07 November 2008

No funeral rites for narcos

David Agren, in Mexico City

A bishop in Northwestern Mexico recently rebuked the rampant narcotics cartel violence in his diocese by forbidding all 66 priests under his supervision from performing funeral rites for those killed in drug-related slayings.

"Given the circumstances of violence and death that we are living in our communities, I especially ask priests and those that preside over funerals to comply with what church law establishes and deny funeral rights to all those that noticeably and openly are part of a crime," Bishop Jose Andres Corral of Parral said during his Nov. 2 homily.

The Diocese of Parral covers the southern part of Chihuahua state, where a government crackdown on narcotics cartels has resulted in 1,287 deaths so far this year – 10 times as many as were recorded in each of the past two years, according to the Grupo Reforma newspapers.

Priests in the diocese appear willing to comply. Father Miguel Angel Saenz Vargas, a prelate in the municipality of Guadalupe y Calvo, the hub of a violent cartel-infested region known as the "Golden Drug Triangle," told the El Universal newspaper, "It's a contradiction, a scandal within the church itself that people, who led a life distant from God, upon dying have [the same] funeral rights as those of other faithful (people) that lived for Christ."

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