Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 14, 2016 / 01:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Mexican Conference of Bishops issued a statement acknowledging that Fr. José Luis Sánchez Ruiz, who was kidnapped Nov. 11 in his home state of Veracruz was found alive, but with visible signs of torture.

The statement, issued by the bishop of San Andrés Tuxtla, Bishop Fidencio López Plaza praised God for hearing their prayer, and confirmed that  “Indeed, Father José Luis Sánchez Ruiz was abandoned with remarkable traces of torture.” Fr. Sánchez Ruiz is the 54 year-old pastor of the Parish of the Twelve Apostles in the diocese of San Andrés Tuxtla, located in the state of Veracruz. In recent months, priests have been the target of violence and kidnappings, particularly in the states of Veracruz, Guerrero and Michoacan.

Since the election of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012, at least 15 priests have been killed in the country. Fr. Sánchez Ruiz is the third Catholic priest kidnapped in Veracruz since September, 2016, but the first found alive. Previously, Fr. Sánchez Ruiz has denounced the upheaval and violence in the region.

According to the BBC, the priest “received threats in recent days because he is a defender of human rights," said a spokesman for the diocese, Fr Aaron Reyes. "He has criticized the system of corruption and the crime problem in Catemaco." The pastor’s abduction from his parish sparked two days of protests in the town of Catemaco, where the church is located.

Bishop Fidencio López Plaza thanked the authorities for their help searching for Fr. Sánchez Ruiz, and asked for patience in waiting for the intervention of the prosecutor.  He also thanked "all the lay faithful who from their parishes and encouraged by their priests, have remained in a state of prayer." "Thank God and thank you all for so many signs, and so many gestures of faith and brotherhood. May God bless them, may God protect them, may God give them peace,” the bishop said.