MEXICO CITY — A Mexican priest has been stabbed to death in his parish, the latest attack on clergy in the heavily Catholic country.

Father Ruben Alcantara Diaz, 50, was attacked April 18, just prior to the 6:30 p.m. Mass at Our Lady of Carmen Parish in Cuautitlan Izcalli, the Diocese of Izcalli said in a short statement.

The priest, who was also the diocesan judicial vicar, was accosted by the assailant and was involved in a discussion prior to the attack, according to Mexican media.

There are contradictory reports on the events. Newspaper Reforma reported that the assailant alleged abuse in his shouts and fled the scene, but other news outlets say that the priest’s secretary, who was allegedly in the vicinity of where the attack happened, didn’t know what the argument was about. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Attacks on clergy have become common in Mexico, where the homicide rate reached historic high levels in 2017, and the violence consuming large swaths of the country has not spared the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Multimedia Center has counted 22 priests killed in Mexico since December 2012, when the six-year administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto began.

This means that Mexico, the country with the second largest Catholic population in the world, is more dangerous for a priest than Syria or Iraq, where the so-called Islamic State is perpetrating genocide against Christians and other minority groups.

Despite the fact that more than 80 percent of the population identifies as Catholic, the country has a long history of anti-clericalism and until a constitutional reform in 1992, the government officially- and violently- suppressed the Church.

Alcantara is the third Catholic priest to be murdered in Mexico this year. Two priests were killed in the southern state of Guerrero, that has long been plagued by violence, on Feb. 5. Father Germaín Muñiz García, who was 39, and Father Iván Añorve Jaimes were both gunned down.

Crux’s Ines San Martin contributed to this report.