- A CORRESPONDENT
The Roman Catholic Church began a special round of prayers for peace in Mexico on Sunday after two Jesuit priests and a guide were killed on June 20.
The Jesuits held a minute’s silence for the priests, who were allegedly killed by a local gang leader as they tried to protect the guide.
Women pray during a mass in memory of all the priests and men and women religious who were murdered in Mexico, in Mexico City on Sunday, July 10. Following the murder of two Jesuit priests two weeks ago in Chihuahua, the Society of Jesus and other religious institutions have called for a day of prayer and peace. PHOTO: AP Photo/Moises Castillo.
Dozens of people gathered at the downtown monument known as the Stella of Light for the moment of silence.
The Jesuits said they would not be intimidated to leave the Tarahumara Mountains, where the order has cared for the indigenous Rarámuri community for centuries. Two priests have already been appointed to replace their deceased brothers, Reverend Jorge Atilano González said.
“Today we begin a cycle of prayers for peace at the national level. It is the opening of a month marking the memory of all those killed and disappeared. Today we remember the priests, the journalists, social activists and young people who died violently,” González told the rally.
So far this year, 12 journalists have been killed in Mexico, making it the most dangerous country for journalists outside of a war zone.
The church’s Catholic Multimedia Center said seven priests have been killed under the current administration, which took office in December 2018, and at least two dozen during the previous president’s six years.
But many more average citizens have been killed in the gang-fueled violence.
“The more than 100,000 missing and 122,000 killed during this administration are a source of pain, strength, anger and courage to build justice, reconciliation and peace,” González said.
The murdered priests, Reverend Javier Campos, 79, and Reverend Joaquín Mora, 80, had spent much of their lives serving the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Tarahumara mountains. The Jesuits were shot in the small church in the town of Cerocahui.
The council of bishops also called on the faithful to pray on July 31 for the conversion or redemption of the killers.
“What we ask as Jesuits is peace in the Sierra Tarahumara, security for the Rarámuri communities, as well as the religious community,” González said.
“We are also asking for justice, the strengthening of local institutions”, such as the police forces, he said. “It will not be enough to have the presence of the army and the national guard. We need stronger local institutions.