Throughout the entirety of 2018, 40 Catholic missionaries were killed across the globe, a figure nearly double the previous year’s toll of 23.
“How many brothers today suffer persecution for the name of Jesus!” – Pope Francis, January 25th, 2018
According to data collected by Agenzia Fides, the news agency for the Pontifical Mission Societies under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, 40 missionaries were killed over the course of 2018: 35 priests, 4 lay people, and 1 seminarian. The tragic number is nearly double the death toll of 23 missionaries for 2017.
For the past eight years, Latin America has recorded the highest numbers of missionaries killed. In 2018 Africa took the mantle, accounting for the deaths of 19 priests, 1 seminarian, and 1 lay woman. Latin America accounted for the deaths of 12 priests and 3 lay people, while Asia accounted for the deaths of 12 priests, and Europe accounted for the death of 1 priest.
“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 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 2018.