In a span of less than two weeks, three Mexican priests have been murdered within their parishes in what is being called a “Black April” for the Church.
According to the Catholic Multimedia Center, 24 priests have been killed in Mexico since December of 2012, when the six year administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto began. Out of the 24 priests who had their lives tragically ended in the unending spiral of violence engulfing Mexico these past few months, three were murdered in a span of eight days. The Catholic Multimedia Center has called it a “Black April” for the church, writing:
“In a few days, Mexico has experienced the worst public safety crises of its modern history. Not only are young people being disappeared and killed, the dimension of this barbarity has reached all levels of society and the Church has had a ‘Black April’. Three priests have died in violent circumstances, raising indignation and concern among bishops across the country.”
On April 18th, Father Ruben Alcantara Diaz was attacked just prior to the 7 p.m. Mass at the Our Lady of Carmen Parish in Cuautitlán Izcalli. Father Diaz was accosted by the assailant who shouted out allegations before stabbing him. According to the Mexican newspaper Reforma, the assailant’s whereabouts are unknown.
Just two days later on April 20th, Father Juan Miguel Contreras Garcia aged 33 died from gunshot wounds outside Saint Pio of Pietrelcina church in Guadalajara. Father Garcia was in the sacristy receiving confessions when two men “entered the sacristy of the parish and straight away attacked the victim, fleeing afterwards in a compact vehicle.”
Father Jose Moises Fabila Reyes is the latest priest in the string of tragedies to be found dead in the country. On April 3rd, Father Reyes was kidnapped after being followed for some time on a trip to the city of Cuernavaca in Morelos. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of two million pesos, about 100,000 dollars, but his life was not spared even after receiving payment. He was found dead last Thursday in the Municipality of Emiliano Zapata.
The Mexican Bishop’s Conference issued a call to action on the violence consuming both the country and the Church. Archbishop of Guadalajara Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega made an impassioned plea for peace, saying:
“We make an urgent call to build a culture of peace and reconciliation. It is time to look honestly at our culture and society, and to ask ourselves why we have lost respect for life and for the sacred. We ask those who despise and take away life for any cause, to let the kindly face of God look upon you to not only lay down your weapons but also hatred, resentment, vengeance, and every destructive sentiment. We ask the Catholic faithful to accompany their priests with prayer, above all, in the pastoral service of the communities they are entrusted to.”