Catholic priest shot dead in Philippines

Bishops condemn the murder of Father Mark Ventura

Manila: A young Catholic priest was shot dead on April 29 as he was talking to people after Sunday Mass in a parish in the northern Philippines.

In a report reaching Cagayan provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Warren Tolito identified the victim as Father Mark Anthony Yuaga Ventura, the parish priest of Barangay Naruangan in Tuao town, some 485 km north of Manila, the national capital.

Initial investigations showed Father Ventura had just finished saying 8 am Mass when a man in helmet walked near and shot him twice. He was proclaimed dead on the spot.

Police also said the 37-year-old priest was blessing the children and talking to the choir members when the assailants killed him.

The suspect, together with the driver of the single motorcycle, fled toward the highway going Baggao town, the report added.

Police said motive has yet to be determined.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) condemned the murder.

“We condemn this evil act!” said CBCP president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles in a statement later in the day.

The bishop expressed total shock and “utter disbelief” at the brutal killing of the priest who belonged to Archdiocese of Tuguegarao.

“We offer our prayers for Fr Ventura, for his bereaved family, and the lay faithful of Tuguegarao. We also pray for Archbishop Sergio Utleg, his priests, and the religious of the archdiocese, who this year, in union with the whole Church in the Philippines, are celebrating the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.”

Fr Ventura shot dead
The news service of the CBCP said Father Ventura, a priest for almost 7 years, was “known for his anti-mining advocacies and for helping indigenous peoples in the province.”

He had served the San Isidro Labrador Mission Station based in Barangay Mabuno, also in Gattaran. He was also rector of the Saint Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Lyceum of Aparri.

Father Ventura was the second priest to be gunned down in four months, CBCP News noted.

Father Marcelito Paez, 72, was slain in Jaen, Nueva Ecija, also by unidentified gunmen in December 2017.

“We make our appeal to the authorities to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice,” he added.

Youth group Anakbayan also condemned Ventura’s killing, blaming the Duterte administration for what it called a “fascistic, tyrannical, and mafia-style rule.”

“Its fascist campaign has rendered people from the religious sector as legitimate targets of killings, intimidation, and harassment for speaking up not only against the madman’s bloody war on drugs but also against the social and political injustices perpetrated by the regime,” said Anakbayan in a statement.

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