The Archdiocese of Tijuana in northern Mexico has confirmed the death of Fr. Ímar Arturo Orta, who was allegedly murdered on Oct. 12.
According to local press, the priest had been missing for three days when his body was found by authorities in an abandoned car with several bullet wounds.
An anonymous official from the state prosecutor’s office who was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident has said that the priest’s death is being investigated as a homicide, according to the Associated Press.
Fr. Arturo is one of at least 26 priests who have been killed in Mexico since 2012, when President Enrique Pena Nieto first took office, and the seventh priest killed this year, according to reports from the Catholic Multimedia Center. Two priests in Mexico are also currently reported missing.
Father Ícmar Arturo Orta was pastor of St. Louis King of France parish in Tijuana, Baja California state.
In a statement published on October 14, Archbishop Francisco Moreno Barrón of Tijuana expressed his “deep sorrow” over the death of the priest. He told Catholics that as soon as he had reliable information regarding the circumstances of Fr. Arturo’s death he would make it public, and he would also inform the faithful of the funeral arrangements once they were made.
The archbishop told the members of St. Louis King of France parish that “the death of Father Arturo is a great loss for our archdiocese, but above all it is a very great affliction for you in the parish community.” He said that he knew the parish community will keep the memory of their priest alive.
“You will keep him alive in your mind and in your heart,” Moreno said.
“May the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Loreto, patron saint of our Archdiocese, accompany you in this painful moment, and may you also be assisted by the care and intercession of your patron, Saint Louis of France.”
In an Oct. 15 statement, the Mexican bishops expressed their sorrow at the loss of Fr. Arturo and assured Catholics of their prayers and support for the investigation of his death.
“We ask our Father God for the eternal rest of Fr. Ícmar, and that the Lord grants his family and his parish community the strength and consolation of faith and hope,” the bishops said.
“We trust that the competent authorities will clarify what happened to our brother priest, and act accordingly,” they said.