Church officials in Mexico, thousands of faithful, and the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, have strongly condemned the media coverage of the death of American missionary Fr. Richard Junius Sander who was killed on July 29 for denouncing a nearby popular club frequented by young people.
Fr. Sander was discovered by police in his room after a fire broke out in his parish. He was found strangled, with his feet and hands tied.
Some Mexican media reports suggested the killing was the result of “sexual misconduct” by the priest, a claim that has been strongly rejected by the faithful and by Father Sander’s congregation.
In a joint letter, the provincial superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Fr. Vicente Louwagie, and the Parish Council of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe expressed “their indignation over the morbid and perverse reporting that some journalists have given to the violent death of Reverend Father Ricardo Junius Sander.”
“Daily interaction with him has greater weight than the slanderous commentaries of those who seek to calumniate him and create a distorted image of his person, using pictures that reveal nothing more than a criminal torture before his death,” the letter indicated. “The priest was tortured and killed out of vengeance for having denounced to authorities the abuses of a place of vice and corruption located one block from the church and where alcohol was served to minors.”
“For this reason we reject any assumptions and speculations before the Justice Department comes to a final conclusion about this cowardly crime and those responsible and their accomplices are behind bars, even if they happen to be police officers,” the letter continued.
Father Sander, 76, was a popular priest in Mexico City. During his years as a missionary he founded various parishes in the poorest areas of the city. He was also host of a television show on the network Mariavision entitled, “Principios.”
He would have celebrated fifty years as a priest on September 8 of this year.