Death threats force priest to abandon parish in Colombia

.- The Archdiocese of Medellin has reported that Father Juan Guillermo Zapata was forced to abandon his parish in the town of Bello in northern Colombia after a group of delinquents robbed him and threatened him with death.

During his Sunday homily at the Parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe, where he has been pastor for seven years, Father Zapata said goodbye to his parishioners, saying his sudden departure was due to death threats he received on September 1st, when a group of men approached him and, after robbing him of what he was carrying, told him to leave his parish as soon as possible.

The case of Father Zapata is not the only one in the region.  In February of 2005, Father Roberto Cadavid Arroyave, rector of the School of Our Lady of Chiquinquira in Niquia—located just a few blocks from Father Zapata’s parish—also received death threats and had to leave the school.  On that occasion, more than 600 school children marched through the streets of the town rejecting the intimidation.

A year and a half later, the residents of a sector that has historically suffered from armed militias and high crime rates is having trouble reconciling the fact that their parish is without a pastor.  Fr. Zapata, in their estimation stood firmly for his work with young people and his efforts for excellence in the parish, the rectory, and its diverse apostolic works.  

The reason for the death threats against the priest has not been determined, and the Archdiocese of Medellin said it would issue a statement about the events and about the transfer of the priest as soon as more detailed information about the incident is available.

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