Another priest slain in Mexico as Pope Francis appeals for end to violence

Pope Francis leads a Mass at St. Peter's Square Sept. 25 at the Vatican. (Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)

The Catholic church in Mexico has been shaken by the recent murder of several priests, with the body of the latest victim found just hours after Pope Francis appealed for an end to the country's drug-related violence.

On Sunday, in remarks before the noontime Angelus prayer he recites with the faithful, the pope told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square that he backed Mexico's bishops in their efforts to protect the family as they fight against a government proposal to legalize same-sex marriage.

Francis then offered his prayers for priests who had recently been murdered in Mexico.

"I want to assure the dear Mexican people of my prayers, so that the violence, which has even struck several priests, might cease," he said.

In the latest case, Vatican Radio reported Monday that the Morelia archdiocese had announced that the body of Fr. Jose Lopez Guillen was found near the town of Puruandiro, in the western state of Michoacan.

Lopez had been robbed and abducted from his parish residence in Janamuato and his car was found overturned nearby.

Lopez was kidnapped on Sept. 19, the same day authorities in Mexico's Gulf Coast state of Veracruz found the bodies of two priests who had been abducted from their parish residence. They had been shot.

Related: Two priests kidnapped, killed in Mexico (Sept. 21, 2016)

The Catholic Multimedia Center said that 15 priests have been murdered in Mexico in less than four years, Vatican Radio said. But more than twice that number are believed to have been killed in Mexico in the past decade.

Although the latest killings took place in different regions of Mexico, both areas are dominated by violent drug cartels that have terrorized communities.

Mexico's ongoing decadelong drug war has claimed more than 150,000 lives, with thousands of people missing.

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