Police in Brazil officially confirmed on Saturday that the body of a 49-year-old priest was discovered in his residence on the morning of August 24, after he was stabbed to death. According to local media, post-mortem analysis found 29 separate knife wounds on his body.
Father Pedro Gomes Bezerra, who would have turned 50 at the end of the month, lived in Borborema, a municipality located in southeastern Brazil. His death brings to 11 the number of Catholic priests who’ve been assassinated around the world since the beginning of 2017, with seven coming in Latin America alone.
Although Gomes Bezerra’s car was not found in his garage, there were no signs it was stolen, police said it did not immediately appear the murder was part of a robbery.
The Brazilian Diocese of Guarabira, which includes Borborema, released a statement on Gomes Bezerra’s death, noting that he had been in charge of the diocese’s Nuestra Señora del Carmen Pastoral Area.
The diocese asked all faithful to “mourn in prayer, professing our faith in the resurrection of the dead,” and asking, “May the Lord grant Fr. Pedro Gomes eternal rest.”
Police said they did not have any clear motive for the murder, but an official promised a prompt investigation.
“We are going to analyze the life of the father, the people with whom he lived, if he had any enemies, or someone who had an interest in his death,” said Joao Alves, delegate general for the Civil Police.
Despite being a majority Catholic continent, Latin America often leads annual Vatican counts of the numbers of Catholic personnel killed in the line of duty during the previous year.
For decades, that dubious distinction belonged to Colombia, mostly as a result of its long-running civil war and attendant lawlessness in parts of the country. Since 1984, seventy Catholic priests, two bishops, eight nuns and three seminarians were slaughtered there, many falling victim to the nation’s notorious narco-cartels.
More recently, Mexico has seen a spate of priest murders, with an estimated 32 priests being killed since 2006. Once again, those deaths are often associated with criminal gangs in some parts of the country, fueled by the lucrative drug trade.