Twenty-three Catholic missionaries were killed in the world in 2017: 13 priests, one Religious, one nun, and eight laymen reported the Vatican Agency Fides, on Thursday, December 28, 2017.
For the eighth consecutive year, the highest number was recorded in America, where 11 Catholics on mission were killed (eight priests, one Religious, and two laymen), followed by Africa with 10 victims (four priests, one nun, and five laymen), and by Asia where one priest and one layman were killed.
According to data published by Fides, from 2000 to 2016, 424 Catholics on mission were killed in the world, of which five were Bishops.
The Agency explained that “numerous pastoral workers were killed during robbery attempts in contexts of economic and cultural poverty, of moral and environmental degradation, where violence and abuses are regarded as a rule of conduct.”
For Fides, this list is “only the tip of the iceberg,” because the list of pastoral workers or of “simple Catholics” who were “assaulted, beaten, robbed, threatened” is much longer, as well as that “of Catholic structures at the service of the whole population, which were assaulted, vandalized or pillaged.”
To the provisional lists drawn up annually by Fides, “the long list must always be added of those of whom there has been no news for a long time or whose name is unknown, who – in the four corners of the planet – suffer and pay with their life for their faith in Jesus Christ.”
The murderers of priests or Religious “are rarely identified or condemned,” deplored Fides, which gave the example of the murder of Spanish missionary Vicente Canas, killed in Brazil in 1987. During the first trial in 2006, the accused were acquitted for lack of evidence; a new trial led to the condemnation of the sponsor, sole survivor of the accused.
Fides also explained that its annual list “doesn’t concern only the missionaries ad gentes, in the strict sense of the term, but attempts to register all the pastoral workers who died in a violent way, not explicitly “out of hatred for the faith.” “For this reason, we prefer not to use the term ‘martyrs,’ except in its etymological sense of “witnesses,” so as not to anticipate the judgment that the Church might give eventually on some among them.”