Throughout the entirety of 2019, 29 Catholic missionaries were killed across the globe, a figure 11 less than those who were killed in 2018.
“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, 29 missionaries were killed over the course of 2019: 18 priests, 2 religious men, 2 nuns, 6 lay people, and 1 permanent deacon. The tragic number is 11 less the death toll of 40 missionaries for 2018.
From the 2009-2017, Latin America had recorded the highest numbers of missionaries killed. For the past two years however, Africa has taken the mantle, accounting for the deaths of 12 priests, 1 religious man, 1 religious woman, and 1 lay woman. Latin America accounted for the deaths of 6 priests, 1 permanent deacon, 1 religious man, and 4 lay people; while Asia accounted for the deaths of 1 lay woman and Europe 1 nun.
“Even this year many Missionaries have lost their lives during attempted hold-ups and robberies, ferociously committed, in impoverished, degraded social contexts, where violence is the rule of life, the authority of the state was lacking or weakened by corruption and compromises, or where religion is used for other ends.”
Fides explained that in the past, missionaries were killed in a concentrated manner, in a nation or common geographical area. However, for 2019, they explained there was a “globalization of violence” and violence against missionaries appears more widespread.
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 2019.