Posted by: Fr Chris | April 4, 2018

Executions of Catholics at Easter

A priest was executed by a gang in El Salvador on Holy Thursday, the feast of the priesthood and Eucharist, while he was on his way home from the Chrism Mass. In Pakistan, four members of a family were executed by Islamists in front of the family home in Quetta on Easter Monday. An ISIS statement said that “Christian combatants” were targeted. They did not say that they were civilians sitting in a rickshaw  – how brave the ISIS attackers were to shoot four unarmed adults and a little girl.

And how afraid the Salvadoran gangs must be of the Catholic Church’s priests who stand for justice and peace, to gun one down on Holy Thursday!

Image result for Pervaiz Masih, one of his parishioners killed in Quetta

Funeral in Quetta, Pakistan, of murdered Catholics, April 4

.- Fr. Walter Osmir Vásquez Jiménez was shot and killed the afternoon of March 29, Holy Thursday, on a dirt road outside of the town of Lolotique, El Salvador, as he was on his way to celebrate Mass.  The Archdiocese of San Salvador released a statement expressing “its sorrow over the murder of Fr.  Walter Vásquez. We express our solidarity with the Diocese of Santiago de María and his relatives. We urge the appropriate authorities to determine the facts,” they added.

According to the National Civil Police of El Salvador, the priest, 36, was stopped and killed “when he was riding in a car to celebrate a Mass in a place known as La Casona.” The local press attribute the crime to gangs active in the area. According to the Italian publication l’Avvenire, three armed men wearing ski masks robbed the priest and other passengers in the vehicle, taking their wallets, watches and cell phones. They then ordered the priest to get out of the car and took him some 150 feet away and shot him. However, Fr. Vásquez Jiménez was only grazed by the bullet and attempted to flee, when he was then shot again and killed. Witnesses claim it was “an execution.”

Image result for Walter Osmir VásquezAlthough the motive for the killing is unknown, l’Avvenire reported that the victim exercised his ministry in a violent area of the country where the gangs extort businesses and the priests often try to provide protection for the inhabitants. They also support young men who do not want to join the gangs. “We’re on the front lines, every day we wonder when they’re going to shoot us, and we’re surprised they still haven’t done it,” said a priest whose name was withheld for security reasons.

“We express our condolences and solidarity” with the family of the priest and to the faithful he cared for,” the Salvadoran diocese of Santiago Santa Maria stated.   “We condemn violence of any kind,” they said in a statement while they thanked “ the authorities for their prompt response in face of such a sacrilegious act,” in order to “find those responsible for the crime and that justice be done.”

Image result for Walter Osmir Vásquez

Hundreds of faithful attended the priest’s funeral Mass and burial in Lolotique on April 1, Easter Sunday. Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, the auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, presided at the Mass, which was concelebrated by the Archbishop of San Salvador, Luis Escobar Alas. The archbishop stated that “unfortunately we must recognize and denounce sin, injustice, lies, corruption, arms trafficking, drugs and so many social evils, especially the violence which has caused and continues to cause so much pain.” “It is incredible that  on Holy Thursday, after having participated in the Chrism Mass, one of our priests, Fr. Walter Osmir Vásquez, would be violently murdered. It is not possible that this should happen in a Christian country,” he added. Speaking to the media, the prelate stressed that “it is not only the person of the priest that moves us to sorrow  but all those who die because of these kinds of situations which end up in these grave, very grave incidents.” Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, emphasized that “we are here along with Fr. Walter to say: Yes to life, yes to love, yes to forgiveness, yes to justice.”

This article is a CNA translation and adaption of stories originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa.

Quetta (Agenzia Fides) – “It is sad to see that once again our people are attacked and killed on the occasion of one of our religious festivities. First the bomb at Christmas and now a massacre of the innocents at Easter. I am praying for the persons involved and I pray that God will convert the hearts of those responsible for such acts of terrorism”: Fides was told by Rev. Wajid Michael, a Catholic priest who said Mass at the funeral of Pervaiz Masih, one of his parishioners killed in Quetta, capital of Beluchistan province, on Monday 2 April. Four men, all members of the same family, were shot dead in front of their home in Pervaiz Masih, Shah Zaman district, Quetta, and one young girl, the daughter of Pervaiz, was wounded. Three, all relations of Pervaiz, were from a village near Lahore, in Punjab, and the bodies were taken back for the funeral and burial. Pervaiz instead was buried in the Christian cemetery of Quetta.
Rev. Wajid Michael tells Fides: “It is terrible to know that a family was massacred in front of the gate of the family home. The massacre occurred just as the family were preparing for an outing. Protection and safety for minorities has become an important issue for the government of Pakistan: all the different religious minorities Christians, Hindu, Shiite and also many Muslims sects face discrimination, violence and terrorism”, says the parish priest.
Over three hundred Christians attended the funeral yesterday of Masih, who had invited his relations from Lahore to celebrate Easter in Shah Zaman, a mainly Christian district of Quetta. A neighbour told Fides: “Two men on a motorbike opened fire on the family seated in a rickshaw. Four adults, Pervaiz Masih, Tariq Masih, Imran Masih and Firdous Bibi were killed, the daughter of Pervaiz Masih was injured and taken to hospital”
Azeem, a local catechist says: “Most of the homes on that road belong to Christian families; the street is a dead end. The attackers opened fire and then turned back on the same road. The whole area is gripped by fear, and the other members of the family are in a state of shock. This is a grave loss for the family of Pervaiz Masih because he looked after them all and provided for them. The other three were relations visiting Quetta for the first time “.  According to local information, the so-called Islamic State (DAESH) claimed responsibility for the attack but failed to provide to evidence. Other observers speak of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorist group (TTP), active in the area. Moazzam Jah Ansari, a local police chief said: “This act of terrorism would appear to be a targeted attack”. 
In December 2017, the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta was attacked by two suicide bombers on the third Sunday of Advent, when 14 people were killed and 56 injured. (AG) (Agenzia Fides 4/4/2018)

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