Mexico's bishops call on authorities to find missing priest

Priests celebrate Mass at Sant Agnese in Agone Catholic Church in Rome on Sept 14 2014 Credit Joaqu n Peir  P rez CNA 2 CNA 9 15 14 Joaquin Piero Perez/CNA.

The Mexican bishops' conference on Tuesday asked authorities to provide more information on the disappearance of Father Joaquín Hernández Sifuentes of the Diocese of Saltillo.

The bishops called upon the competent authorities Jan. 10 to “provide more information to civil society and the entire ecclesial community on the events that led to his disappearance, so they can  collaborate with their search and so that Fr. Joaquín Hernández Sifuentes returns alive to his community.”

The priest, who serves at Sacred Heart parish in Saltillo's Aurora neighborhood, has not been seen since Jan. 3. The diocese reported his disappearance Jan. 7.

After celebrating New Year's Masses – the last one at 10:00 pm – Fr. Hernández was to have taken vacation time.

However, that day he traveled in the morning to Monclova, 120 miles to the north, and came back around 3:00 pm, taking his vacation time starting Jan. 3; he was scheduled to return to his parish work Jan. 7.

However, after trying to contact Fr.  Hernández and not getting any response, one of his friends, Friar Víctor Sifuentes Méndez, went to the rectory Jan. 3 and found the priest's room in disorder, which was atypical for him.

The friar returned to the rectory Jan. 5, and amid the mess noticed Fr.  Hernández' suitcase and glasses. Missing were his car, mobile phone, tablet, and computer. Additionally, a neighbor saw two men “getting into the priest's car” Jan. 3 and leaving in the vehicle.

The Saltillo diocese has indicated that this “has led us to presume that the priest may have been a victim of kidnapping,” and so on Jan. 7 a formal complaint was filed with the attorney general's office of the state of Coahuila.

The Mexican bishops' conference has warned that “crime and violence destroy the most sacred thing we have: life. Let us look for the ways of the Gospel to encourage our hope, to seek dialogue and reconciliation at all times, as the platform of a just society, worthy of human beings and with  comprehensive and humane development for everyone.”

Finally, they encouraged Mexicans to “unite in prayer for our fatherland, for all the disappeared, and let us ask the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Peace for Our People in her Son Jesus Christ, to have and find a life with dignity.”

Drug trafficking has led to increased murder and kidnapping in Mexico, with priests not unaffected.

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