After the murder of two Jesuit priests in a church last month, clergymen across Mexico are publicly questioning the current security strategy of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and some are calling for a “social pact” with drug traffickers.
The bishop of Zacatecas suggested “directly speaking” with members of organized crime as a new means of trying to reduce the violence that has plagued Mexico for more than a decade. Zacatecas is one of Mexico’s states most affected by violence related to drug trafficking, and is leading in the ranking on murders this year.
Noriega's remarks come after two Jesuit priests were shot dead last month inside a church in Urique, a small town in the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental in the northern state of Chihuahua.
The priests, Javier Campos, 79, and Joaquín Mora, 80, were shot after a notorious drug boss José Noriel Portillo “El Chueco” (allegedly tied to the Sinaloa Cartel) chased after a tourist guide who hid inside the church. Both priests tried to protect the man from Portillo, but the three of them were killed and their bodies were taken by Portillo’s people, according to Chihuahua state authorities.
The bodies of the two priests and the tourist guide—identified as Pedro Palma—were found two days later dumped on a rural highway about 200 kilometers from where they were murdered.
The slaying of the men caused alarm in the Vatican, and Pope Francis condemned the widespread violence in Mexico.
“I express my sorrow and dismay at the killing in Mexico…of two religious, Jesuit brothers of mine, and of a layman,” said Pope Francis a day after the killings.
The Catholic Church in Mexico also asked for a review of Mexico’s security strategy.
“The murder of the Jesuit priests reinforces the call to examine the security strategy in Mexico, as we are experiencing a wave of historical violence: the number of murders so far this six-year term exceeds 122,000 people,” said the Archdiocese of Mexico in its weekly editorial publication.
This week, Mexico’s Roman Catholic Council of Bishops called on churches throughout the country to put photos of dead nuns and priests in their churches this Sunday and to hold Masses for all those killed in gang-fueled violence.
Meanwhile another priest in the state of Michoacán was brutally beaten by unknown men last week as he was driving back to his hometown.
“It was a professional attack. They blocked my car and started beating me. The attacker had to be a sicario [hitman],” priest Mateo Calvillo said in a letter published by Michoacán Archdiocese.
This isn’t the first time that the Catholic Church—which drug-trafficking culture respects—has weighed in on the issue of violence. The bishop of Guerrero, Salvador Rangel, called for a truce with narcos after the killings of two other priests in 2018.
Seven priests have been murdered under the current administration that started in December 2018, according to Mexico’s Catholic Church’s Multimedia Center.