The list for 2006 is one less than last year's figure. All died violently or sacrificed their lives, aware of the risk they faced, rather than abandon their commitment. The list is made up of 17 priests, one brother, three sisters and three lay people.
The deaths of the missionaries was a testimony to the constant dangers people face when they leave the security of their homes to go and spread the Good News, Fr Bell said in a statement.
"There is no one reason why people are attacked and killed," Fr Bell continued. "Sometimes it a question of poverty and the struggle to survive. Sometimes it is religious hatred and opposition."
The inclusion of Sr Karen Klimczak, a 62-year-old American sister who died in Buffalo, USA, showed that these tragedies were not restricted to developing countries, he added.
Sr Karen, who had dedicated her life to helping the poor, was robbed and killed by one of the former prisoners she was helping to rehabilitate.
"Most of these people go unheralded and unnoticed … we only hear about them when this list is produced each year," Fr Bell said. "I would urge people to pray for those who have been killed, and for all those working in the field."
Fr Bell said the majority of those on the list were not Westerners working in developing countries - as was more often the case in years past - but missionaries working with their own people in their own countries.
Africa is the continent that registered the greatest number of victims last year: nine priests, a nun and a lay volunteer died violently. In Kenya three priests were murdered, and in Nigeria, two priests disappeared. This was followed by the Americas where six priests, a nun and a layman lost their lives. The Church lost two of its members in Brazil. Two priests, a nun and a layman lost their lives in Asia.
The annual list compiled by the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples explicitly avoids using the term "martyrs," so as not to intervene in the judgment that the Church might eventually give on them.
Twenty-four missionaries killed in 2006 (Media Release, Catholic Missions, 9/1/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples
Leaving Peace Prints for Others to Follows, Memorial Mass for Sr. Karen Klimczak, S.S.J. May 4, 2006
Hope of Buffalo
Missionary death toll doubles in 2005 (CathNews, 10/1/06)
Seventeen missionaries martyred in 2004 (CathNews, 4/1/05)
25 Catholic martyrs died in 2002 (CathNews, 6/1/03)
10 Jan 2007