MEXICO CITY (CNS) — A Catholic priest has been found dead in
northern Mexico, marking another attack on clergy in a country where the
widespread violence of the past decade has not spared church leaders.
The body of Father Joaquin Hernandez Sifuentes, 42, was
discovered Jan. 11 in Parras de la Fuente, approximately 90 miles west of his
working-class parish in Saltillo, while his vehicle was discovered abandoned in
another state, the Coahuila state prosecutor's office said in a statement.
Details on the disappearance of Father Hernandez remain
uncertain, although Saltillo Bishop Raul Vera Lopez said Jan. 11 that two
suspects had been arrested.
Father Hernandez was last seen celebrating Mass New Year's Day at
Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in a community known as La Aurora and was
scheduled to take vacation thereafter.
Colleagues became suspicious when they were unable to reach
Father Hernandez on his cellphone, according to a diocesan statement. His room
in the parish residence appeared messy, with draws left open and clothing
strewn on the floor — uncharacteristic for Father Hernandez — while his
suitcase had been left behind, along with his reading glasses.
Neighbors spotted two young men driving away with the priest's
car Jan. 3, but Father Hernandez was not with them. Bishop Vera said two
suspects had been arrested, though the authorities had yet to confirm the
"All of Mexican society is exposed. Priests are not spared
from violence," said Bishop Vera Lopez, whose diocese has worked
tirelessly to provide legal and spiritual support for the families of missing
persons in the state of Coahuila, which borders Texas.
Father Hernandez was ordained in 2004, had worked in the diocesan
family ministry and was pursuing a master's degree in family studies at the
John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Study on Marriage and Family at Anahuac
"Father Joaquin was someone who searched for perfection in
every activity he did; the desire to always innovate in his work was reflected
in the love of the faithful, including during these past 10 days," while
he was disappeared, the diocesan statement said.
The disappearance and death of Father Hernandez marks the fourth
time in four months that a Mexican priest has been murdered. Another priest,
Father Jose Luis Sanchez Ruiz, was found alive with signs of torture after
being abducted in Veracruz state.
At least 16 priests have been killed since December 2012,
according to a count by Mexico's Catholic Multimedia Center.