For the ninth year in a row, Mexico is the most violent country in Latin America for priests, said a report from the Catholic Multimedia Center. The report covers 2012 to 2017, which aligns with the presidency of current Mexican President Enrique Pe√±a Nieto. During this time, 19 priests and two lay persons were murdered, and two priests reported as missing.  

“This year, 2017 specifically, has been disastrous for the priesthood in Mexico,” the Catholic Multimedia Center reported. “Four murders, two thwarted kidnappings, two iconic attacks, one at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City and the other at the Offices of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, as well as hundreds of threats and extortions of priests and bishops.” “This is a sad scenario which makes us assert that things are far from getting better,” they said.

So far this year, Fr. Felipe Altamirano Carrillo of the Nayar Prelature; Fr. Joaquín Hernández Sienfuentes of the Diocese of Saltillo; Fr. Luis López Villa of the Diocese of Nezahualcóyotl; and Fr.  José Miguel Machorro of the Archdiocese of Mexico City have been murdered.

While “the members of the Church are not in conflict with the groups that are committing crimes in the country,” the Catholic Multimedia Center said, “there are sectors of society that are taking advantage of the surge of violence and demonstrate insolence toward the religious in places such as Chiapas, Tabasco, Mexico City, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Mexico State, Jalisco, Nayarit, Veracruz, San Luis Potosí, Colima, Culiacán, Tabasco, Michoacán, Guerrero and Tamaulipas.”

The report denounced that “these groups that attack priests and religious seek to limit the activities of the pastoral work of the Church in Mexico which are carried out in the fields of healthcare and education as well as aid work — aid, shelter, relief — in support of the human rights of migrants who are passing through Mexican territory.”

It also found that while priests, religious and lay persons have all been victims of hate crimes, pastoral workers — and specifically priests — are particularly vulnerable to various attacks. With a lack of security, indifferent authorities, and growth in organized crime, the Catholic Multimedia Center said, “we can no longer keep quiet, as the blood of thousands of Mexicans continues to be shed.”

The organization called on all levels of government in Mexico to “provide guarantees for the exercise of the priestly ministry in many areas of Mexico where violence has rebounded.” Crime in Mexico was also denounced recently by the Catholic Mexican newspaper Desde la Fe. Corruption, poverty and unemployment only contribute to rising crime levels, the publication said, and Cuernavaca in Morelos State, popularly known as “the city of eternal springtime,” has become the “city of eternal shooting.”

The newspaper lamented that “violent robberies, sexual assaults and homicides are committed, and the citizenry does not report them because of mistrust and frustration.”