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Mexican priest killed in crossfire on way to say Mass

Juan Antonio Orozco Alvarado

Parroquia Santa Lucía de la Sierra | Facebook | Fair Use

John Burger - published on 06/17/21 - updated on 06/17/21

Franciscan Fr. Juan Antonio Orozco Alvarado, 33, apparently got in the way of rival drug gang gunfire.

A priest was killed in a hail of bullets while he was on his way to celebrate Mass in north central Mexico Saturday.

Franciscan Fr. Juan Antonio Orozco Alvarado, 33, apparently got in the way of rival drug gang gunfire. Several other people were also killed.

The priest was on his way to pay a pastoral visit to the community of Tepehuana de Pajaritos.

“Some armed members of the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa cartel began to attack each other,” Fides, information of the Pontifical Mission Societies, reported. “The priest and the small group of faithful of the community who had welcomed him and were going to church with him, found themselves in the middle of the fight.”

Fr. Orozco, originally from Monclova, in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, was a parish priest in Santa Lucía de la Sierra, in the municipality of Valparaíso, Zacatecas. “Padre Juanito,” as he was known, had just begun his pastoral work in the area six months ago. 

The Mexican Episcopal Conference (CEM) deplored the shooting and expressed their hope that Our Lady of Guadalupe “will console our pain with the heart of her mother and restore justice and peace in our society.” The CEM also said that Fr. Orozco was “a victim of the violence that exists in our country.”

Bishop Luis Flores Calzada of Tepic said on Facebook that Fr. Orozco was killed in the municipality of Mezquital in the state of Durango as he “entered the crossfire of two groups fighting” over the Durango to Zacatecas highway. The bishop included a photo of the priest lying face down next to a red pickup truck with bullet holes in it. The driver’s door of the pickup had writing on it identifying the Franciscans’ parish ministry: “Missión Franciscana Parroquia de Santa Lucia.” Fr. Orozco appeared to have a brown cowl over his head and a white robe.

Franciscan Fr. Gilberto Hernández, spokesman for the Order of Friars Minor, said Fr. Orozco was one of three Franciscan priests serving the Santa Lucía de la Sierra parish in a rugged and isolated part of Zacatecas state, reported David Agren, a Mexican journalist writing for Catholic News Service. Fr. Hernández said that no threats against Orozco had been made, even though the region has public security issues.

At least 29 priests have been killed in Mexico since 2012, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center.

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