Africa has overtaken Latin America as the most deadly region for Catholic missionaries, according to the Fides news agency.
During 2018 40 missionaries were killed throughout the world, up from 23 the previous year. Of these 35 were priests, with one seminarian and four lay people.
Africa saw 21 deaths, 19 of them priests. In Latin America 15 died, 12 of them priests; in Asia three priests and Europe one.
Fides said: 'Many missionaries have lost their lives during attempted hold-ups and robberies, ferociously committed, in impoverished, degraded social contexts, where violence is the rule of life, the authority of the state was lacking or weakened by corruption and compromises, or where religion is used for other ends.
'Everywhere priests, religious, and laymen share the same daily life as the common people, bringing them the evangelical witness of love and service for all, as a sign of hope and peace, trying to alleviate the suffering of the weak and raising their voices in defense of their trampled rights, denouncing evil and injustice. Even in danger of their own safety, at the request of civil authorities or their own superiors, the missionaries remained at their posts, aware of the risks which they were running, in order to remain true to the duties they bore.'