Throughout the entirety of 2021, 22 Catholic missionaries were killed across the globe, a figure 2 more than those who were killed in 2020.
“How many brothers today suffer persecution for the name of Jesus!” – Pope Francis
According to data collected by Agenzia Fides, the news agency for the Pontifical Mission Societies under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, 22 missionaries were killed over the course of 2021: 13 priests, 1 religious man, 2 religious women, and 6 lay people. The tragic number is 7 less the death toll of 29 missionaries for 2019.
From the 2009-2017, Latin America had recorded the highest numbers of missionaries killed. For the past three years however, Africa has taken the mantle, accounting for the deaths of 7 priests, 2 religious women, and 2 lay persons. Latin America accounted for the deaths of 4 priests, 1 religious man, and 2 lay people; while Asia accounted for the deaths of 1 priest and layer people; and Europe 1 priest.
Fides explained that “none of them carried out striking feats or actions, but were ‘simply’ giving witness of their faith in contexts of impoverished, degraded social contexts, where violence is the rule of life, the authority of the state was lacking or weakened by corruption and compromises and in the total lack of respect for life and for every human right.”
“Once again these priests, men and women religious and lay persons, were aware of all this, they were often born in the same land where they died, so they were not naïve, but ‘when everything counselled silence, taking cover, not professing the faith, they could not – could not – help but testify’ (Pope Francis, Budapest, 14 September, 2021).”
Fides also explained they used the definition of missionary as outlined in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, where the Holy Father says that “in virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.” They added they include not only missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense, but all baptized engaged in the life of the Church that died in a violent way.
“Everywhere priests, religious, and laymen share the same daily life as the common people, bringing them the evangelical witness of love and service for all, as a sign of hope and peace, trying to alleviate the suffering of the weak and raising their voices in defense of their trampled rights, denouncing evil and injustice. Even in danger of their own safety, at the request of civil authorities or their own superiors, the Missionaries remained at their posts, aware of the risks which they were running, in order to remain true to the duties they bore.”
A full news press release from Agenzia Fides is available from their website here (in Microsoft Word format), detailing the full names and stories of all missionaries killed in 2021.