Today’s murder is second of a priest in recent months. An unidentified man fired twice at the victim after Sunday Mass. Mgr Sergio Lasam Utleg, archbishop of Tuguegarao, went to the crime scene where he led prayers with the faithful present. The Bishops’ Conference want the authorities “to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice”.
Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) – A young priest was shot dead in Cagayan province this morning.
Fr Mark Ventura (pictured), 37, was murdered around 8.15 am, immediately after celebrating Mass in a gymnasium in Peña Weste, a village on the outskirts of Gattaran, a town on the island of Luzon, in the Philippines’ far north.
The priest was blessing children and talking with choir members when a still unidentified man wearing a motorcycle helmet emerged from the back of the gym and shot the victim twice.
Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde is quoted as saying that the suspect ran towards the highway and rode off on a single motorcycle driven by another unidentified companion towards Baggao, Cagayan.
Mgr Sergio Lasam Utleg, archbishop of Tuguegarao, went to the scene of the assassination, where he led the prayers of the faithful present.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) deplored the priest’s murder, offering their prayers for Ventura, his bereaved family, and the Catholic community of Tuguegarao.
“We condemn this evil act!” said CBCP President Archbishop Romulo Valles. “We are totally shocked and in utter disbelief to hear about the brutal killing of Fr Mark Ventura.”
The CBCP called on the authorities “to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice”.
Until his death, Fr Ventura was the director of San Isidro Labrador Mission Station, a post he only assumed early this month, in Mabuno village, also in Gattaran.
A priest for almost seven years, he was also known for his anti-mining advocacy and for helping indigenous peoples in the province, which is famous for its copper and gold mines.
Prior to his assignment in Gattaran, Ventura served as rector of the Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary based in Aparri, Cagayan.
Fr Ventura’s murder is the second of a priest in recent months. In December 2017, Fr Marcelito Paez, 72, was killed by still unidentified gunmen after he facilitated the release of a political prisoner in Jaen, Nueva Ecija.
In 2011, Fr Fausto Tentorio, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), was killed in similar circumstances and for the same motives.