Initiate Canonization of “German martyrs”: Official of German Bishops to Church in Africa

Credit: Mons. Helmut Moll

A representative of the German Catholic Bishops' Conference for the Martyrology of the 20th Century has challenged Church leaders in Africa to initiate canonization processes for the “German martyrs, who were violently killed” in various African countries. 

ACI Africa asked Mons. Helmut Moll, who has compiled biographies of over 30 German “martyrs” reportedly victims of violence in Africa what was being done to ensure that they are canonized and universally accepted as saints.

“Your local churches should ensure that these German martyrs are raised to the honor of the altars,” Mons. Moll replied, referring to the Local Ordinaries of the Episcopal and Metropolitan Sees as well as national Bishops’ Conferences, where the reported martyrdom occurred. 

As a starting point, he said, there is the need to translate the biographies of the Germans, who paid the ultimate price for evangelization in Africa into African languages like Arabic speakers are doing. 

“Please translate the biographies of the African martyrs into your national language! At present these biographies are being translated into Arabic, but there are difficulties with printing,” Mons. Moll told ACI Africa during the March 7 interview, days after he shared the list of German “martyrs” killed in Africa.


Mons. Moll, a historian with prior experience serving in the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well as the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints started compiling biographies of German evangelizers violently killed in Africa at the request of the Catholic Bishops in Germany.

Members of the German Catholic Bishops' Conference had found inspiration to document the biographies from the November 1994 Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II on the preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, Tertio Millennio Adveniente.

In the Apostolic Letter, Pope John Paul II said, "At the end of the second millennium, the Church has once again become the Church of martyrs. In our century, martyrs have returned, often unknown, akin to 'unknown soldiers' of the great cause of God."

The German “martyrs” in Africa, whose profiles have been documented include Fr. Franz Jäger, a member of the Oblates, who was killed in 1905 in South West Africa during the Herero uprising. South West Africa was a territory under South African administration from 1915 to 1990; it became the present-day Namibia.

Others are the three Dominican missionaries, who lost their lives in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) in 1977. They include Sr. Magdala (Christa Elisabeth) Lewandowski from Kiel, Sr. Epiphany (Berta) Schneider from Munich, and Sr. Ceslaus (Anna) Stiegler from the Upper Palatinate.

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Other German-born evangelizers were Benedictine missionaries and St. Benedictus Missionary Sisters of St. Ottilien killed in Tanzania, and a Sacred Heart Missionary Priest and two Little Brothers of Charles de Foucauld, who were killed in the Congo. 

In the March 7 interview with ACI Africa, Mons. Moll said he had contacted various Religious and Missionary Orders who passed on to him the information about their members, who had been killed in Africa.

The German Catholic Priest expressed optimism that German evangelizers killed in Africa will revitalize the church in Germany, noting that having paid the ultimate price, they “show the missionary zeal that is so important for our country today.”

Meanwhile, Mons. Moll who has vast expertise in martyrology has encouraged Christians in various African countries who are experiencing persecution because of their faith to embrace martyrdom with humility.

“Learn from these biographies,” he said of his list of the German “martyrs” in Africa, and added, “Accept the martyrdom of your members and to raise them high as an example.”


He went on to challenge the Church in Africa to work towards ensuring that the sacrifice of those who give their lives for the sake of their faith is not forgotten.

“The Bishops' conferences in Africa are called upon to compile their own martyrologies so that missionaries and indigenous people may become better known throughout the Catholic world,” Mons. Moll told ACI Africa during the March 7 interview.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.