The body of Father Joaquín Hernández Sifuentes, a priest in northern Mexico who had been missing since Jan. 3, was found on Thursday, his diocese announced.
“We confirm with profound sadness that our brother Joaquín Hernández Sifuentes, a diocesan priest for whom we tirelessly searched, with the great hope of finding him alive, has gone on to the house of the eternal Father. This afternoon the authorities reported he was found dead,” read a Jan. 12 statement from the Diocese of Saltillo.
The priest, who served at Sacred Heart parish in Saltillo’s Aurora neighborhood, had not been seen since Jan. 3. The diocese reported his disappearance Jan. 7 to the attorney general’s office of the state of Coahuila.
One of his friends, Friar Víctor Sifuentes Méndez, went to Fr. Hernández’ rectory Jan. 3 and found the priest’s room in disorder, which was atypical for him. The friar returned to the rectory Jan. 5, and amid the mess noticed Fr. Hernández’ suitcase and glasses. Missing were his car, mobile phone, tablet, and computer. Additionally, a neighbor saw two men “getting into the priest’s car” Jan. 3 and leaving in the vehicle.
Fr. Hernandez’ body was found in Parras de la Fuente, a town 90 miles west of Saltillo, and a homicide investigation has been opened. Two persons have reportedly been detained in connection with the murder.
The priest’s car, meanwhile, a white Volkswagen Derby, was found in Santa Catarina, nearly 45 miles northeast of Saltillo, according to La Jornada, a Mexican daily.
The Saltillo diocese’s statement recalled Fr. Hernández as someone “who sought perfection in whatever activity he was undertaking,” and that the closeness of the people with him “is reflected in the love that the parishioners demonstrated, including these last ten days.”
“In Joaquín, they have also taken from us a brother and a son. Rest in peace, Father Joaquín Hernández Sifuentes,” the statement concluded.
The Mexican bishops’ conference also expressed their condolences and assured in a statement that “evil will not conquer and death is not the end of the message of love and hope that Our Lord Jesus Christ brought, which Father Joaquín embodied in his ministerial life.”
“We ask God for his eternal rest and we also ask the Lord to grant his relatives and friends strength, hope and the consolation of faith,” the bishops said.
The wake for Fr. Hernández will be held Jan. 15 in the chapel of the diocesan seminary, and his funeral Mass will be said the following day at the Saltillo cathedral.
Fr. Hernández was ordained a priest in 2004 at the age of 30. He had served in Castaños and Monclova before being transferred to Saltillo in 2013.
Drug trafficking has led to increased murder and kidnapping in Mexico, with priests not unaffected. In the last four years, 16 priests in the country have been murdered. In September 2016, the bodies of three kidnapped priests were found, in the states of Michoacan and Veracruz.