Mexico: Slain Jesuits Bodies found; Funeral soon.

The bodies of two Jesuit priests and a tour guide shot dead this week in a gang-ravaged area of northern Mexico were found on Wednesday after a major search, authorities said.
The three were killed on Monday after a suspected run-in with a wanted drug trafficker in the border state of Chihuahua, a crime that drew swift condemnation from the Pope.

“We’ve found and recovered … the bodies of the Jesuit priests Javier Campos, Joaquin Mora and the tour guide Pedro Palma,” Chihuahua Governor Maria Eugenia Campos said in a video posted to social media.

Fathersrs Javier and Joaquin

Gunmen burst into a Catholic church in northern Mexico in pursuit of a tour guide trying to reach safety, killing him and two Jesuit priests, officials said Tuesday. The killings have shocked most Mexicans.

The Jesuits said in a statement that Fathers Javier Campos Morales, 79, and Joaquín César Mora Salazar, 80, were killed inside the church in the town of Cerocahui. The religious order demanded justice and the return of the priests’ bodies, which were removed by the armed men.

The killings prompted an outpouring of sorrow and outrage from politicians, officials, human rights groups and priests.

The government “has to urgently resolve the grave crisis of insecurity that the country is living through,” tweeted the head of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, Alejandro Moreno.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed “pain and shock” over the killings. “Once more I repeat that violence does not resolve problems but increases episodes of suffering,” said the Holy Father.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a news conference Tuesday that gunmen rushed into the church Monday evening, chasing someone. “They killed him, then the priests emerged, and it seems they were killed, too,” López Obrador said. He added that authorities had information on the identities of the gunmen. He noted that there was a significant amount of organized crime in the area.

Memorial service for slain priests

State officials and media reports identified the tour guide as Pedro Eliodoro Palma Gutiérrez. The town is not far from the Copper Canyon, a series of scenic gorges often compared to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It is popular with visitors who arrive in the area on a famed train known as El Chepe and go hiking or horseback riding.

The slayings were not an isolated event, the Jesuits said. “The Sierra Tarahumara, like many other regions of the country, suffers violence and neglect,” their statement read. “Every day men and women are arbitrarily slain, just like our brothers.”

The government of Chihuahua said the priests appeared to be “victims of circumstance.” The prelates had spent decades ministering to Indigenous communities in the Tarahumara.

The state prosecutor’s office in Chihuahua said the three were killed after Palma took refuge in the Catholic church to protect himself from an attack.

The three bodies were taken from the church by a group of men in the back of a pickup truck, said Jesuit Provincial Luis Gerardo Moro, in a radio interview.

The office named Jose Noriel Portillo Gil as a suspect in the murders, and offered a reward of five million pesos, or nearly $250,000, for information relating to his whereabouts.

The state said in 2018 that Portillo, who is also the prime suspect in the murder of American teacher Patrick Braxton-Andrews, was involved in the drug trade.

The attack Monday night highlighted the dangers facing religious leaders, human rights activists, journalists and others in Mexico who oppose crime groups or threaten their activities.

Thirty-four priests have been killed in the country since 2012, including the latest victims, according to the Centro Católico Multimedial. Many of the crimes remain unsolved.
The Jesuits are known for their universities and their programs to help poor and violence-plagued communities. “We will remain present, working on our mission of justice, reconciliation and peace,” their statement said.

Compiled from various media sources by Newsnet desk