A Mexican bishop is seeking answers after recent attacks on Catholic churches and priests, and years of high murder rates.
“The solution lies in changing people’s hearts, and in making peace to really be peace with God and with your brothers and sisters, otherwise we shouldn’t expect a good future,” Bishop José de Jes√∫s Martínez Zepeda of Irapuato said in a recent interview with the Mexican weekly Desde la Fe.
According to Mexico’s National Institute for Statistics and Geography, between 2007 and 2014 there were 164,345 reported homicides in the country. The period includes some of the bloodiest years of fighting between the drug cartels and the Mexican government, following the beginning of a “war on drugs” begun in 2006.
Such violence came home to Irapuato last month. On April 26, four armed men assaulted Fr. Efren Silva while he was in the sacristy of Lord of Mercy parish in Irapuato's Lazaro Cardenas neighborhood, stealing nearly $400.
Bishop Martínez lamented the crime.
“The robbers came in, tied him up and roughed him up so he would tell them where the money was. In reality, it's a very poor parish, when the money comes in and goes out on a daily basis.”
The prelate said this is not an isolated incident. He recently learned of a priest from Salamanca who had been attacked by some robbers. They “struck him on the forehead, inflicting such a wound that he had to go to a medical center to get stitches.”
“We hope these incidents will soon stop,” he said.
In 2015, three priests were murdered in Mexico, according to the Investigation Unit of the Catholic Multimedia Center.
Bishop Martínez told the faithful that there is no reason to lose hope, for “Christ has risen, the tomb is empty; we need to work so that the Resurrection of Christ encompasses our society.”