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Priests demand protection from violent extortionists

February 20, 2013

Priests in western Mexico have spoken out after being targeted in a spate of recent extortion attempts, kidnappings and even killings.

Bishop Jose Flores Preciado, 83, died Wednesday, February 6  after being beaten by several assailants during a robbery at the Templo de Cristo Rey in the city of Colima. He had received threatening phone calls for months. The day after the killing, Bishop Jose Luis Amezcua Melgoza revealed that of the 123 priests in the diocese of Colima, 30 had been the victims of attempted extortion, including himself.

During Sunday Mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral, Guadalajara Archbishop Francisco Robles Ortega said at least three priests in Jalisco had also received threats over the phone in recent days, with some having been intimidated into making payments. He also recalled the case of a priest in Zamora, Michoacan, who went missing on December 27 in a suspected kidnapping and has yet to be found.

“There are priests here who say they too were called on the phone in this manner, told to deposit or deliver a certain amount of money, with threats to their physical wellbeing if they do not comply with the request,” Robles said.

The archbishop advised priests and citizens in general that if they receive threatening calls they should hang up the phone and immediately report it to the police. He also demanded that the authorities provide greater security not only for members of the church, but for all Mexicans, because “everyone is equally exposed to this kind of situation.”

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