More church workers were killed in Nigeria than in any other country in 2017, according to a Vatican agency.

Fides said at least 23 people working for the Church were killed worldwide last year. Most were victims of attempted robberies, the agency said.

Ten pastoral workers were killed in Africa, five of them in Nigeria, and two workers were killed in Asia, both in the Philippines, the report said.

Eleven were killed in the Americas. Four of those deaths were in Mexico, the nation where the greatest number of priests in Latin America are killed.

Among those killed in 2017, Fides said, were 13 priests, one Brother, one Sister and eight lay people. The number was down from 2016, when 28 people were killed.

“Once again the majority of the pastoral care workers were killed in attempted robbery, and in some cases violently attacked – a sign of the climate of moral decline, economic and cultural poverty, which generates violence and disregard for human life,” the agency said in its report. “Hardly any investigations conducted by the local authorities led to identifying and convicting the perpetrators and the instigators of these killings or the reasons why they were carried out,” it added. Those killed “are only the tip of the iceberg”, it said, as the report does not include the number of pastoral workers or Catholic faithful who are assaulted, beaten, robbed or threatened. Nor does it document properties owned by the Church that are attacked.

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