EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Catholic dioceses throughout Mexico are condemning the murder of two priests who tried to prevent drug traffickers from killing a man inside their church in Cerocahui, Mexico.

“It is with great sadness and pain that we mourn Father Javier Campos Morales, Father Joaquin Mora Salazar and the man who, unfortunately, lost his life along with them,” the Diocese of the Tarahumara region of Western Chihuahua said in a statement Tuesday.

The diocese said its priests were gunned down inside the church “with no defense but their faith in God” while exercising their duty of aiding a man whose life was in danger.

The diocese said the assassins removed the bodies of the priests from the church and they have not been located as of Tuesday morning.

The Chihuahua state police said its operators received a 911 call at 6 p.m. on Monday reporting the murder of three people in Cerocahui, near the regional farming center of Urique. The agency said it has received information that at least one individual apparently pursued a man into the church and shot him and the two priests.

“The state government laments and condemns these violent actions in which two priests became circumstantial victims,” the agency said in a statement.

It added that the Mexican army, the National Guard and other police agencies are looking for the perpetrators.

The state police as of Monday morning had not identified suspects. But a Chihuahua City newspaper reported a regional cartel leader is being sought in connection to the event and cited an unnamed police investigator saying the man “andaba bien loco” (was high on drugs).

The Catholic Diocese of Juarez joined others in calling for justice and protection for its employees and the faithful.

“Amid so much death and crime in our country, we publicly condemn this tragedy and demand a prompt investigation and security for the community and all the priests in the country,” the Juarez Diocese said in a statement.

Campos and Mora were Jesuits who had served the Catholic church for decades. One of their peers, the Rev. Ismael Barcenas, posted photos of the victims. He said the Tarahumara region of Chihuahua is rife with violence, with murders and kidnapping being commonplace.

Courtesy State of Chihuahua
Courtesy State of Chihuahua

Just last week, the Chihuahua Attorney General reported the seizure of guns and the burning of clandestine marijuana crops in the region.

“The Jesuits of Mexico won’t remain quiet amid this reality that hurts all of society. We will continue to make ourselves present and work in our mission of justice, reconciliation and peace through our church work, education and social (contributions),” Barcenas posted on social media.