Mexican priest found dead with possible signs of torture

MEXICO CITY - A Mexican priest has been found dead in the state of Puebla with possible signs of torture, four days after disappearing in mysterious circumstances.

The body of Father Erasto Pliego de Jesus was found with burns and head injuries Nov. 16 along a rural road in the municipality of Nopalucan, some 110 miles southeast of Mexico City, state judicial authorities said.

The authorities did not confirm the priest's identity, but the Archdiocese of Puebla confirmed the priest's death in a brief statement.

"The Archdiocese of Puebla deeply regrets that a priest, whose life was dedicated to God and the service of others, has been a victim of violence," Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinosa of Puebla said Nov. 17.

"We thank the authorities for all their help in this regrettable occurrence. And for his family members and parish community, we express our closeness and solidarity and lift our prayers for the eternal rest of Father Erasto Pliego de Jesus."

Details of Father Pliego's death remain unknown. A person answering the phone at his parish said they did not have any information on what happened, while press reports provided conflicting accounts.

Archbishop Sanchez said the authorities were called after Father Pliego failed to appear at regularly scheduled Mass.

Father Pliegio's death again demonstrated the dangers faced by priests in Mexico, where violence in some states has not spared clergy.

Centro Catolico Multimedial, a Catholic media outlet, counts 11 priests murdered since the start of 2013, with another two priests missing.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Mexico in February. His tentative schedule - still not confirmed by the Vatican - shows him visiting states with recent histories of violence or social conflict.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015