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20 Catholic missionaries, 4 from Asia, murdered in 2023

20 Catholic missionaries, 4 from Asia, murdered in 2023

The Vatican’s Fides News Agency revealed that 20 missionaries were violently killed bearing witness to their faith, with four coming from Asia.

On Saturday, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies reported that one bishop, eight priests, two religious men, one seminarian, one novice, and seven laypeople were killed.

The report used the term “missionary” to refer to “all the baptized engaged in the life of the Church,” and it considered all those who were murdered, not only “in hatred of the faith.”

The Vatican News Agency noted that all the victims included in the list were killed during the “ordinariness” of their lives, either on their way to celebrate Mass or to carry out pastoral activities in remote areas.

“They could have gone elsewhere, moved to safer places, or desisted from their Christian commitments, perhaps reducing them, but they did not do so, even though they were aware of the situation and the dangers they faced every day," said the report.

For instance, two of the victims from Asia were Filipino Catholic students who died in a bombing during a Mass at a state university in Marawi City, Philippines. Junrey Barbante and Janine Arenas were volunteers for liturgical animation from the school’s chaplaincy community.

The two other victims from Asia came from war-torn Gaza. On December 16, snipers killed Nahida Khalil Anton and her daughter Samar Kamal Anton as they were traveling to the Convent of the Sisters of Mother Theresa. Both of them were serving the poor and disabled in the Strip.

On the other hand, Africa tops the list with nine deaths: two priests, a seminarian, and a Benedictine novice in Nigeria; two missionaries in Burkina Faso; a priest in Tanzania; a religious brother in Cameroon; and a parish priest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Armed groups in the Diocese of Minna in Central Nigeria burned alive Father Isaac Achi, one of the victims, who was 61 years old.

Mexico recorded the murder of two priests and two young catechists, resulting in the deaths of six missionaries in the Americas.

In the United States, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles David O’Connell was murdered by the husband of his housekeeper and Fr. Stephen Gutsell was stabbed in the rectory of his parish in Nebraska.

Europe reported the least number of victims, with only one from Spain. A young Moroccan man who was using a machete stabbed Diego Valencia, a sacristan from the Province of Cadiz, in January.

The number of missionaries killed in 2023 shows an increase compared to 2022, where reports only recorded 18 deaths.


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.