Women Martyrs Remembered 40 Years On

Published date:
3 December 2020

Around the world the lives and witness of four missionaries martyred in El Salvador forty years ago have been remembered. 

From Rome to New York, and from London to the Diocese of Chalatenango (image right, Rhina Guidos) - where the missionaries lived, served and died, services were held to remember Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan.

During his General Audience, Pope Francis prayed for the four missionaries.

"Today is the 40th anniversary of the death of four missionaries killed in El Salvador... On the 2nd of December in 1980 they were kidnapped, raped and killed by a group of paramilitary forces. They were offering their services during the civil war and they were bringing food and medicine to those who had to flee, especially to the families that were the poorest. These women lived their faith with great generosity. They are an example for all of us to become faithful missionary disciples."

That evening in Rome, Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ celebrated Mass to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of their martyrdom, with members of Religious orders at the Oratory of St Francis Xavier del Caravita, organised by the Caravita Community with the JPIC Commission of USG and UISG. In his homily, Cardinal Czerny recalled their humble work with the marginalised people of El Salvador:

"Jean, Dorothy, Ita and Maura were martyrs at a local, humble level, in their work with the poor, with the displaced, with the grieving. They witnessed to a loving God whose preferential love is for the poor and marginalized."

You can read the text of the Cardinal's homily by clicking HERE.

In London, the Conference of Religious of England and Wales, Pax Christi, CAFOD and the Romero Trust joined together for a service to remember the women martyrs of El Salvador. Led by Fr Paul Smyth cmf, Sr Anne Griffin SSHJM and Pat Gaffney, you can watch the service below. At the start, Clare Dixon from CAFOD and the Romero Trust gave the context of El Salvador at the time of the missionaries' martyrdom. Sr Gemma Simmonds cj gave a reflection on the women martyrs of El Salvador which can be viewed in the video below. The text of the address can be read HERE.