Pope: Missionaries of Charity killed in Yemen are 'martyrs of charity'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stringer, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The four Missionaries of Charity
murdered March 4 in Yemen “are the martyrs of today,” Pope Francis
said. “They gave their blood for the church.”

After reciting the Angelus with thousands of people gathered
in St. Peter’s Square March 6, Pope Francis publicly offered his condolences to
the Missionaries of Charity and prayed that Blessed Teresa of Kolkata would
“accompany to paradise these daughters of hers, martyrs of charity, and
that she would intercede for peace and a sacred respect for human life.”

The four Missionaries of Charity and 12 other people were
killed by uniformed gunmen, who entered the home the sisters operate for the
elderly and disabled in Aden.

The superior of the Missionaries of Charity at the home
survived by hiding, according to the Vatican’s Fides news agency. Father Tom
Uzhunnalil, an Indian Salesian priest who had been living at the home since
Holy Family Parish in Aden was sacked and burned in September, was missing
after the attack.

Although the sisters would not make news headlines, Pope
Francis said, the martyred sisters “gave their blood for the church.”

The sisters and the 14 others killed “are victims of
the attack by those who killed them, but also (victims) of indifference, this
globalization of indifference that just doesn’t care,” the pope said.

Yemen has been experiencing a political crisis since 2011
and is often described as being in a state of civil war with members of the
Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities vying for power; in the midst of the
tensions, terrorist groups have been operating in the country, including groups
believed to be associated with the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaida.

Although most Christians have fled the country, a handful of
Salesian priests and about 20 Missionaries of Charity chose to stay and
continue their ministry.

In a condolence message released March 5 by the Vatican,
Pope Francis described the Aden murders as an “act of senseless and
diabolical violence.”

The pope “prays that this pointless slaughter will
awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart, and inspire all parties to lay
down their arms and take up the path of dialogue,” the message said.
“In the name of God, he calls upon all parties in the present conflict to
renounce violence, and to renew their commitment to the people of Yemen,
particularly those most in need, whom the sisters and their helpers sought to

Bishop Paul Hinder, head of the vicariate of Southern
Arabia, which includes Yemen, told AsiaNews, a Rome-based missionary news
agency, that at 8:30 a.m. March 4, “persons in uniform” broke into
the Aden compound, killing the guard and all employees who tried to stop them.
“They then reached the sisters and opened fire.”

Two of the sisters killed were Rwandan, one was from India
and one was from Kenya, the bishop said. Father Uzhunnalil apparently was
kidnapped, he added.

“The signal was clear: This has to do with
religion,” Bishop Hinder said.

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