By BosNewsLife Africa Service
JOHANNESBURG/VIENNA (BosNewsLife)-- Austrian and South African Christians mourned the death of a third priest known to have been killed in South Africa this year, BosNewsLife learned Sunday, June 14.
The 78-year-old Ernst Plöchl, of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill, was murdered during Pentecost Weekend in his mission outpost 'Mariazell', in the south of South Africa, Catholic officials said.
The strangled body of the Austrian priest was found in his bathroom early Sunday morning, May 31, by the cleaning lady, said fellow priest Guy Cloutier, in published remarks.
Missionaries believe thieves killed the missionary Saturday evening, May 30, while
trying to rob the money he usually had at the end of each month to pay mission workers.
However, Father Plöchl already distributed wages in the morning and had nothing to give the
unknown assailants, colleagues said.
The house's safe was reportedly open, but not forced, leading authorities to believe that he
tried to show the robbers there was no money, before they tied him to a towel rack and strangled him with a rope.
Plöchl had worked in South Africa for 41 years and recently told his friends in Austria he would not be returning to the country of his birth for health reasons, including heart problems, diabetes and impaired hearing, Catholic sources said.
Among his mission activities was running a school for some 400 pupils in Matatiele, a
farming town in Eastern Cape province.
Plöchl "went out of his way to get youngsters educated," people who currently "are all over the
country" making it "a better place," Cloutier added. He was buried near his mission station while a mourning ceremony and Mass was held in his home town of Neumarkt im Mühlkreis, Upper Austria, June 5.
It underscored the dangers for the estimated 400 foreign missionaries working in South
Africa as Plöchl was reportedly the third Catholic leader to be murdered this year.
Priest Daniel Matsela Mahula, 34, from Klerksdorp Diocese, was killed by hitchhikers February 27 and 66-year-old Lionel Sham, the parish priest of Mohlakeng in Johannesburg, was murdered March 10, hours after being abducted from his home.
South Africa has one of the highest crime rates worldwide, with an average of 50 people meeting violent deaths daily, according to several estimates.