A Mexican priest murdered, an archbishop assaulted

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) — A priest was shot dead while driving on a rural Mexican road on May 22, marking yet another attack in what has become the deadliest country for Catholic clergy.

Augustinian Father Javier García Villafaña was killed around 7 p.m. (local time) in the municipality of Huandacareo, in the state of Michoacán, west of Mexico City. Father García was found dead with gunshot wounds.

The Archdiocese of Morelia acknowledged Father García’s death, but provided little information and did not respond to a request for comment. The Catholic Multimedia Center, which tracks attacks on clergy, reported that Father García assumed responsibility for Our Lord of Atonement Parish in Huandacareo on April 23.

The killing of Father García follows a May 21 attack on Archbishop Faustino Armendáriz Jiménez of Durango, who said an elderly man threw a knife at him in the sacristy of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in the state in northwestern Mexico.

Archbishop Armendáriz was unhurt in the attack, although the knife went through his clothes, tearing them.

Father García’s death marks the ninth fatal attack on clergy under the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center.

Church watchers have no convincing explanation for attacks on clergy, though they report a spike in violence in Mexico after the federal government launched a crackdown on drug cartels in December 2006.

The Catholic Multimedia Center has also noted an increase in thefts, vandalism and desecration of parishes across Mexico, according to the center’s director, Father Pauline Omar Sotelo Aguilar.

“As we have always said, it is the persecution of members of the Catholic Church, it is the persecution of the Catholic Church as such,” Father Sotelo told OSV News.

The church’s relationship with criminal groups can be complicated. Members of the drug cartel often consider themselves true Catholics, sponsor patronage holidays, and seek sacraments such as baptism for their children.

Father Sotelo said attacks on clergy often involve organized crime, as priests are seen as authority figures in violence-ridden rural areas – their killings sending a message of power-building and control, while paving the way for the introduction of “narco culture” and “narco culture”. economy,” said Father Sotelo.

“In their parish communities, they are (the priests) a social stabilizing force. The parish not only provides spiritual service, but also renders a great service to the community,” he explained.

Archbishop Armendáriz dismissed any suggestion that the attack on him was linked to organized crime groups – which are active in his archdiocese in northern Mexico.

In comments to local media, Bishop Armedáriz said he did not know the suspect, but the person tried to approach the altar during mass. The Prelate says the suspect asked him if he was the Archbishop and after confirming his identity, the person swung the knife.

The suspect was held in the sacristy by onlookers.

“At times like these, it is crucial that we unite as a society and reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental values ​​of peace, tolerance and mutual respect,” the Mexican Episcopal Conference said in a statement dated 22 may. “We reject all forms of violence and fanaticism, and we call for the promotion of dialogue and reconciliation to resolve our differences.

López Obrador took office on December 1, 2018, promising to calm the country, but homicides have remained stubbornly high. According to government statistics, there have been more than 150,000 murders in four and a half years. The president, however, insisted that he inherited a difficult situation and that the murder rate had dropped slightly under his leadership.

He also lambasted Mexican bishops for urging him to reconsider a security strategy he calls “hugs, not bullets.”

May 24 marked the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo de Guadalajara. He was killed in a hail of gunfire outside Guadalajara airport in what the government said was mistaken identity. The church has never accepted this explanation.

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