SÃO PAULO, Brazil – A Polish-born priest was murdered in the Brazilian capital on Sept. 21, after he was attacked by robbers.
Father Kazimierz Wojno was inspecting the construction of a catechetical center near his rectory in Brasília when four men jumped the wall and took him and a parish employee as hostages. His body was found a few hours later with his feet and hands still tied up and wire wrapped around his neck.
The police deputy in charge of the case, Laercio Rossetto, told the local newspaper Correio Braziliense that the crime occurred between 6:40 and 9:40 pm, shortly after the 71-year-old priest celebrated the Saturday vigil Mass at Our Lady of Good Health parish. Several objects were stolen, and safe boxes were broken. The police are still working to catalogue all items that have been taken.
The 39-year-old employee suffered only minor injuries. He was able to untie himself and ask for help after the burglars escaped the premises. The police took him to a nearby hospital and took down his statement.
According to Father João Firmino, the coordinator of communications at the Archdiocese of Brasília, Wojno – known in Brazil as Casemiro – arrived in the country more than three decades ago with a team of missionaries who came from Poland. “He was ordained 46 years ago and spent almost 40 years in Brazil,” he told Crux.
In Brasília for 25 years, Wojno was always involved with the activities of his parish and actively took part in the continuous building projects at the church.
“He was an engineer and dedicated himself not only to monitoring the works, but also performed several tasks himself,” said Firmino.
The diocesan spokesman met Wojno the same way many priests did in Brasília, because he was taking his picture: The Polish priest’s hobby was photography, and he used to take pictures of celebrations and ordinations and to give them as a gift to his colleagues.
Wojno’s parish is located in the northern part of Brasília, an area with a growing number of violent incidents in the last few months. In April, his parish was invaded, and the church’s tabernacle was stolen on Easter Sunday. A few days later, it was found in a junkyard in Samambaia, an administrative area of the Federal District.
“The parishioners told us he talked about violence, crime and the eternal pursuit of money in his last sermon. He frequently addressed these subjects, because he was concerned with the increasing violence and desired to change things,” Firmino told Crux.
In 2019, parishes and members of the clergy were victims of several crimes in the Brasília area. A chapel in the district of Santa Maria was invaded and robbed two times. The last time was on September 2, when criminals broke into it, took several items and destroyed statues and the tabernacle as they looked for money.
In June, a priest was robbed as he arrived at the church to celebrate Mass. Criminals took his car and even his cassock.
The same month, a man was arrested in Brasília after trying to rob the convent of a group of nuns for the seventh time.
According to the government of the Federal District, 163 churches and other religious buildings were robbed in 2019, an increase of 8 percent in comparison with 2018.
“Unfortunately, violence is growing in Brasília. But the murder of Father Wojno was the most serious incident [involving a member of the clergy] in a long time,” said Firmino.
Wojno’s funeral on Monday was attended by hundreds of parishioners, bishops, colleagues and officials of the Polish Embassy to Brazil. The Federal District government announced a three-day mourning period in his honor.
The Archdiocese of Brasília’s Commission of Justice and Peace released a statement on Monday about the murder. The commission said it’s not the time to call for vengeance and more violence, but to “reflect on the sense of being Christian in such chaotic times.”
The text called Wojno’s death a “martyrdom” and invited the people of Brazil to examine the deep causes of violence in the country, such as “inequality, intolerance, injustice and corruption.”
In his homily at the funeral, Cardinal Sergio da Rocha, the Archbishop of Brasília, affirmed that “sadness and pain, [and] the indignation with a violent death should never lead us to hatred and vengeance.”
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