, twenty-three people were killed: thirteen priests, a religious brother, a religious sister and eight lay persons. Most of the victims were killed in the Americas, where eleven pastoral care workers lost their lives: eight priests, a religious brother and two lay persons. In Africa, ten pastoral care workers were killed: four priests, a religious sister and five lay persons.
According to Fides, from 2000 to 2017, 447 people engaged in pastoral activities were killed, including five bishops.
The day commemorating contemporary missionary martyrs was established in 1993, on the initiative of the Italian Youth Movement of the Pontifical Mission Societies. It is celebrated on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Blessed Oscar Arnulfo ROMERO, the Metropolitan Archbishop of San Salvador, who openly opposed the violence perpetuated by the Salvadoran regime. He was shot dead on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in the hospital chapel.
Friar Jan Maria SZEWEK