MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A Catholic priest has been found dead in northern Mexico, marking another attack on clergy in a country where the widespread violence of the past decade has not spared church leaders.
The body of Father Joaquin Hernandez Sifuentes, 42, was discovered Jan. 11 in Parras de la Fuente, approximately 90 miles west of his working-class parish in Saltillo, while his vehicle was discovered abandoned in another state, the Coahuila state prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Details on the disappearance of Father Hernandez remain uncertain, although Saltillo Bishop Raul Vera Lopez said Jan. 11 that two suspects had been arrested.
Father Hernandez was last seen celebrating Mass New Year’s Day at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in a community known as La Aurora and was scheduled to take vacation thereafter.
Colleagues became suspicious when they were unable to reach Father Hernandez on his cellphone, according to a diocesan statement. His room in the parish residence appeared messy, with draws left open and clothing strewn on the floor — uncharacteristic for Father Hernandez — while his suitcase had been left behind, along with his reading glasses.
Neighbors spotted two young men driving away with the priest’s car Jan. 3, but Father Hernandez was not with them. Bishop Vera said two suspects had been arrested, though the authorities had yet to confirm the details.
“All of Mexican society is exposed. Priests are not spared from violence,” said Bishop Vera Lopez, whose diocese has worked tirelessly to provide legal and spiritual support for the families of missing persons in the state of Coahuila, which borders Texas.
Father Hernandez was ordained in 2004, had worked in the diocesan family ministry and was pursuing a master’s degree in family studies at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Study on Marriage and Family at Anahuac University.
“Father Joaquin was someone who searched for perfection in every activity he did; the desire to always innovate in his work was reflected in the love of the faithful, including during these past 10 days,” while he was disappeared, the diocesan statement said.
The disappearance and death of Father Hernandez marks the fourth time in four months that a Mexican priest has been murdered. Another priest, Father Jose Luis Sanchez Ruiz, was found alive with signs of torture after being abducted in Veracruz state.
At least 16 priests have been killed since December 2012, according to a count by Mexico’s Catholic Multimedia Center.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103