Violence Claims Lives of 20 Catholic Missionaries in 2023, Annual Report Reveals

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s Fides agency recently released its annual report on Catholic missionaries who lost their lives in 2023. The report highlighted the common thread among the missionaries – living normal lives in areas plagued by violence, without seeking attention or engaging in sensational actions. Despite the risks, these individuals persevered in their Christian commitments, refusing to retreat to safer locations.

According to Fides, a total of 20 pastoral workers were killed in 2023. This number is slightly higher than the 18 missionaries who died violently in 2022. The victims included one bishop, eight priests, two religious brothers, one seminarian, one novice, and seven laypeople.

Among those listed was Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell, a strong advocate for immigrants and marginalized communities, who was found shot multiple times in his home. Another victim was U.S. Father Stephen J. Gutgsell, who was fatally stabbed in the rectory of his parish in Nebraska.

Fides noted that the majority of the missionaries were killed in Africa, followed by the Americas and Asia. The report also highlighted the tragic case of a Palestinian mother and daughter who were shot by an Israeli army sniper in Gaza, as well as the killing of a sacristan in southern Spain.

The Vatican’s report underscores the risks faced by missionaries around the world as they carry out their work. The dedication and sacrifice of these individuals, who choose to remain in dangerous areas to serve their communities, is a testament to their unwavering faith and commitment. The report serves as a reminder of the challenges and dangers faced by those who devote their lives to their religious calling.