MEXICO CITY — A Catholic priest who directed a migrant shelter was killed in the Mexican border state of Baja California, reinforcing Mexico’s reputation as a murderous country for clergy.
Father José Guadalupe Rivas Saldaña and another unidentified individual were found dead May 17 in the municipality of Tecate, east of Tijuana, after being reported missing May 15, according to local media. There were signs Father Rivas and the other victim suffered head injuries.
The Archdiocese of Tijuana confirmed the deaths May 18. An archdiocesan spokesman was unavailable for comment.
Rivas had served as pastor of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Tecate and director of the migrant shelter since June 2021 and was involved with the Catholic charismatic renewal movement.
Catholic communities working with migrants called for a proper investigation into the murder of Father Rivas and warned of rampant insecurity, which has put both migrants and their defenders at risk of violence.
“We know that people who defend the human rights of migrants and refugees are exposed to contexts of great adversity and violence, so it is essential that the state guarantees the protection of people who exercise this commitment,” the Scalabrinian mission with migrants and refugees said in a statement May 19.
The death of Rivas comes as migration through Mexico picks up in anticipation of the May 23 lifting of Title 42, a health restriction to close the U.S. border imposed at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Priests in Mexico have suffered violence in Mexico, along with the population at large. At least Mexican five priests have been killed since December 2018, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center in Mexico City.