The Church throughout the world has expereince increased violence in the past year, according to a recent global report on the murders of priests, religious and lay faithful.
Data published by the Fides news agency recorded 22 assassinations in 2013, up from 13 in 2012.
Most of the victims were killed during robbery attempts, and in some cases the attacks were ferocious.
Among the victims were 19 priests, one religious sister and two laymen who died violently. For the fifth consecutive year, Latin America was the area where most assassinations of this type took place.
Seven priests died in Colombia; four in Mexico; one in Brazil; one in Venezuela; one in Panama; and one in Haiti.
In Africa, one priest was killed in Tanzania, one religious sister in Madagascar and one laywoman in Nigeria. In Asia, one priest was killed in India, one in Syria and one layman in the Philippines. In Europe, one priest was killed in Italy.
Fides noted that the list does not only include missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense, but all pastoral care workers who died violent deaths.
During the past year, several canonization causes were opened for candidates who died violently. In addition, the diocesan phase of the beatification process for Luisa Mistrali Guidotti was completed during this time. Guidotti, a member of the Women's Medical Missionary Association, was killed in 1979 in then Rhodesia – between Zambia and Zimbabwe – while taking a pregnant woman to a hospital.
The year 2013 also saw the opening of the cause for canonization of Father Mario Vergara, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for the Foreign Missions, as well as that of lay catechist Isidoro Ngei Ko Lat, killed out of hatred for the faith in Myanmar in 1950.
However, the fate of many other pastoral agents who have been kidnapped or have disappeared continues to be a cause of concern. Among those whose whereabouts remain unknown are three priests from the Augustinians of the Assumption, kidnapped in the Congo in October of 2012.