Priest gunned down after celebrating Mass in Cagayan

Another Roman Catholic priest was killed, this time in far north Luzon.

Fr. Mark Ventura, former rector of the Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary of Aparri, was gunned down Sunday morning after celebrating Holy Mass in Barangay Peña West, Gattaran, Cagayan.

The Seminary made the announcement on its Facebook page and posted photos of the murdered priest still wearing his cassock.

Ventura was lying on his right side beside the altar. It was apparent he was getting ready to take off his vestments when shot by still unknown assailants.

The killing recalls the murder by suspected state forces of St. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of Salvador, El Salvador, who was also killed while celebrating Mass at a Hospital Chapel.

Last December 4, retired priest and outspoken human rights defender Marcelito Paez of the Diocese of San Jose was also ambushed and killed in Jaen, Nueva Ecija after helping in the release of a political prisoner.

Like Romero and Paez, Ventura is said to have spoken against social injustices.

At the time of his death, Fr. Ventura headed the Archdiocesan San Isidro Labrador Mission Station in Gattaran and chaired the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao’s Migrants’ Desk.

Sources also told Kodao Ventura was active in the Archdiocese’s campaigns for the protection of the environment, good governance and peace.

He was also known for his advocacy on indigenous peoples rights.

Artwork by Bro. Jaazeal Jakosalem, OAR through an Order of the Carmelites Statement

A comment on the seminary’s announcement accused Ventura of spearheading rallies, along with nuns in northern Cagayan province.

His superior, Archbishop Sergio Utleg, has yet to issue a statement on his priest’s killing.

Bayan Muna Cagayan Valley regional coordinator Felix Randy Malayao condemned Ventura’s murder.

“We vigorously deplore and condemn the killing. He was a church man, a good shepherd. He did not deserve this,” Malayao told Kodao.

“Anyone of us can become a victim of killers and terrorists. Let us stand firm and denounce any form of destruction of human life. Justice for Fr. Mark!” the seminary added on its Facebook page. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)