by David Agren
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.
Details on the disappearance of Father Hernandez remain uncertain, although Saltillo Bishop Raul Vera Lopez said 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. 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 details.
“All of Mexican society is exposed. Priests are not spared from violence,” said Bishop Vera Lopez, whose diocese has worked to provide legal and spiritual support for the families of missing persons in the state of Coahuila, which borders Texas.