PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico (CNS) — A Mexican priest reported kidnapped in the border state of Tamaulipas was reported to have been safely returned March 30, the Diocese of Tampico said in a statement.
Father Oscar Lopez Navarro, 40, a member of the Misioneros de Cristo Mediador (Missionaries of Christ the Mediator), was followed by his assailants as he left St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Altamira, a port city some 300 miles south of the Texas border at Brownsville. The priest was abducted as he arrived at his order’s residence at around 10:30 p.m. March 28, reported local media.
The diocese gave no other details, although Bishop Jose Dibildox Martinez of Tampico said March 29 that the priest’s captors had contacted him and negotiations were occurring.
Local media reported that Father Angel Vargas Uribe, diocesan spokesman, told a news conference: “We do not know the reasons why he was abducted. He did not have problems with anyone. … We are not scared.”
The kidnapping was reminder of the violence in Tamaulipas state, where a 2010 split between drug cartels — the incumbent Gulf Cartel and its former armed wing, Los Zetas — provoked a wave of violence, including attacks on civilians and a surge in crimes such as extortion and kidnapping. Father Carlos Ornelas Puga, a priest in the Diocese of Ciudad Victoria, was kidnapped in 2013 and has not been seen since. The diocese has said little on his disappearance, which observers attribute to the fear and insecurity in the state.
The news of Father Lopez’s kidnapping came as news broke of another priest being murdered in Mexico.
Father Felipe Altamirano Carrillo, 54, an indigenous priest, was murdered March 27 in the prelature of Nayar. The prelature serves a rugged region of western Mexico populated by the indigenous Cora and Huichol peoples.
Regional news outlets reported that Father Altamirano was shot in the head during an assault on a rural roadway in Nayarit state, after celebrating Mass.
At least 17 priests have been murdered in Mexico since December 2012, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center.