VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - After hearing of the murder of two priests in Mexico, Pope Francis sent a telegram to the country's bishops condemning the violent act, offering his prayers as a sign of closeness to the community and families affected.
"Deeply distressed upon receiving the sad news of the assassination of Reverends Alejo Nabor Jimenez Juarez and Jose Alfredo Suarez de la Cruz...the Holy Father expresses his sincerest condolences," read the telegram, sent Sept. 20.
Signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the telegram voiced the Pope's closeness to Bishop Trinidad Zapata of Papantla, where the priests served, as well as to all clergy, religious communities and faithful of the diocese.
He offered his prayers "for the eternal repose of these priests of Christ, victims of an inexcusable violence."
On Monday, the bodies of Mexican priests Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and José Alfredo Suárez de la Cruz were found murdered in a field after having been kidnapped from their parish.
They were kidnapped the previous day from Our Lady of Fatima Parish in the city of Poza Rica, a town located in the north of the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz. The bodies of the two priests were found the following day in a field in the nearby city of Papantla.
A third man, identified by Veracruz authorities, was kidnapped alongside the two priests, but escaped and was found alive. Veracruz officials said that he had been placed under protection.
Poza Rica and surrounding areas in Veracruz have been the locus of drug and associated cartel violence for years, but it is yet unclear why the priests were targeted. Priests have also been the target of violence elsewhere in Mexico.
Pope Francis recently condemned the escalation of drug activity and violence in Mexico during his visit to the country earlier this year, telling a group of laborers Feb. 17 to work toward finding adequate means to end "the cycle of drugs and violence."
He said the lack of decent work and opportunity leads to situations of poverty, which then becomes "the best breeding ground for the young to fall into the cycle of drug trafficking and violence."
This, the Pope said, "is a luxury which no one can afford; we cannot allow the present and future of Mexico to be alone and abandoned."
In his telegram to Bishop Zapata, the Pope voiced his "firm condemnation of all that attacks life and the dignity of people," and urged the clergy and pastoral agents of the diocese to continue their mission with enthusiasm by imitating Christ, "despite the obstacles."