A total of 132 catholic priests and religious figures were either arrested, abducted or killed across the world in 2023, Christian Post reports.
Most of these incidents occurred in Nigeria, Belarus and China, a report by the Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said after a study.
The figure is higher by eight from the 2022 and represents only confirmed cases.
The group said the 2023 figure may be higher because it had difficulties obtaining data from some countries.
Eighty-six of the 132 cases involved the arrest or detention of clergy while the others were already in custody or missing at the beginning of the year.
“Authoritarian regimes have resorted to detaining priests and religious in order to punish the Church for speaking out against injustices and human rights violations, or merely for trying to operate freely,” the report stated.
Countries with highest number of incidents
Nigeria had more cases than any other country in the world in terms of abductions.
According to the report, the African most populous country recorded 28 cases, three of which were the abduction of three religious sisters.
In China, the report said 20 clerics were arrested during the year. The group, however, said it was difficult obtaining accurate data there.
In Belarus, no fewer than 10 priests were detained with three still in custody as of December ending.
It said in Nicaragua, the authorities arrested about 19 clerics, including Bishop Isidoro de Carmen Mora Ortega of Siuna, in the last weeks of December. Two bishops and four seminarians were among those arrested while two of the priests were freed.
The report said 17 priests, including Bishop Rolando Alvarez, who were picked up in 2022 and sentenced to 26 years in jail were on January 14, 2023, expelled from the country.
The report said two Ukrainian Catholic priests were arrested by Russian forces for over one year and have remained behind the bars.
It said a sister and about five other priests and religious figures were detained by the Indian authorities using the anti-conversion laws. Although they were freed, some are reportedly facing charges that may lead to imprisonment.
Ethiopia, Mali, Haiti and Burkina Faso are some other countries that recorded kidnapping. At the time the report was released three priests in Nigeria and one in Burkina Faso were still missing.
“We are deeply concerned about the rise in threats faced by priests, in countries such as Nigeria and Nicaragua, who are at risk often for simply for carrying out their pastoral ministry,” President of the CAN International, Regina Lynch, said.
Meanwhile, in its annual report, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty (USCCB), expressed concerns about attacks on worship centres.
“The USCCB identified attacks on houses of worship as the “largest threat to religious liberty in 2024.”