10-January-2014 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Number of Pastoral Workers Killed in 2013 Nearly Doubles

Fides Releases Statistics on Religious Killed Worldwide

ROME, January 09, 2014 (Zenit.org) - The number of pastoral workers killed in 2013 has almost doubled, indicating a climate of moral decline. This was the assessment given by Fides News Agency in releasing its annual list of pastoral care workers killed worldwide.

The agency stated that 22 pastoral workers, mostly priests, were killed in 2013, the last of which occurred on the night of New Years Eve where California priest, Fr. Eric Freed, was murdered in his residence.

The highest number of deaths occurred in Latin America, particularly in Colombia, where 7 priests were killed. 15 priests were killed in total in the Americas. In Africa, 3 pastoral workers were killed, 3 in Asia and 1 in Europe. Fides noted, however, that their list does not include missionaries ad gentes who have been killed, but rather "all pastoral care workers who died violent deaths."

"We do not propose to use the term 'martyrs', if not in its etymological meaning of "witnesses" since it is up to the Church to judge their possible merits and also because of the scarcity of available information in most cases, with regard to their life and even the circumstances of their death," the agency stated.

The agency also stated their concern for several pastoral care workers who have been kidnapped or disappeared in the world, most notably, in Syria and in the Republic of Congo.

On several occasions, Pope Francis has called for prayer for those who suffer for the faith. "Let us think about our many Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution for their faith. There are so many, perhaps more now than in past centuries," the Holy Father said during his Angelus address on November 17th, 2013.

Fides stated that the majority of pastoral workers were killed in particularly violent attacks. Such attacks, the agency said, are "a sign of the climate of moral decline, economic and cultural poverty, which generates violence and disregard for human life."

"They all lived in these human and social contexts, carrying out the mission of proclaiming the Gospel message without making sensational acts, but by witnessing their faith in the humility of daily life," the agency stated.

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