Vatican official: Hundreds of Millions of Christians "face high levels of persecution"

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican secretary for relations with states. | Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

“More than 365 million Christians, approximately 1 in 7, face high levels of persecution for their faith,” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, said at a conference on religious freedom held in Rome this week.

The conference, titled “Religious Freedom and Integral Human Development: A New Global Platform,” was jointly organized by the Sovereign Order of Malta, the Atlantic Council, and several universities, including the Pontifical Urban University of Rome and the University of Notre Dame.

In his speech, Gallagher said attacks on churches and Christian properties “increased significantly in 2023, with more Christians than ever before reporting violent attacks.”

The prelate went on to describe his concern that “according to some estimates, almost 4.9 billion people live in countries with serious or very serious violations of religious freedom.” 

The Vatican diplomat underscored that religious freedom, “although not the only aspect of human rights, is probably the most fundamental,” adding that “the violation of the right to religious freedom has the effect of undermining not only one right but also the entire category of human rights,” he added.


“Religious freedom plays a decisive role in achieving integral human development,” Gallagher continued. For this reason, he added, “the state should exercise a detached neutrality and grant religious groups and all individuals an equal right to the public manifestation of their religious convictions.”

Gallagaher spoke as part of the conference’s opening panel analyzing the global crisis of religious freedom. The conference attracted participants from some 19 countries and included the participation of the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.