– Mary Our Queen Parish in the city of Rosario, Argentina was the target of a violent attack Sept. 23, which the church’s pastor said was a threat made in response to his recent denunciation of area gangs and drug traffickers.

Gunmen fired on the church and school, which face each other. Seven shots struck the church facade, one of which went through the front door. Another five bullets hit the door of the school.

The Rosario Regional Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation to find those responsible. However, the church’s pastor, Father Juan Pablo Núñez, blamed the shooting on drug traffickers. A few weeks ago, he began to speak about the drugs problem, and he said he had already received threats.

“The neighborhood was a no man’s land, many incidents of robberies, shootings, the people came to talk to me because they didn’t know whom to talk to, so then I started airing their concerns about that situation,” Núñez told the news portal Todos Para Uno.

The priest explained that he has been working in the neighborhood for four and a half years. He had opened a center to help young people on drugs, but he had to close it soon afterwards because of threats from the parents themselves, some of whom were also involved in the drug trade.

Four weeks before the attack, Núñez  began to ask the local authorities to take the necessary steps “to put an end the drama of the lack of public safety.”

“When people ask me if I’m afraid, for myself no, but I do fear for the people because these gangs  don’t respect anyone,” the pastor of Mary Our Queen said.

The vicar general of the Archdiocese of Rosario, Msgr. Emilio Cardarelli, expressed his solidarity with Núñez and the parish and school community.

Cardarelli asked prayers of all the faithful “so that the grace of letting themselves be encountered by Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, may come to those who were the authors of this deed.”

Finally, he asked the authorities “to not just work on the weakest link, the small time drug dealers on the streets, but also on the financial circuit that sustains drug trafficking and the massive distribution of arms, which cause so many deaths in our city.”

“With the start of the novena coming soon which prepares us for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the patroness of our city and archdiocese, we commend to her heart this situation which is harming our young people and deteriorating the social fabric,” Cardarelli said.

This article was originally published by CNA’s Spanish-language sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.