An elderly priest in Venezuela has said that he is willing to forgive the men who violently attacked him at the entrance to his parish in an attempt to steal his watch.

"They should be forgiven," Father Marcos Antonio Rovayo Cardenas told local reporters, citing Pope John Paul II.

"If there is no forgiveness, justice will not be done," the priest explained. "Peace is attained first with charity, with justice, and therefore forgiveness is an essential element of love for neighbor."

Three individuals have been identified by Venezuelan officials as suspects in the Jan. 15 attack.

Fr. Rovayo explained on Venezuelan television that it was not the first time St. Martin de Porres parish had been the target of criminal activity, as it was robbed 12 times last year.

"The last time they stole 30 chairs," he said. "We could hear them, but for security reasons we did not do anything."

Fr. Rovayo has called on local authorities to improve the lighting around the parish and to increase security.  Two murders took place last year in the neighborhood where the church is located.