Colombia priests 'hired own killers' in suicide pact

Colombian churchgoers mourn the two killed priests, 27 January 2011 The two priests were mourned by their parishioners in Bogota

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Two Colombian priests who were found shot dead in the capital Bogota a year ago themselves hired the assassins who killed them, prosecutors say.

They said the priests had agreed a suicide pact after one of them was diagnosed with Aids, but contracted hitmen because they could not bring themselves to carry it out.

Relatives of the dead priests insist they were victims of an armed robbery.

They have denied reports that they were involved in a gay relationship.

Two of the alleged killers are being prosecuted after being traced from calls made from the priests' phones.

'Pray for me'

Father Richard Piffano, 37, and Father Rafael Reatiga, 35, were found shot dead in a car in southern Bogota in January 2011.

Prosecutors allege they paid the suspected hitmen around $8,500 (£5,440) to kill them and make it look like a robbery attempt.

The two priests had been friends since their training and often celebrated Mass and other religious services together, Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper reported.

In his final church service, Father Reatiga asked parishioners to pray to Santa Marta, the patron saint of lost causes, the paper reported, while Father Piffano asked his to "pray for me".

Suicide - like homosexual acts - is forbidden in the Catholic Church.

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