By BosNewsLife Americas Service with additional reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (BosNewsLife)-- Mexico was under increasing pressure Monday, February 12, to investigate the murders of two Roman Catholic priests after a prosecutor suggested that the clergy's death could be linked to their association with organized crime.
Priests Iván Añorve Jaimes and Germain Muñiz Garcia were killed and four others injured when armed men attacked the vehicle in which they were traveling February 5 in Guerrero State, security officials and church sources said.
One of the wounded was said to be in serious condition, while the other three were not in danger. Guerrero is a hotbed of drug trafficking and organized crime.
Xavier Olea, the head prosecutor for Guerrero state, said the two priests visited an open-air concert last week attended by members of various drug gangs. Olea claimed that the priests were drinking, which he called “an indiscretion.”
Olea told media there was a fight at the concert involving the priests’ group of acquaintances and that they were killed apparently by gunmen from one of the gangs.
He said that a photograph of the priest, Germain Muniz Garcia, with an assault rifle in the company of armed masked men, led shooters to think he was associated with a rival gang. He said the photo circulated on social media with messages, presumably from other crime groups.
But the Bishop of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, Mexico, denied that Muñiz Garcia had ties to organized crime. In published remarks
Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza said that the priest “was never connected to any criminal gang.”
However, he admitted that the murdered priest "knew, by the very nature of his pastoral work, of some gangs operating in that area, since being a pastor and a public person he had to travel through the area where those gangs were based...to serve the different communities.”
International advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) expressed concern about the prosecutor's statement and demanded a serious investigation into the murders.
"Given the high levels of impunity in the state, we were disturbed but not surprised that the state prosecutor chose to give a public statement which essentially amounted to blaming the victims for their murder," added CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.
"CSW joins the call of Bishop Rangel Mendoza in calling for a retraction of these statements, unless the prosecutor can provide hard evidence of his claims, and a serious investigation into the attack on these two priests, leading to the prosecution of those responsible,” he told BosNewsLife.
Mexico’s Catholic Media Center suggested that the country has been an exceedingly dangerous place for priests, especially in Veracruz, Guerrero and Michoacan states.
At least 21 priests were murdered in Mexico since December 2012, including the two priests killed last week near the tourist town of Taxco, south of Mexico City, the Center said.