By Ferdinand Komenan
Over the past four years, according to data released by the Mexican Catholic Church, 15 priests were murdered. And from 2005 to 2016, of the nearly 140 “pastoral agents” (priests, religious, laity) killed in the world, nearly half were killed in Latin America.
With the assassination of Fr. Joaquín Hernandez Sifuentes, that took place on January 12 of this year in the diocese of Saltillo, the number of priests killed in Mexico from 2012 to today climbs to 15 altogether. Having disappeared on January 3, the priest’s body was found lifeless. It’s sad and scary, but this is the portion of the flock that the Lord has entrusted to us. Here in Mexico we move as “lambs among wolves.”
In a country where corruption has infected every corner of society, there is no trust, neither in politicians nor in law enforcement officers. So, the only institution still worthy of trust is the Church. Priests receive the complaints, statements and outbursts of those who do not know whom to trust. At times those who denounce and those who condemn are the priests themselves. That is why, now and then, there are bullets destined for those daring priests willing to speak out against this infection.
We cannot say that the Church is under fire; we do not want to think so, because such thought would rob us of the serenity needed to preach. The same “matones”, “rateros”, “narcos”, “sicarios,” or whatever we might want to call them, are Catholics themselves. They might have a rosary around their neck and a gun in their pocket; perhaps they also pray before setting out to do their dirty work. In addition to these brazen displays of subjugation, they also enforce in secret: we must now be vigilant, as we do not know who is listening in on our homilies.
The reasons for justifying the killing of priests are many: their sermons sting; they know too much; their presence is inconvenient. They have so many things that stir the envy of those who do not have them: they side with the defenseless; they become the mouthpiece of the voiceless; they refuse to sell the Sacraments to those who want to buy them.
In short, priests are killed for what priests do as priests. What a paradox: the most Catholic country in the world harbors the most hostile soil for the exercise of the ministerial priesthood! It seems contradictory, but it is the sad reality.
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