Two more priests have been killed in Mexico as attacks against church leaders continue in the largely Catholic country.
Fr Iván Añorve Jaimes, pastor of Holy Family Parish in the town of Las Vigas, and Fr Germain Muñiz Garcia, the pastor of Mezcala, were killed by unidentified individuals in Taxco township, the Archdiocese of Acapulco announced on Monday.
The pair were travelling along the Iguala-Taxco highway when they were shot at from another vehicle, which then fled the scene, according to a statement from the Guerrero State Attorney General's Office.
'As a Church we are greatly troubled by this tragic event which is mourned by the entire archdiocesan community and that of the Diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa. We call on the authorities, that once the truth is known, that justice be served,' a statement from the Archdiocese of Acapulco said.
It went on to call for prayer for 'the conversion of those who, forgetting that we are brothers, commit this kind of crime, which injures the dignity of the human person so much, snatches away the sacred gift of life and sows pain and suffering in the family and in society.'
'Let us not relent in our efforts to build peace in our family, in our community, in our state, in our homeland. Let us ask the Lord for this peace every day.'
The latest killings are part of a widespread spate of attacks on Catholic priests in Mexico. Despite the country's high religiosity, it is one of the most dangerous in the world to be a Catholic priest, with nearly 50 murders in the past decade alone.
Trying to explain the rising trend of violence against priests, Jorge Eugenio Hernandez Trasloheros, a professor in Latin American studies at the University of Mexico, previously told Christian Today it was 'not strange that priests suffer the same fate of the people' and the deaths were part of typical levels of violence in Mexico.
'Mexican priests are leaders in their communities. They are no saints but they usually do their job very well. It is not strange that they are a target of the gangs. The criminals want people isolated and full of fear,' he said.
But Omar Sotelo, a priest and director of Mexico's Catholic Multimedia Center (CCM), said clergy attract particular violence because they preach against injustice and violence. 'They're defending migrants, they're against drug trafficking,' he said when his report was launched in February 2016. 'And the priests often know who the criminals are, having seen them grow up in the towns. Eventually, some criminals can see that as a threat.'
This explanation is echoed by the Christian persecution watchdog, World Watch Monitor, which previously said that Christians are often targeted because they stand against the drug trade by, for example, setting up rehabilitation centres. 'Christians are also targeted because of the perception that churches and their leaders have a lot of money, so congregations offer a ready source of cash – cartels can simply enter, lock the doors and ask the congregation to empty their pockets,' the group said.