Bodies of murdered priests and tour guide found in Mexico

By George Wright
BBC News

  • Published
Photos of two priests Javier Campos and Joaquin Mora who were murdered, are pictured during a massImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Jesuit priests Javier Campos (L) and Joaquín Mora (R) were murdered alongside tour guide Pedro Palma

The bodies of two Catholic priests and a tour guide have been found days after they were shot dead inside a church in northern Mexico, officials say.

The three were killed on Monday after a suspected run-in with a wanted drug trafficker in the state of Chihuahua.

The priests were gunned down while trying to help the guide, who ran into their church for help, officials said.

Pope Francis condemned the killings, calling it a shocking reminder of the level of violence in Mexico.

"We've found and recovered... the bodies of the Jesuit priests Javier Campos, Joaquín Mora and the tour guide Pedro Palma," Chihuahua Governor Maria Eugenia Campos said in a video posted to social media.

Palma was fleeing an armed gang when he sought refuge in a church in the town of Cerocahui, before being shot dead along with the two priests who tried to intervene, the Chihuahua prosecutor's office said.

The three bodies were then taken away by a group of men in a pickup truck, Luis Gerardo Moro, head of the religious order in Mexico, said in a radio interview.

The suspect, who was identified by another priest who was in the church, was already wanted for the murder of an American tourist in 2018, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said. The suspect has been named as Jose Noriel Portillo Gil.

The president added that Palma's wife was one of two people who were kidnapped on Monday before the killings, and is still missing.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Pope Francis has condemned the killings

Pope Francis expressed dismay over the killings.

"So many murders in Mexico. I am close, in affection and prayer, to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy," the pontiff said at the end of his weekly audience at the Vatican.

A reward of 5 million pesos ($249,300; £203,000) for information relating to the suspect's whereabouts has been announced.

Some 30 priests have been killed in Mexico in the past decade, according to the Centro Catolico Multimedial, a Catholic organisation.