The year 2022 saw a disturbing trend of violence and intimidation towards priests and nuns carrying out their religious duties. According to reports from the Papal Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), at least 12 priests and 5 nuns were murdered, while 42 priests were kidnapped and at least 32 were detained. These incidents occurred in various countries, including Nigeria, China, Nicaragua, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Mali, Cameroon, and Ukraine.

Nigeria had the highest number of victim priests with 4 murdered, while 3 were killed in Mexico and 2 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 5 murdered nuns were Sister Luisa Dell’Orto in Haiti, Sister Mary Daniel Abut and Sister Regina Roba in South Sudan, Sister Maria de Coppi in Mozambique, and Sister Marie-Sylvie Vakatsuraki in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Of the 42 priests kidnapped, 36 were released. However, 3 of the kidnapped priests in Nigeria were murdered and the fate of Father Hans-Joachim Lohre, a German missionary and ACN partner kidnapped in Mali in November, is still unknown. There are also 5 priests who have disappeared, including Father Joel Yougbaré in Burkina Faso and Father John Shekwolo in Nigeria.

Nigeria had the highest number of kidnappings with 28 in 2022, followed by Cameroon with 6. Five priests and 1 nun were kidnapped in Cameroon and later released. Haiti, Ethiopia, the Philippines, and Mali also had priests kidnapped, with all being released except for Father Hans-Joachim Lohre in Mali.

At least 32 clergymen have also been detained, likely as a form of intimidation. The most recent cases include 4 priests from the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church who were detained while working in Ukraine, which is occupied by Russia. Two of them have been released and deported to Ukraine, but the other 2 remain detained and could face terrorism charges. There are also 11 members of the clergy who have been detained or imprisoned in Nicaragua due to the current persecution of the Catholic Church by the government. This includes at least 2 seminarians, a deacon, a bishop, and 7 priests. Bishop Rolando Alvarez, currently under house arrest, is set to appear in court on January 10th charged with “attempting against national integrity.” Another recent case is the detention of a bishop and 2 priests in Eritrea, with no explanation given by authorities.

The violence and intimidation towards priests and nuns in 2022 is a grave concern and highlights the dangers that these religious leaders face while carrying out their duties. It is important for authorities to hold those responsible accountable and to ensure the safety and protection of clergy.

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