MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -The bodies of two Jesuit priests and a tour guide shot dead this week in a gang-ravaged area of northern Mexico were found on Wednesday after a major search, authorities said.
The three were killed on Monday after a suspected run-in with a wanted drug trafficker in the border state of Chihuahua, a crime that drew swift condemnation from the Pope.
“We’ve found and recovered … the bodies of the Jesuit priests Javier Campos, Joaquin Mora and the tour guide Pedro Palma,” Chihuahua Governor Maria Eugenia Campos said in a video posted to social media.
Pope Francis said he was shocked by the killings as authorities hunted for the murder suspect.
“So many killings in Mexico,” Francis said at the end of his general audience for thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.
The state prosecutor’s office in Chihuahua said the three were killed after Palma took refuge in a church in the town of Cerocahui to protect himself from an attack.
The office named Jose Noriel Portillo Gil as a suspect in the murders, and offered a reward of five million pesos, or nearly $250,000, for information relating to his whereabouts.
The state said in 2018 that Portillo, who is also the prime suspect in the murder of American teacher Patrick Braxton-Andrews, was involved in the drug trade.
The three bodies were taken from the church by a group of men in the back of a pickup truck, Luis Gerardo Moro, head of the religious order in Mexico, said in a radio interview.
Chihuahua Attorney General Roberto Fierro said authorities were also looking for two missing brothers believed kidnapped by Portillo on Monday, before the killings.
Fierro said the men had recently played in a baseball game against a team sponsored by Portillo, which ended in an argument after Portillo’s team lost. Portillo on Monday shot at one of the brothers in a home, which he set on fire, Fierro said witnesses reported.
Fierro also confirmed that a woman and child reported missing were safe.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella in Vatican City and Kylie Madry and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by Alison Williams and Alistair Bell)