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Catholic Priest Slain in Mexico, ‘Priest Murder Capital of the World’

The lifeless body of 60-year-old Father Francisco Javier Gutiérrez Díaz was found Tuesday night with a gunshot wound to the head, dumped by the side of a road in a rural district of the central Mexican state of Guanajuato.

Despite its high percentage of Catholics, Mexico holds the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest number of murders of Catholic priests in the world. This latest killing brings the number of murdered priests to ten during the administration of current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in 2012.

The priest was traveling alone from the village of Salvatierra to Acambaro when he was accosted by his assailants, apparently to rob him. The priest reportedly was carrying money to purchase a plot of land for his religious community near the village of Acambaro.

On Wednesday the slaying was confirmed by the archbishop of Morelia, Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda, who had ordained Father Gutierrez a priest on January 8, 1986.

“With deep sorrow I report the death of Father Francisco Javier Gutiérrez Díaz, of the Confraternity of the Workers of the Kingdom of Christ,” the cardinal said in a written statement. “Sadly, after leaving his parish on Monday, April 6, he was killed and his body was found outside Salvatierra,” the statement said.

“We ask the Lord,” the text concludes, “to grant him the reward for his work and to forgive those who committed this serious crime.”

The website of the priest’s religious community carries a statement: “Fulfilling our mission is a project of love in time, and in our progressive transformation in Christ according to God’s plan. But when this passage is brought about by violence, not only is the victim’s life devalued, but we also see the descent of humanity to its most abject level.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

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