El Salvador lays to rest another priest presumably assassinated by gangs
Thousands attended the funeral on Monday of a Salvadoran priest found by his parishioners in what some presume is a gang killing.
Parishioners found Father Cecilio Perez Cruz, a 35-year-old priest and pastor of San Jose La Majada parish in Juayua, shot dead in his residence on Saturday with a note nearby that said he had not paid “rent,” a euphemism for extortion money, according to preliminary reports from Salvadoran police.
“He was a well-loved son of the Virgin (Mary) … a humble priest, simple, devoted to his people,” said Father Edwin Banos of the Diocese of Santa Ana, El Salvador, in a video posted on Facebook.
“These have been difficult and sad moments since I found out,” said Father Banos, who told reporters that he had studied with Father Perez and that they had been friends for 10 years.
“It hurts. It’s a whole human life truncated. He is a brother and a priest-friend. From the first moment I found out, it’s been tears and pain over his death.”
Father Banos, communications director for Catholic radio and newspaper Radio Fe y Vida y Periodico Digital Nuestra Iglesia in Santa Ana, attended the funeral in Sonzacate, where the slain priest’s parents live. Several bishops from throughout the country and Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez also attended.
“Today, we are suffering, and we ask the Lord and the Virgin Mary to give us peace, tranquility and serenity,” Father Banos said in his video message. “For Cecilio, I offer my care, my appreciation, my love and my hope that he is rejoicing in the eternal life and that you intercede for us … but I also want to manifest my message of conversion to these people who committed this abominable crime.”
In a statement, Bishop Constantino Barrera Morales of Sonsonate, the diocese to which the priest belonged, called on the national police and the justice department to find those guilty of “such an abominable crime” and demanded that they be brought to justice.
“In this moment of profound pain and indignation because of this tragic happening, I want to let all priests, faithful and the people in general know that I energetically condemn this sacrilegious killing of Father Cecilio, and I want us to remain united in prayer and redoubling our measures of security before the great insecurity that reigns in our bloodstained country,” Bishop Barrera said in his statement. “The blood of our selfless pastor is now together with that of the thousands of Salvadorans that each year become victims of this terrible violence that remains for so many years out of control.”
Father Banos said justice was one of the reasons Father Perez was killed, though he suggested that police look at various motives the killing, including the priest’s denunciation of environmental problems in the area.
“He was a priest seeking justice, he was very fraternal and denounced injustice,” he told reporters. “We believe that is the cause of his murder. He strongly denounced the cutting of trees in his area, and that touches the interests of high-ranking businesspeople.”
In an audio Father Banos provided to reporters, Concepcion Perez, the slain priest’s brother, said Father Perez was “a good person, a holy person until the last day.” Concepcion Perez said although family members were in pain, they found comfort in knowing that “the Catholic Church is the one that provides saints,” because of people who seek the light like his brother.
Photo: Priests carry the casket of Father Cecilio Perez Cruz during a funeral for the Salvadoran priest in Sonzacate, El Salvador.Tags: Diocese of Santa Ana, El Salvador, Father Cecilio Perez Cruz, funeral, murdered, priest