The Mexican Bishops’ Conference (CEM) expressed “consternation and pain” over the May 22 murder of Augustinian Father Javier García Villafaña and demanded “an exhaustive and transparent investigation.”

“We strongly condemn this act of violence that has not only taken a life but also threatens peace and justice in our nation,” the Mexican bishops said.

“It’s a painful reminder of the dire situation we face as a society, in which the presence of organized crime and impunity continue to threaten the lives and safety of so many,” they added.

According to the Michoacán State Attorney General’s Office, the priest’s body was found inside his car on the Cuitzeo-Huandacareo highway with gunshot wounds.

García was pastor of St. Mark Parish in the town of Capacho in the Huandacareo district, a region in the Archdiocese of Morelia.

“We urgently call on the competent authorities to carry out an exhaustive and transparent investigation that leads to the identification and punishment of those responsible. We cannot allow this and other similar acts to go unpunished,” the bishops stated.

According to the Multimedia Catholic Center, this is the ninth priest murdered during the six-year term of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which began in December 2018.

Almost a year ago, on June 21, 2022, two Jesuit priests were murdered inside a Catholic church in the town of Cerocahui in the Sierra Tarahumara area of the state of Chihuahua.

In March of this year, José Noriel Portillo, accused of being the gunman who killed the Jesuits, was found dead by authorities.

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For the CEM, “it is essential that the rule of law be restored and the safety of all citizens be guaranteed, especially those who dedicate their lives to the service of others.”

The Mexican bishops renewed their commitment “to announce the Gospel of peace and reconciliation in the midst of adversity.”

“We will continue to accompany our communities, strengthening faith and promoting justice, human dignity, and dialogue as instruments for social transformation,” they continued.

The bishops also entrusted the soul of the priest to the mercy of God and asked that “these times be a seed of a more fraternal and solidary Mexico.”

“May today encourage us to continue fighting for peace and justice, and not succumb to violence and despair,” they said.

“May Mary, our Mother and Comforter of the afflicted, intercede for us and help us build a Mexico in which respect for the life and dignity of each person reigns,” the bishops concluded.

According to an October 2022 report by México Evalúa, 96.9% of first degree murders in Mexico go unsolved.

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