MEXICO – Another priest killed as violence soars
Another Catholic priest has been found stabbed to death in Mexico, now officially considered the most dangerous country in the world to be a priest.
Father Luis Lopez Villa, parish priest of San Isidro Labrador in the city of Los Reyes La Paz in Mexico State, was found dead in his room shortly after 8pm on 5 July local media reported. His killers broke into the church and then entered the rectory. The noise they made alarmed neighbours who called church staff for help. When they arrived the 71-year-old priest was already dead, with stab wounds in his chest and neck. His hands and feet had been tied.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Archbishop of Mexico, sent his condolences to ‘the Diocese of Nezahualcóyotl and of the whole Church in the country for the murder of the priest’. He added he was praying for the ‘eternal rest’ of the priest and for ‘the conversion of those who perpetrated this damnable deed’. The Bishops’ Conference has called for the authorities to investigate the crimes.
Fr Luis López Villa from the diocese of Nezahualcóyotl is just one in a long line of priests in the country who have been murdered. Fr Villa is the 18th priest to be murdered in Mexico in the last six years since the current government of President Peña Nieto came to power, surpassing the 17 cases that were recorded during the six years of the presidency of Felipe Calderón.
According to the Office of Special Investigations of the Catholic Multimedia Centre (CCM), which published its latest report on priests and religious murdered in Mexico on 6 July, three cases have already been registered in 2017. The report regretfully noted that a total of 66 assaults against members of the Catholic church had been registered during the period from 1990 to 2017, 60 of which were described as malicious crimes. Two priests are still listed as missing. There were also two cases of thwarted abduction attempts. Among the assault victims were one cardinal, 44 priests, a deacon, four religious, nine laymen and a Catholic journalist.
Jorge Eugenio Hernandez Trasloheros, a professor in Latin American studies at the University of Mexico, said the rising trend of violence against priests was part of the typically high levels of violence in Mexico.
‘Mexican priests are leaders in their communities. They are no saints but they usually do their job very well. It is not strange that they are a target of the gangs. The criminals want people isolated and full of fear,’ he commented.
Omar Sotelo, a priest and director of Mexico’s Catholic Multimedia Center (CCM), said clergy were targeted because they preach against injustice and violence. ‘They’re defending migrants, they’re against drug trafficking,’ he said ‘and the priests often know who the criminals are, having seen them grow up in the towns. Eventually, some criminals can see that as a threat.’