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Mexican security forces burst into parish church to arrest migrant

Migrants are pictured in a file photo praying during Mass at a shelter in Saltillo, Mexico. Mexican National Guard members burst into a parish church in Río Blanco during Mass May 4, 2024, to arrest a migrant, forcing the temporary suspension of the service. (OSV News photo/David Agren)

(OSV News) — Mexican National Guard members burst into a parish church during Mass to arrest a migrant, forcing the temporary suspension of the service — an interruption the local diocese called a “sacrilege.”

The incident occurred May 4 during the 1:30 p.m. Mass, “just prior to the Eucharistic Prayer,” at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Río Blanco, a community some 165 miles to the east of Mexico City in a mountainous region of Veracruz state.

“They were pursuing a group of migrants, especially a young person who sought refuge in the church,” Father Helkyn Enríquez Báez, the parish priest, said in a May 5 statement.

“The parish community and (their priest) want to express our disagreement and clarify that the dignity of all human beings is an inalienable value that cannot be violated for any reason,” the statement continued.

“We respect all governmental and security institutions. But we demand reciprocal respect for our institution and our faith. (The church) cannot be entered in a way that is comparable to sacrilege, in the middle of the celebration of the Sacrament that constitutes the center of our faith,” the statement added.

Migration is common through the state of Veracruz, which hugs the Gulf of Mexico and connects southern parts of Mexico — where migrants enter the country — with Mexico City.

The National Guard was formed as a militarized police force in 2019, replacing the Federal Police. Its first major deployment that year was to Mexico’s northern and southern borders to stop migrants after Mexico agreed to halt migrants in response to threats of escalating tariffs on its exports from then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

Mexican authorities have increased immigration enforcement activities in 2024, detaining nearly 360,000 migrants transiting the country during the first three months of the year, according to Spanish news agency EFE, citing government statistics. The figures nearly doubled the number of migrants stopped during the same period of 2023.

A parish spokesman did not return a call from OSV News seeking comment.

“The right of asylum is a human right and a Christian duty, which constitutes a commandment of the Lord, who told us, ‘I was a stranger, and you welcomed me,'” the parish priest’s statement said. “We hope that with mutual respect, a similar event which always concerns our community will not be repeated.”

David Agren writes for OSV News from Mexico City. He is currently in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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