(CNSNews.com) – Pope Francis said Sunday that four nuns from the Missionaries of Charity who were murdered in war-torn Yemen on Friday were victims not just of their killers but also of global “indifference.”
Delivering his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said the slain nuns, wh belonged to the order founded by the late Mother Theresa, had given their lives for the church.
The pontiff said he was praying for them, and for others killed in Friday’s attack on a home for the elderly in the southern port of Aden, and for their families.
“These are today’s martyrs,” he said. “They are not on the front pages of the newspapers – they are not news. They give their blood for the church.”
Pope Francis asked Mother Teresa to accompany her “martyr daughters of charity” in paradise.
The nuns were among 16 people killed when unidentified gunmen got access to the home by pretending to be visiting their mothers. The attackers reportedly handcuffed victims before shooting them at close range.
A statement from the Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity said the gunmen, who had been wearing a bluish uniform, also destroyed statues and a crucifix in the chapel.
The Abu Dhabi-based Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, which covers Yemen, the UAE and Oman, named the nuns as Sister Anselm from India, Sister Judith from Kenya, and Sisters Margarita and Reginette from Rwanda.
It said the other victims were volunteers – including at least five Ethiopians – rather than residents of the center, which is home to about 80 elderly residents, as well as disabled children.
The vicariate also said the whereabouts of a Catholic priest – the last one left behind in Aden – were unknown since the attack.
Indian media reports named him as Father Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian Salesian priest aged 56 or 57. He had reportedly been staying at the home since his church was torched last fall.
The civil war raging in Yemen pits pro-government forces, supported by a Saudi-led air campaign, against Shi’ite Houthi militia and allies. Taking advantage of the chaos, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terrorists have made significant territorial gains, while the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) has carried out assassinations and attacks against sectarian and other targets.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, gathered for a plenary assembly in Bangalore, held prayers for the victims in Aden, and expressed concern for the safety of the missing priest.
The CBCI said that such brutal attacks by “evil minds should not deter us from our commitment to serve the poor and the sick.”
Earlier Pope Francis described the attack as an “act of senseless and diabolical violence.”
A message signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said 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.”
He further called on all parties in the civil war to renounce violence and renew their commitment to the people of Yemen – “particularly those most in need, whom the sisters and their helpers sought to serve.”
According to the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, the Missionaries of Charity has been working in Yemen since 1973, when it was invited by the then-North Yemen government to run a care home for the aged and destitute. The house in Aden was opened in 1992.