2 priests killed in northern Mexico buried in village

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CEROCAHUI, Mexico — Two Jesuit priests killed last week in remote mountains in northern Mexico were buried Monday in the lawn of the church where a gunman attacked them last week.

Revs. Javier Campos, 79, and Joaquín Mora, 80, had spent much of their lives serving the Raramuri indigenous people of the area. On Sunday, their friends, colleagues and parishioners mourned the return of the priests to Cerocahui in wooden coffins.

Last Monday, a local crime boss pursuing a tourist guide who had taken refuge in the church facing the central square of Cerocahui, killed the guide and the two priests. Their bodies were first taken away by their attacker, but were recovered a few days later.

The attack drew sharp criticism from the Roman Catholic Church of Mexico’s security situation and federal government strategy.

Organized crime has a strong hold on communities in the Tarahumara Mountains of Chihuahua State, where it supports illegal logging, extorts money from local businesses, and grows marijuana and opium poppy. Colleagues said Campos and Mora provided a moral balance in marginalized communities controlled by gunmen.

During a mass on Saturday for priests in the capital of the state of Chihuahua, the Reverend Javier Ávila, referring to the saying of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on “hugs, not balls”, lamented that ” there aren’t enough hugs to cover the bullets.”

From there, the coffins climbed the winding roads in the mountains where priests had worked for decades among the poor Raramuri. They were buried later Monday in Cerocahui on the church’s grassy lawn, amid cries of praise from parishioners.

The head of the Jesuit order in Mexico, the Reverend Luis Gerardo Moro, promised at Monday’s funeral that Jesuits would not be frightened. The order has been active in the Tarahumara Mountains since the 1600s.

“We’re not leaving here,” Moro said. “We want to continue here near you, learning from you.”

Yolanda Torres, one of the mourners who attended Monday’s funeral, said: ‘All of us in the Tarahumara Mountains are very, very sad, very upset…we are here, united in grief’ .

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