Priest killed in attack during Catholic church robbery in Phoenix

SUV stolen, suspects at large.

Published 12 June 2014  |  
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Mother of Mercy Mission in Phoenix, AZ

Two Arizona priests were attacked Wednesday evening in what appears to be a robbery. One priest died at the scene from a gunshot wound, and the other is in critical condition.

The murder happened at the Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy) Mission in Phoenix. Associate Pastor Kenneth Walker was the priest killed, and Pastor Joseph Terra is in the hospital.

Father Terra, 56, called 911 around 9 p.m. on Wednesday and reported a burglary. Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix police told The Republic that they were unaware that anyone was hurt or killed at the time they were dispatched.

Authorities responded to the church, near 16th Ave. and Monroe St., and found Terra assaulted and Father Walker, 28, dead. The nature of Father Terra's injuries have not been disclosed, although police say he was not stabbed or shot.

A 2003 Mazda Tribute stolen from the church and sought in connection with the attack was found four blocks from the crime scene at 17th Ave. and Taylor St. The suspects were not in the vehicle, and remain at large.

Sgt. Martos said a crime against priests, and at a church, is almost unimaginable.

"That says a lot, when you're talking about individuals who come into a location like this, commit a crime like this, against individuals or victims like this," he told The Republic. "One can only imagine what they are likely to do."

The priests were attacked near their living quarters at Mother of Mercy.

The Diocese of Phoenix released a statement expressing sadness regarding the tragic incident. They also asked that people pray for the clergymen, who they say belonged to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

"The police are still gathering information and trying to sort through the details of this senseless act of violence," they wrote in a statement. "We ask that people offer prayers for both priests, the religious community, their families and the parish.

"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen."

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