.- A cardinal in Colombia is mourning the recent murder of a local priest, which brings the clergy death toll in the country to 83 since 1984.
“Every murder is offensive, but the murder of a man who has dedicated his life to Christ and to the service of others causes special concern,” said Cardinal Ruben Salazar of Bogota, reacting to the murder.
Father Luis Alfredo Suarez Salazar was killed on Feb. 2 by two unknown assailants in the northern Colombian city of Ocana. The 50-year-old priest was visiting the city on vacation before planning to return to his home Diocese of Villavicencio.
According to police reports, Fr. Suarez was killed while helping his sister load items into her van. The two assailants fled on a motorcycle.
The driver of the van, Hernan Torres Ramos, was also wounded in the attack and is recovering in a local hospital.
Fr. Suarez’s family said that he had not been the target of any threats and was known in the community for his humanitarianism and solidarity with those in need. According to media reports, he was anxious to return to Villavicencio to continue his ministry.
Cardinal Salazar warned that the problem of violence against clergy is a common one in Colombia.
“There are many threatened priests in all regions of the country, especially where there is armed conflict,” he said.
According to data from the Colombian bishops, more than 80 priests have been killed in the last three decades, along with five religious sisters, three religious brothers, three seminarians, one bishop and one archbishop.
In the same period of time, 17 bishops and 52 priests have received death threats.