38-year-old Father Cecilio Perez was reportedly shot dead by a presumed gang member while he slept on Saturday night, May 18, 2019, in his parish in El Salvador, according to Vatican News.
Father Perez was the parish priest of San José la Majada, in Sosonate Diocese near the Guatemala border.
His body, with three bullet wounds, was found in his room by a group of faithful who had agreed to meet him at 5 am for morning prayers. Besides his body was a hand-written note signed by the Mara Salavatrucha gang saying “he did not pay the rent.”
The Bishop of Sonsonate, Constantino Barrera, who has asked for prayers for Father Perez, expressed his grief and praised the work the priest was doing with his parishioners saying he was close to the people.
The Government of El Salvador condemned the murder and expressed its condolences to the priest’s family and to the Catholic community.
In a statement, it also said new orders have been issued to security forces to make sure the priest’s killers are brought to justice.
El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world. The murder rate last year in the Central American country was 50.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, or 9.2 murders a day.