ROME — The past seven days have been among the deadliest for Catholic priests and religious in recent years, with one violent murder every 33 hours.
Last Wednesday, Pope Francis condemned this week’s murder of two Jesuit priests in Mexico.
On Sunday, the pontiff again mourned the death of a nun, this time at the end of his weekly Angelus: Sister Luisa dell’Orto, a Little Sister of the Gospel of Saint Charles de Foucauld, killed Saturday in Port-au- Prince, the capital of Haiti.
Although it made headlines after his last public remarks, in between these killings two more took place, this time in Nigeria, where in separate incidents two priests were killed.
Nigeria loses two priests
On Saturday, Father Vitus Borogo was assassinated by suspected members of the Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram in Kaduna State, the same area where two churches had been attacked the previous week.
RELATED: Two churches attacked in northern Nigeria
The 50-year-old was the president of the Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association.
He was murdered on a farm in what the diocesan chancellor called a “terrorist raid”.
On Sunday, Fr Christopher Odia, who was abducted earlier in the day from Auchi Diocese in Edo State, Southern Region of Nigeria. He had been abducted on his way to Sunday Mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Ikabigdo.
He was 41 and was ordained a priest in 2012.
According to Open Doors International, an NGO that tracks the persecution of Christians around the world, in much of northern Nigeria, Christians live their lives under constant threat of attacks from Boko Haram, from the Islamic State province. of West Africa (ISWAP), Fulani herdsmen and other criminals who kidnap and murder at will.
While all citizens of northern Nigeria face threats and violence, Christians are often specifically targeted because of their faith – ISWAP and Boko Haram want to eliminate the Christian presence in Nigeria.
RELATED: Nigerian Archbishop: Religious persecution is ‘systematic’ in the north of the country
On Sunday, Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto Diocese complained that one of his priests and a nun who were kidnapped three weeks ago are still missing, and the people who kidnapped them are negotiating a ransom from close half a million dollars.
“We are negotiating with the kidnappers as I speak because I don’t know how else to get my priest back,” he said.
Kukah noted that members of his family were kidnapped, another of his priests was killed by kidnappers, as was a seminarian.
“Somehow we like to pretend we have a government,” he said. “Of course we have the machinery of government, we have the scaffolding, but that scaffolding is important because people can see access and appropriate state resources.”
Italian nun murdered in Haiti
Sister Lucia Dell’Orto was murdered by three gunmen on June 25 in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, where she had lived for 20 years. She was shot by three gunmen and left to die in the street.
“It seems that this is not a robbery or even an attempted kidnapping, but one of the many cases of senseless violence that the proliferation of weapons allows. Luisa had no enemies,” Fr Maurice Hyppolite, a Salesian priest and lecturer on the Caribbean island, told the Italian newspaper. Corriere dell Sera.
RELATED: Pope hails nun killed in Haiti as martyr, calls for peace in Ecuador
“She was aware that something could happen, even in her last letter she said the situation was very difficult,” her sister Maria Adele told the local newspaper in the Italian town of Lomagna, north of Milan, where they have grown.
The nun was so loved in her hometown that even the city council issued a statement, saying that Lomagne is “united in shock, dismay, dismay and non-acceptance, which almost brings us to a movement of rebellion”.
In the last letter she sent in Italy to those who founded her charities in Haiti, Dall’Orto wrote that although some would consider her crazy to risk her life by staying in a place so marked by violence, she stays because “we cannot remain silent about what we have seen and heard. Being able to rely on someone is essential to living.
Two Jesuits murdered in Mexico
Last week saw the deaths of two Jesuit priests, Fr. Javier Campos and Fr. Joaquin Mora, in Mexico, a crime that was quickly condemned by Pope Francis.
Throughout the week, hundreds of soldiers scoured Mexico’s Sierra Tarahumara mountains in search of a local Sinaloa cartel boss accused of killing the two elderly Jesuits with a tour guide.
RELATED: 2 Priests Killed in Mexico Dedicated Decades to Remote Area
The life and death of Campos and Mora illustrate not only the carnage their country endures, but also one of its least understood aspects: despite being an overwhelming statistical majority, Christians in Colombia who resist violence are remarkably threatened. They are in danger not for their religious beliefs, but for preaching against drug trafficking and murder in a way that infuriates both left and right gangs and paramilitaries.
As the bishops said in a statement released June 23, three days after the murder, violence in Mexico has spread “disrupting the daily life of our entire society, affecting productive activities in cities and countryside, exerting pressure with extortion against those who work honestly in markets, schools and small businesses, as well as medium and large companies. [Criminals] invaded streets, neighborhoods and entire cities, as well as roads and highways.
Although not targeted for their faith, but for the influence of their ministry in keeping their “clients” off the streets, the drug cartels have killed between 45 and 50 priests over the past 15 years. Most were caught in the crossfire or refused to perform sacramental services such as baptisms or marriages for drug lords.