Last Friday, a young priest in Mexico was murdered, marking the second priest killing in less than a week.
On April 20, Fr. Juan Miguel Contreras Garcia, 33, was brutally murdered inside of his church in Guadalajara, Jalisco State. Fr. Garcia was shot to death inside Saint Pio of Pietrelcina church, Catholic News Agency reported.
A few days prior, on April 18, Fr. Rubén Alcántara Díaz, the vicar general of the Diocese of Cuautitlán Izcalli, was also killed.
In the last six years, 23 priests have been murdered in Mexico alone, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center. The number has been on the rise in recent years, and the back-to-back murders last week came as a shock to everyone.
Police are unsure who committed the attack on Fr. Contreras Garcia, but the Attorney General’s Office of Jalisco State believe the attack was carried out by two men from the Hacienda Santa Fe neighborhood in the town of Tlajomulco, in the Guadalajara metropolitan area.
The attorney general’s office also came to the conclusion that the murderers, “entered the sacristy of the parish and straight away attacked the victim, fleeing afterwards in a compact vehicle.”
“The victim was found in the church with several gunshot wounds,” the office told CNA.
Many religious leaders in Mexico commented on the attacks, expressing their sadness over the deaths. The Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, released a message expressing “our deepest grief,” speaking for his auxiliary bishops, the clergy, and the congregation.
Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega also urged “the state and municipal authorities to investigate and determine the facts of this deplorable incident.”
The Archdiocese called on “those that commit these atrocities against people’s lives to reconsider the damage they do to society and the climate of anguish they bring upon the citizens, so that their minds and hearts be moved to repent of their actions.”
“We unite in prayer so that this climate of violence that afflicts our state of Jalisco would come to an end,” the cardinals concluded.
The bishops of Mexico also made a statement on the priests’ deaths, expressing “sadness and grief over the murder of another priest in just a few days.”
“We make an urgent call to build a culture of peace and reconciliation,” they said. “These deplorable incidents call all of us to a much deeper and sincere conversion. It is time to look honestly at our culture and society, to ask ourselves why we have lost respect for life and the sacred.”
They also had a strong message for those within the community who are contemplating or have committed murder:
“Those who despise and take away life for any cause, to let the kindly face-up God look upon you to not only lay down your weapons but also hatred, resentment, vengeance and every destructive sentiment.”
“To our competent authorities we strongly request, once again, to exhaustively investigate and determine the facts in order to act in conformity with justice and not allow this crime or the other crimes in our nation to go unpunished,” they concluded.
Overall violence in Mexico has skyrocketed in recent years. The Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice has stated that “the increase in violence is undeniable.”
Earlier this month, 14 people were murdered within 36 hours in the resort city of Cancun, with authorities citing drug gang violence as the likely cause.
(H/T: Catholic News Agency)