Persecuted Christians in Syria. Photo: Aid to the Church in Need

More Than 100 Priests and Nuns Kidnapped, Detained or Murdered in 2022

According to the Papal Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Nigeria, with four priests murdered, was the country with the greatest number of victims. However, there were also victims in Mexico and Nicaragua, as well as in Russia. 

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 28.12.2022).- At least 12 priests and five nuns were murdered in 2022 while carrying out their mission. Nigeria is one of the countries where to serve the Church implies the greatest risks, but China and Nicaragua have also registered many cases of harassment.

According to information gathered by the Papal Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Nigeria, with four priests murdered, was the country with the greatest number of victims. Others killed while carrying out their pastoral functions were three priests brutally murdered in Mexico, by drug cartel members, and two shot in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The five missionary nus murdered in 2022 were Sister Luisa Dell’Orto, in Haiti, in June; Sister Mary Daniel Abut and Sister Regina Roba, in South Sudan, in August; Sister Maria de Coppi, in Mozambique, in Siptember; and Sister Marie-Sylvie Vakatsuraki, murdered in October in the Democratic Repeblic of the Congo.

Mourning for the murder of Sister Luisa Dell’orto in Haiti. Photo: Ansa

That same year, a total of 42 priests were kidnapped in different countries, of whom 36 were released. Three of those kidnapped in Nigeria were murdered and ACN was unable to get information on the situation of two of the Nigerian priests kidnapped in 2022. Still unknown is the fate of German missionary Father Hans-Joachim Lohre, partner of the ACN project, who was kidnapped in Mali in November. Two of the priests kidnapped in 2019, Father Joel Yougbaré, of Burkina Faso, and Father John Shekwolo, of Nigeria, have disappeared, which raises to five the total number of priests who have disappeared. 

Nigeria is the country with the most kidnappings, with a total of 28 in 2022. Three were kidnapped on December, but the worst month was July, with seven kidnappings. Nigeria was followed by Cameroon, with six kidnappings, five of them at the same time, in September, and released five weeks later. Haiti has become one of the most violent places in Central America. Five priests were kidnapped by bandits although, since then, all have been released. Ethiopia, the Philippines and Mali each had one priest kidnapped. All have been released with the exception of Father Hans-Joachim Lohre in Mali. 

Nigeria also represents the great majority of nuns kidnapped, with seven cases in 2022. One was kidnapped in Burkina Faso, and another was kidnapped in Cameroon, together with the five priests already mentioned. Fortunately, all the nuns were released later. 

At least 32 clergymen have also been detained, presumably as a means of intimidation and coercion. The most recent cases regard four priests of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, who work in Ukraine occupied by Russia and who were detained the course of their pastoral activities. Two of them have been released and “deported” to Ukrainian territory, but two others remain detained and could face charges of terrorism. The fear exists that they might be tortured in prison. 

Nicaragua is a very worrying country. Eleven members of the clergy have been detained or imprisoned during the current governmental persecution against the Catholic Church. Among them there are at least two seminarians, a Deacon, a Bishop and seven priests. On January 10 of the coming year, Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Alvarez, currently under house arrest, must appear before a court accused of “attempting against national integrity.” Another recent case is that of the imprisonment of a Bishop and two priests in Eritrea. They were detained two months ago, with no explanations given by the authorities. 

It’s almost impossible to know the number of priests and Catholic Bishops detained in China in 2022. According to ACN, clergymen of the underground Church are kidnapped repeatedly by the authorities for a time, to oblige them to join the Church approved by the State. An example was the disappearance of 10 priests, all of them belonging to the underground Catholic community of Baoding (Hebei), between January and May, 2022. In addition to these cases, a priest was detained in Myanmar during the protests against the regime. Several nuns and two Deacons were detained in Ethiopia during the Tigray conflict at the end of 2021, but were released in 2022. 

ACN has appealed to all countries involved to guarantee the safety and freedom of priests, nuns and other pastoral agents working at the service of the needy. The Papal Foundation also requests friends and benefactors to pray for those still in captivity, as well as for the communities and families of those that have lost their life. 


Translation of the Italian original by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester

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