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Missing priest is found dead in Mexico

Police guard a state building in Catemaco, Mexico, after it was set on fire following the disappearance of another priest, Fr Jose Luis Sanchez Ruiz, who was later found alive (CNS photo/Oscar Martinez, Reuters)

A Mexican priest missing for more than a week has been found dead in northern Mexico, authorities have said.

The Saltillo diocese in Coahuila state said in a statement that it was informed by authorities about the discovery of the body of Fr Joaquin Hernandez Sifuentes. The diocese did not release any other information.

“Fr Joaquin was someone who looked for perfection in everything he did; the desire to always innovate in his work, has been reflected in love by the faithful, including during the past 10 days,” the diocese said.

The Coahuila state Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that the body was found in the town of Parras de Fuente, while the priest’s car was discovered in Santa Catarina, in the neighbouring state of Nuevo Leon. An autopsy was being performed to determine the cause of death.

Fr Hernandez was supposed to take a short holiday beginning on January 3. But a close friend was unable to reach him by phone that day. Early that same morning, a neighbour saw two young men take Fr Hernandez’s car, but did not see the priest with them.

The friend went to the priest’s residence at the church and found his room a mess. Later he found the priest’s packed suitcase and spectacles.

Several Catholic priests have been attacked in Mexico recently. Three priests were abducted in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz in late 2016; one was found alive, and two were found shot dead. Another priest was killed in the western state of Michoacan in September.

At least 31 priests have been killed in Mexico since 2006.