The number is likely way higher. It also does not include members of the Catholic Church.
Catholic persecution is still rising around the world, especially in Africa.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) found that 132 of those in the Catholic clergy and nuns were arrested, kidnapped, and murdered in 2023.
All of the stats are likely higher. ACN only counts arrests related to persecution. We all know places will trump up charges to avoid persecution accusations.
The number went up from 124 in 2022. Arrests increased, but kidnappings and murders went down…but not by much.
- 86 clergy arrested (55 in 2022)
- 33 kidnapped (54 in 2022)
- 14 murders (18 in 2022)
- 42 of the arrested are still in custody
The stats do not include members of the Catholic Church. Terrorists slaughtered almost 200 Catholics across Nigeria and destroyed villages, leaving tens of thousands homeless from December 23-26.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has intensified his war on the Catholic Church. It sparked when he arrested and detained Bishop Rolando Álvarez in August 2022 when he refused to leave the country.
Ortega’s regime arrested 46 clergy in 2023, “including two bishops and four seminatians. It also arrested four religious sisters, but authorities expelled them and refused to allow them back in.
The regime released or exiled many of the priests.
However, Ortega struck again in November when his thugs arrested “at least 19 clerics, including Bishop Isidoro de Carmen Mora Ortega of Siuna.”
It could be just as bad in China since ACN could not receive an exact number. From what they know, the Chinese arrested 20 clergy in 2023.
Belarus authorities arrested 10 priests, with three still in prison.
Greek Catholic Priests Ivan Levitskyi and Bohdan Heleta, arrested in Russia-occupied Ukraine in 2022, remain in prison as well.
Six Catholic clergy and one religious sister were arrested in India, which has an anti-conversion law. Indian authorities released all of them, but they still face charges.
Nigeria has 28 kidnapping cases, including three sisters:
There was one case in Nigeria of a monk who was murdered by his kidnappers, otherwise the vast majority of those kidnapped ended up being released, with the exception of four priests: John Bako Shekwolo from Nigeria, and Joël Yougbaré, from Burkina Faso, who have been missing since 2019, and Joseph Igweagu and Christopher Ogide, both from Nigeria, missing since 2022.
Haiti, Ethiopia, Mali, and Burkina Faso also had kidnappings.
- Priests: 11
- Bishop: 1
- Religious brother: 1
- Seminarian: 1
- Religious sisters: 0
We do not know if persecution led to seven of the murders: “These included a bishop and a priest in the USA, a priest in Colombia, a priest in Mexico, a religious brother in Cameroon, a priest in Burkina Faso and a priest in Nigeria.”
But the other seven have been connected to persecution (emphasis theirs):
Of the other seven deaths directly related to persecution, Nigeria again has the highest number on the list with three. Fr Isaac Achi was brutally murdered in January, when he was unable to escape his residence as it burned to the ground following an attack, and seminarian Na’aman Danlami suffered the exact same fate, but in September. Soon afterwards, in October, Godwin Eze, a Benedictine who had been abducted along with two fellow novices, was murdered by his kidnappers.
Some of the murders have been classified as being for reasons of persecution, despite the unclear motives of the murderers. Fr Pamphili Nada was killed in Tanzania by a man with mental issues. In Mexico, Fr Javier García Villafaña was found shot dead in his car by unknown assailants, in a region where organised crime is common and those who speak out against it are often targeted by drug cartels. And, in December, an elderly Belgian priest called Leopold Feyen, and known locally as Pol, was stabbed to death by armed men who broke into his house in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he had served for decades.
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