Twenty Catholic missionaries were murdered in 2023, according to a new Dec. 30 report issued by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency.
Fides, the news agency of the Pontifical Mission Societies, arrived at that number by calculating “all baptized engaged in the life of the Church who died in a violent way, not only ‘in hatred of the faith.’”
The agency said that most of the missionaries shared the traits of living a “normal life” and did “not carry out any sensational actions or out-of-the ordinary deeds that could have attracted attention and put them in someone’s crosshairs.”
“They found themselves, through no fault of their own, victims of kidnappings, acts of terrorism, involved in shootings or violence of various kinds,” the report said.
The news agency reported that one bishop, eight priests, two non-religious men, one seminarian, one novice, and seven laypersons made up the missionaries murdered in the last year.
The number of murders represents an increase over 2022, when 18 missionaries were killed.
Nine missionaries were killed in Africa, the continent that saw the most such murders in 2023. Of the nine, five were priests, two were religious men, one was a seminarian, one was a novice.
Of these, four were killed in Nigeria. In recent months, a monk, Brother Godwin Eze, was kidnapped and brutally murdered at the Benedictine monastery in Eruku, Nigeria.
In Burkina Faso, two men, a priest and religious brother, were killed. In the western African country of Tanzania, one priest, Father Pamphili Nada, died after his parish was attacked.
In Cameroon, Brother Cyprian Ngeh was stabbed to death, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a priest, Father Léopold Feyen, was also stabbed to death.
Mexico and U.S.
Six missionaries were killed in the Americas in 2023, with all of the murders occurring in either Mexico or the United States. The deaths included one bishop, three priests, and two laywomen. Two catechists were killed on their way to a Eucharistic procession in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
In the United States, Bishop O’Connell was killed in his home. Charges were filed against his housekeeper’s husband. Father Gutgsell was stabbed in his Church rectory; an arrest has been made and charges filed in that case as well.
Four laypeople were killed in Asia in the past year.
Two of those murders happened in the Philippines. Two Catholic college students, Junrey Barbante and Janine Arenas, were killed when a bomb went off during a Eucharistic celebration at the State University of Mindanao.
The other two murders occurred in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war. Two women, Samar Kamal Anton, along with her mother, Nahida Khalil Anton, were killed by sniper fire while on their way to the convent of the Sisters of Mother Teresa.
One missionary was killed in Europe, a Spanish layperson.
Diego Valencia was the sacristan of Nuestra Senora de La Palma Parish in Algeciras when he was killed by a Moroccan man wielding a machete.