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04/30/2018 Washington D.C. – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on the morning of April 29, a 37-year-old Catholic priest in the northern Philippines was gunned down in Gattaran town, Cagayan province, shortly after the conclusion of Mass.

Father Mark Anthony Ventura was giving the blessing and talking with choir members in Peña Weste gymnasium after Mass, when two men riding on a motorcycle arrived. At 8:15 a.m., one of the men entered through the back of the gym and shot Ventura twice. Ventura sustained gunshot wounds to the head and chest and died on the scene.

The suspects fled on a motorcycle with an accomplice toward the highway heading to Baggao town.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) condemned the killing of Ventura and appealed to the authorities to apprehend his killers and bring them to justice.

According to the police, the motive has yet to be determined. However, according to Inquirer, the CBCP said that Ventura was known for his opposition to mining and for helping the indigenous peoples of Cagayan.

PhilStar also quoted Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay,“There is no doubt that there is a disturbing trend of church people being persecuted for their stance and involvement in human rights.”

In a statement, Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg called the death of Ventura a “brutal and cowardly act.” Utleg stressed, “We just lost a young priest, zealous and dedicated, one who smelled like his sheep, to an assassin’s bullet right after he said Mass and was baptizing children. Let us offer our prayers for him, for his bereaved family, and the lay faithful of our beloved Archdiocese.”

This is the second time that a Catholic priest was killed in Luzon during the last five months. Father Marcelito Paez, a 72-year-old retired Catholic priest, was fatally shot by unidentified gunmen last December, just a few hours after he facilitated the release of a political prisoner in Cabanatuan. His case remains unresolved.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The deliberate attack on Catholic priests in the Philippines is wicked and disheartening. Religious clergy should be able to perform their duty and engage in community work without fear, yet their lives were cut short for their dedication to the people they served. ICC condemns the killing of Father Ventura and calls for the government of the Philippines to bring justice to the slain. The country should not add another name to the list of murders carried out with impunity.”

For interviews with Gina Goh, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]