MANILA, April 29, 2018–A young Catholic priest was shot dead in Cagayan province on Sunday, becoming the second cleric slain in around four months.
Fr. Mark Ventura, 37, was murdered at about 8:15am right after celebrating Mass at a gymnasium in Brgy. Peña Weste, on the outskirts of Gattaran town.
The priest was blessing children and talking with the choir members when a still unidentified male donning a motorcycle helmet emerged from the back of the gym and shot the victim twice.
Quoting reports from the Police Regional Office No. 2 in Tuguegarao City, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde said the suspect ran towards the highway and rode on a single motorcycle driven by another unidentified companion and fled towards Baggao, Cagayan.
Archbishop Sergio Utleg Tuguegarao has already led prayers at the site of the crime. He still has to issue his statement as of this posting.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has deplored the priest’s murder, offering their prayers for Ventura, for his bereaved family, and the lay faithful of Tuguegarao.
“We condemn this evil act!” said Archbishop Romulo Valles, CBCP President.“We are totally shocked and in utter disbelief to hear about the brutal killing of Fr. Mark Ventura.”
The bishops also appealed to the authorities “to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice”.
Ventura is currently the director of San Isidro Labrador Mission Station, a post he only assumed early this month, in Mabuno village, also Gattaran.
A priest for almost seven years, he was also known for his anti-mining advocacies and for helping indigenous peoples in the province.
Prior to his assignment in Gattaran, Ventura served as Rector of the Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary based in Aparri, Cagayan.
In December 2017, Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, was killed by still unidentified gunmen after he facilitated the release of a political prisoner in Jaen, Nueva Ecija. (Roy Lagarde with reports from Melo Acuña)