A report says Nigeria led the list as “one of the most dangerous countries in which to serve the Church” followed by Mexico.
By UCA News Reporter
More than 100 priests and nuns were kidnapped, arrested, or killed worldwide in 2022, says a report referring to data from a papal foundation.
Nigeria led the list as “one of the most dangerous countries in which to serve the Church” with the brutal murder of four priests last year, the Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation (CPBC) of South Korea reported on Feb. 7.
The report uses data collected by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a papal charity recording persecution of Christians globally, published in December.
Mexico stood second with drug cartels killing three priests followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which saw two priests shot dead during the same period.
ACN appealed to all the nations involved to show restraint and refrain from harming the members of the clergy serving in their territories.
“ACN calls on all countries involved to do their utmost to guarantee the safety and freedom of priests, religious sisters, and other pastoral agents who work to serve those most in need,” the report read.
Established in 1947, ACN “has been geared towards charity and reconciliation, providing assistance to Christians in need.”
The report pointed out that it was “almost impossible” to know the number of Catholic bishops and priests detained in China in 2022. Citing examples of data collected, ACN pointed out that “clerics from the underground Church are repeatedly abducted by the authorities for some time to force them to join the state-approved Church [in China].”
The report cited the example of the disappearance of at least 10 priests, all belonging to the underground community of Baoding (Hebei) in China, between January and May 2022.
The ACN report also highlighted the murders of five women religious while they were engaged in their missionary activities. They were Sister Luisa Dell’Orto, in Haiti, in June; Sisters Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba, in South Sudan, in August; Sister Mari de Coppi, in Mozambique, in September; and Sister Marie-Sylvie Vakatsuraki, who was killed in October, in the DRC.
The report also delved into the cases of kidnapping of priests and nuns in 2022. During the year a total of 42 priests were kidnapped in different countries, of whom 36 have been released.
Nigeria led the list of priest kidnaps with a total of 28 cases in 2022. Three were kidnapped in December, but the worst month was July, with seven kidnappings.
Among the kidnapped priests, three in Nigeria were murdered and the status of the remaining two priests is unknown, ACN said in its report.
Cameroon came in second with six cases of kidnapping reported. Five of the priests were kidnapped at the same time, in September, and were released five weeks later.
Haiti gangs abducted five priests in 2022 all of whom were later released.
Ethiopia, the Philippines, and Mali had one priest kidnapped each, all released, except for Father Hans-Joachim Lohre in Mali.
Nigeria also led the list for the greatest number of religious sisters kidnapped in 2022, with seven cases attributed to its name.
One nun was kidnapped in Burkina Faso, and another nun was taken in Cameroon. However, all of them were released later.
The report also highlighted 32 cases of intimidation and coercion worldwide.
One of the recent cases highlighted by the ACN report was the plight of four priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church working in Russian-occupied Ukraine. They were arrested while carrying out their pastoral duties amidst the war. Only two of the arrested priests were “deported” to Ukrainian territory.
Reportedly the other two priests remain in custody and may face terrorism charges.
The report also highlighted the imprisonment of a bishop and two priests in Eritrea. Reportedly, the authorities have not given any explanation on their current status.
ACN in its report voiced “grave concern” over the situation of priests and religious in Nicaragua including 11 members of the clergy and religious, notably Bishop Rolando Álvarez.
Bishop Álvarez had been the country’s most outspoken Catholic prelate before his arrest. He was sentenced on Feb. 10 to more than 26 years in prison.
Featured image: A scene is shown of the destruction of St Theresa Church in Madalla, a town outside the capital city of Abuja in Nigeria, after it was struck by two car bombs on Dec. 25, 2011. The Islamic sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a wave of Christmas Day bombings. (UCAN files)