Two Jesuit priests were fatally gunned down in a Mexico church Monday, the Jesuits of Mexico announced Tuesday. Fathers Javier Campos Morales, 79, and Joaquín César Mora Salazar, 80, who had almost a century of service between them, were trying to protect a man who was being chased by gunmen and sought refuge in the church. The Chihuahua State Attorney General's Office says the gunmen killed both priests and the man they were chasing, then took the bodies, the Washington Post reports. "We condemn these violent acts, we demand justice and the recovery of the bodies of our brothers who were taken from the church by armed persons," the Mexican Jesuits said in a statement cited by the Catholic News Agency.
The mountainous region in northern Mexico where the priests were killed has high levels of organized crime, and has recently been, per the Post, "consumed by violence ... involving drug traffickers who cultivate poppies for heroin production and illegally strip the forests of timber." Hundreds of families in the largely Indigenous region have fled their homes crime groups have expanded. State officials have identified the third victim as a tour guide; the region is near an area popular with visitors. (Read more Mexico stories.)