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(LifeSiteNews) — Unidentified gunmen kidnapped four religious sisters in Nigeria on Sunday as they were traveling to Mass.

“It is with great pain that we bring to your notice the kidnapping of four of our sisters,” announced the Secretary General of their order, the Sisters of Jesus the Savior, in a bulletin on Monday.

While the motive behind the abduction has not been confirmed, it comes amid a rash of now-common “extortion kidnappings” in Nigeria, which often target members of the Catholic Church, especially clergy. Already in the first half of 2022, more than 20 Catholic priests have been kidnapped, some of whom were killed.

While some of these kidnappings are religiously motivated, most aim at exploiting the financial resources of the Catholic Church through ransoms, Crux pointed out.

The sisters were identified by Secretary General Sister Zita Ihedoro as Johannes Nwodo, Christabel Echemazu, Liberata Mbamalu and Benita Agu.

The sisters were kidnapped near the Okigwe-Umulolo axis of the Okigwe-Enugu Expressway, the National Catholic Register shared, as they traveled from Nigeria’s Rivers State to Imo State.

“Despite several army checkpoints mounted around our community, kidnapping has become a weekly occurrence, if not daily,” an anonymous local told Vanguard.

Alessandro Monteduro, director of the pontifical aid organization Aid to the Church in Need, has asked for “everyone’s prayers” so that the sisters “will be released as soon as possible,” and Ihedoro has likewise “implor[ed] intense prayer for their quick and safe release.”

Father John Cheitnum and Father Donatus Suleiman were among the most recently abducted Catholic religious in Nigeria, having been kidnapped on July 15. While Suleiman escaped, Cheitman was killed the same day he was captured.

READ: Two Catholic priests kidnapped in Nigeria, one found ‘brutally killed’

Luka Sylvester Gopep, auxiliary bishop of Minna in Nigeria’s Niger state, told Fides News that “unfortunately, the situation in our beloved Nigeria is not improving, but we still look to the future with trust in God.”

The risk associated with being a Catholic priest in Nigeria has escalated in recent years as Muslim terror groups, including the notorious Boko Haram, continue to commit atrocities against the Nigerian clergy. At least three churches in Nigeria suffered murderous terrorist attacks in the month of June alone, resulting in more than 75 deaths and numerous kidnappings. On June 5 at St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo in the state of Ondo, armed attackers slaughtered 40 worshippers and left 87 hospitalized.

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