An 80-year-old man wielding a knife tried to kill Archbishop Faustino Armendáriz of Durango, Mexico, on May 21. The attack took place in the cathedral sacristy after the Sunday noon Mass.

The man was later arrested by municipal authorities.

After the failed murder attempt, Armendáriz on Twitter thanked “God, the Most Holy Virgin, the Immaculate Conception, and the Holy Martyrs, who today on their feast day, have protected me from this aggression against my physical integrity in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Durango.”

“God bless everyone for their words of solidarity and their prayers,” he said.

Speaking later with local media, the prelate explained that after finishing Mass he went to the sacristy, where occasionally people come “to say hello, to consult, to chat.”

While he was speaking with someone, he recalled, the attacker “violently pulled me over on my left side” to ask if Armendáriz was the local bishop.

“With that I managed to see that he extended his arm full length, and I managed to see a weapon, a knife, in his hand. And he managed to get me here, at the top of the ribs, and I felt the sting, but I bent over so he couldn’t hurt me and pushed his arm down,” he recounted.

After the attack, the prelate was able to ascertain that “there was no such penetration of the piercing weapon, only the blow,” the result of the attempt to stab him.

According to Armendáriz, “besides the person’s lack of strength, I believe that something transcendent protected me.”

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For the archbishop of Durango, “it was attempted murder,” and he acknowledged that it was “frightening” and “saddening.”

Far from holding a grudge against his attacker, the prelate pointed out that while the man tried to harm him, he prayed “that God would bless him.”

“It seems to me that it’s also an opportunity to show solidarity with the people who are suffering,” the archbishop said, lamenting that “we are vulnerable and that can happen to anyone” in a country that suffers from the “relativization of justice” as well as insecurity and violence.

“This is part of all this lacerated social fabric, and above all the lack of moral values and situations that our people without a doubt are experiencing in anonymity,” he pointed out.

The mayor of Durango, José Antonio Ochoa, described the case as “an attack” from which the archbishop “fortunately escaped unharmed.”

Ochoa pointed out that he has already instructed his subordinates to redouble the “security effort” in the region.

“We will pay all due attention to it,” he said, adding: “We will not allow this type of incident to be repeated.”

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The mayor noted that Durango is one “of the five safest cities in the country.”

Bishops of Mexico respond

The Mexican Bishops' Conference on May 22 expressed its “solidarity and repudiation of the attack against Archbishop Faustino Armendáriz Jiménez.”

“At times like these, it is crucial that we come together as a society and reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental values of peace, tolerance, and mutual respect,” the Mexican bishops said.

The bishops also thanked “our Mother, the Virgin Guadalupe, for the protection of our brother Archbishop Faustino Armendáriz Jiménez; we ask God to grant us the peace that we so long for and pray for the conversion of those who cause so much pain to society.”

In February 2022, Armendáriz said that he had been stopped by organized crime when he was traveling through his archdiocese as part of his pastoral work.

“We have already been stopped during our work, because we continue to carry out our task in the places to where we need and must go, and there we will be with the people who suffer,” he said on that occasion.

Priest shot to death

In a separate incident a day later, Father Javier García Villafaña, an Augustinian priest, was shot to death in his car on the Cuitzeo-Huandacareo highway in the Mexican state of Michoacán on the afternoon of May 22.

García was the pastor of St. Mark’s Parish in the town of Capacho.

The Archdiocese of Morelia, to which St. Mark’s Parish belongs, confirmed the death of the priest, although it did not refer to the crime.

“The Lord has called into his presence Father Fray Javier García Villafana, OSA. The bishops of the archdiocese, the presbytery and the entire Archdiocese of Morelia unite in prayer and entrust this son of theirs to the hands of Mary Immaculate so that the Lord of Life may receive him in his dwelling places of glory. Give him, Lord, eternal rest,” the archdiocese said on Facebook.

According to the Multimedia Catholic Center, with the death of García, there have been nine Catholic priests murdered since the current president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, took office at the end of 2018.

The Michoacán State Attorney General’s Office said that the authorities were notified of the homicide at approximately 7 p.m.

At the scene, “a car with bullet holes was located.” Inside, the body of the priest was found with “gunshot wounds.”

According to local media, the identification of the body was made through documents that were found among his belongings.

The state prosecutor’s office said that an investigation will be conducted into the murder.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.