More Than 100 Priests and Nuns Kidnapped, Arrested, or Killed in 2022

January 08, 2023

At the end of a year, the results are in: the reports of the violent and even bloody persecution against the Church indicates that more than 100 priests and nuns were kidnapped, arrested, or murdered in 2022.

Those Who Lost Their Lives

At least 12 priests and five nuns were murdered in 2022 while carrying out their mission. Nigeria is one of the most dangerous countries in which to serve the Church, but China, Asia, and Nicaragua, and Latin America, have also seen many cases of harassment.

According to information collected by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Nigeria is the country with the highest number of victims, with four priests killed. Others murdered in the line of pastoral duties include three priests brutally killed in Mexico by drug cartel members and two who were gunned down in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two priests kidnapped in 2019, Fr. Joel Yougbaré, from Burkina Faso, and Fr. John Shekwolo, from Nigeria, are still missing, bringing the total number of missing priests to five.

The five nuns murdered in 2022 in the exercise of their mission are Sister Luisa Dell'Orto, in Haiti, in June; Sisters Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba, in South Sudan, in August; Sister Mari from Coppi, Mozambique, in September; and Sister Marie-Sylvie Vakatsuraki, killed in October, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More Than 40 Kidnappings

During the same year, a total of 42 priests were kidnapped in different countries, of whom 36 were released. Three of the priests abducted in Nigeria were murdered, and ACN was unable to obtain information on the status of two of the Nigerian priests abducted in 2022. In Mali, the whereabouts of the ACN project partner, German missionary Fr. Hans- Joachim Lohre, kidnapped in November, is still unknown.

Nigeria is the country with the most kidnappings, with a total of 28 in 2022. Three of them were kidnapped in December, but the worst month was July, with seven kidnappings. Cameroon follows, with six kidnappings, five of which took place at the same time, in September, but they were released five weeks later.

Haiti has become one of the most violent places in the Caribbean. Five priests were kidnapped by bandits and gangs during the year, but all have since been released.

Ethiopia, the Philippines, and Mali have each had a priest kidnapped, all freed except for Fr. Hans-Joachim Lohre in Mali.

Nigeria also has the vast majority of nuns abducted in 2022, seven. One nun was abducted in Burkina Faso, and another in Cameroon, along with the five priests mentioned above. Fortunately, all of these nuns were later freed by their captors.

Priests and Bishops Imprisoned

Finally, at least 32 clerics have been detained, in acts that amount to intimidation.

The most recent cases concern four priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church working in Russian-occupied Ukraine, who were arrested in connection with their pastoral activities. Two of them have since been released and “deported” to Ukrainian territory, but two others remain in detention and could be charged with terrorism.

In Nicaragua, 11 members of the clergy were arrested or detained during the conflict between the government and the Catholic Church. Among them are at least two seminarians, a deacon, a bishop, and seven priests. There are also reports of priests who have been banned from leaving their parishes, and at least 10 clerics whom the government has prevented from returning to the country.

Another recent case concerns the imprisonment of a bishop and two priests in Eritrea. Two months have passed since their disappearance, with no explanation from the authorities.

It is almost impossible to know the number of Catholic priests and bishops detained in China in 2022. According to information collected by ACN, the authorities repeatedly kidnap clerics from the underground church for a period of time to force them to join the state-approved church. An example is the disappearance of at least 10 priests, all belonging to the underground community of Baoding (Hebei), between January and May 2022.

Besides these cases, a priest was arrested in Myanmar during protests against the regime, and several nuns and two deacons were arrested in Ethiopia during the Tigray conflict in late 2021, but released in 2022.

These figures are nevertheless lower than those of the previous year. In 2021, there were 13 priests, one brother, and two nuns killed in the world. But in general, in persecuting countries, the pressure on the Catholic Church and its members has increased this year.