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So many murders’: Pope mourns priests killed in Mexico

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 Pope Francis on Wednesday lamented the spiral of violence engulfing Mexico after two Jesuit priests and a man seeking refuge were shot inside a church The pope himself a Jesuit expressed sadness and dismay at the killings of men he called his brothers in the mountains of the northern state of Chihuahua So many murders hellip
So many murders’: Pope mourns priests killed in Mexico

NNN: Pope Francis on Wednesday lamented the spiral of violence engulfing Mexico, after two Jesuit priests and a man seeking refuge were shot inside a church.

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The pope, himself a Jesuit, expressed sadness and dismay at the killings of men he called his “brothers” in the mountains of the northern state of Chihuahua.

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“So many murders in Mexico. I am close, in affection and prayer, to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy,” the pontiff said at the end of his weekly audience at the Vatican.

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Priests Javier Campos, 79, and Joaquín Mora, 81, were shot to death in the town of Cerocahui on Monday “when they tried to defend a man who was seeking refuge,” according to the order also known as the Society of Jesus.

The persecuted man, who worked as a tour guide, was also killed and his remains were taken along with those of the two priests.

Some 30 priests have been killed in Mexico in the last decade, according to the Centro Católico Multimedial, a Catholic organization.

More than 340,000 people have been killed in a wave of bloodshed in Mexico since the government deployed the army to fight drug cartels in 2006.

– Crime-ridden region: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that the suspected killer had been identified and a manhunt was underway.

The suspect, identified by another priest present at the church, was already wanted for the murder of an American tourist in 2018, he told reporters.

“That area of ​​the mountains has long been infiltrated, penetrated, dominated by crime,” López Obrador said.

Armed men placed the three bodies in the back of a van, covered them with plastic and took them away, according to Father Luis Gerardo Moro Madrid, a leader of the Jesuits in Mexico.

“We demand justice and the recovery of the bodies,” the order said.

Experts say Chihuahua is a major transit route for illegal drugs bound for the United States and one hotly disputed between rival drug gangs.

Father Jorge Atilano González, also a Jesuit, told a local television channel that the priests killed on Monday tried to intervene because they knew the assailant, who was from the area.

“He wanted to go to confession” after the shooting, he said, citing the testimony of the third priest present.

“What we believe is that he was in a state of alcoholism or addiction because of the reaction he had,” he added.

– ‘Important social work’ The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico condemned the killings and said the priests had carried out “important social and pastoral work” among the Raramuri or Tarahumara indigenous people.

“The murder of these two well-known priests reminds us of the situation of extreme violence and vulnerability faced by the communities of the Sierra Tarahumara in Chihuahua,” said UN human rights representative Guillermo Fernández-Maldonado.

The Mexican Episcopal Conference called for a speedy investigation, as well as greater security for the country’s clergy.

It is common for religious leaders in Mexico to act as defenders of their communities and as mediators with the criminal gangs that operate there.

In states like Michoacán and Guerrero, some have even entered into dialogue with drug traffickers in an attempt to keep the peace in largely poor regions with little government presence.

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