By Robin Gomes
The Catholic bishops of the Philippines have condemned the murder of a young Catholic priest in the north of the country.
Fr. Mark Ventura was shot dead after he celebrated Mass at a gymnasium in Barangay Peña Weste, on the outskirts of Gattaran town in Cagayan province.
Philippine bishops’ condemnation
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) condemned the killing of the 37-year old priest, offering prayers for him, for his bereaved family and the lay faithful of Tuguegarao Archdiocese to which he belonged.
“We condemn this evil act!” said CBCP president, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao. “We are totally shocked and in utter disbelief to hear about the brutal killing of Fr. Mark Ventura,” he said.
The priest was blessing children and talking with the choir members when an unidentified male wearing a motorcycle helmet emerged from the back of the gym and shot the victim twice.
Quoting Tuguegarao City police, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde said the suspect ran towards the highway and rode on a motorcycle driven by another unidentified companion and fled towards Baggao.
The priest sustained gunshot wounds to the head and chest and died at the scene, according to the police.
Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao has led prayers at the site of the crime.
Archbishop Valles also appealed to the authorities “to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice”.
Rights of indigenous people
Fr. Ventura was the director of San Isidro Labrador Mission Station, a post he assumed early this month, in Mabuno village, also Gattaran.
A priest for almost seven years, he was also known for his anti-mining advocacies and for helping indigenous peoples in the province.
He was director of San Isidro Labrador Mission Station based in the nearby village of Mabuno. Prior to that he was rector of the St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in the town of Aparri.
Fr. Ventura is the second priest slain in around four months.
In December 2017, Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, was killed by 2 unidentified gunmen after he facilitated the release of a political prisoner in Jaen, Nueva Ecija, in central Luzon region.