Priest slain in Honduras may be 1st in nearly half a century

March 5, 2022 GMT
Neighbors pay their final respects before the coffin that contains the remains of slain Catholic priest Jose Enrique Vasquez during his wake in Agua Azul Sierra, in northern Honduras, Friday, March 4, 2022. Vasquez was kidnapped midweek and found dead hours later. (AP Photo/Delmer Martinez)
Neighbors pay their final respects before the coffin that contains the remains of slain Catholic priest Jose Enrique Vasquez during his wake in Agua Azul Sierra, in northern Honduras, Friday, March 4, 2022. Vasquez was kidnapped midweek and found dead hours later. (AP Photo/Delmer Martinez)
Neighbors pay their final respects before the coffin that contains the remains of slain Catholic priest Jose Enrique Vasquez during his wake in Agua Azul Sierra, in northern Honduras, Friday, March 4, 2022. Vasquez was kidnapped midweek and found dead hours later. (AP Photo/Delmer Martinez)
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Neighbors pay their final respects before the coffin that contains the remains of slain Catholic priest Jose Enrique Vasquez during his wake in Agua Azul Sierra, in northern Honduras, Friday, March 4, 2022. Vasquez was kidnapped midweek and found dead hours later. (AP Photo/Delmer Martinez)
1 of 5
Neighbors pay their final respects before the coffin that contains the remains of slain Catholic priest Jose Enrique Vasquez during his wake in Agua Azul Sierra, in northern Honduras, Friday, March 4, 2022. Vasquez was kidnapped midweek and found dead hours later. (AP Photo/Delmer Martinez)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Relatives, parishioners and fellow priests on Friday mourned the Rev. José Enrique Vásquez, who was abducted, shot dead and dumped on a bridge in northern Honduras — apparently the first such slaying in almost half a century.

Despite Honduras’ prevalent violence, the Rev. Juan Ángel López, spokesman for Honduras’ Episcopal Conference, said he could not think of another time a Honduran priest was killed without going back to a massacre of 14 people, including two priests, by soldiers in 1975.

“(By) criminals none,” López said. “Assaults, yes ... but murdered no. The last ones killed were in Los Horcones in ’75.”

At a Mass Friday at the cathedral in San Pedro Sula, Bishop Ángel Garachana condemned Vásquez’s killing.

“He has been the victim of the violence that does not cease in our country, a violence so serious as to lead to the killing of thousands of people,” Garachana said.

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Vásquez’s mother, who last saw her son when he left her home Wednesday morning, couldn’t make sense of what had happened. “What makes me so sad is the way that my son died, as if he had been a bad man,” she said.

Vásquez, 47, was abducted on his way to his parish in San Pedro Sula to perform the Ash Wednesday service. Friends and relatives tried throughout the day to reach him and reported his disappearance to police.

His body was found late Wednesday on a bridge in Morazan municipality, far outside the city. He had been shot at least six times in the head and chest. The body had no documentation so he was registered as unidentified in the morgue.

On Thursday morning, the priest’s car was found in Victoria municipality, an hour’s drive from where his body was discovered.

Bishop Garachana identified Vásquez’s body later Thursday.

Cristian Nolazco, spokesman for the Investigative Police Directorate, said the motive for the killing was not immediately clear, but an investigation was underway. “What I can say is that there’s a lot of evidence including hairs, biological, fingerprints and six shell casings that were at the scene of the crime.”

In a statement, the Episcopal Conference said that if the crime was not properly investigated “we will be condemned to suffer the consequences of impunity and obliged to resign ourselves to this happening again in our country.”