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Local priest shot dead after church service in the Philippines

South East Asia

Local priest shot dead after church service in the Philippines

Father Mark Ventura was shot dead chatting to worshippers after Sunday morning service in Northern Philippines. Photo credit: www.philstar.com

A priest was shot dead as he chatted to worshippers after a Sunday morning service in the northern Philippines.

Father Mark Ventura was shot twice from behind after an early morning service on 29 April, in Gattaran, Cagayan province, as he talked with choir members and blessed children.

The 37-year-old, who is known for his anti-mining advocacies in the area, sustained two gunshot wounds in the head and chest. He was declared dead at the scene.

The gunman, who was wearing a helmet, fled on a motorbike with another suspect, according to Gattaran Police Chief Rodel Tabulog.

Police said they were still investigating a motive for the shooting. No one else was injured in the attack.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines strongly condemned the killing, saying, “We make our appeal to the authorities to act swiftly going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice.”

Father Ventura is the second priest to be killed in the Philippines in the last four months. On 4 December last year Marcelito Paez, a 72-year-old campaigner on human rights, was driving his van when a gunman on a motorbike blocked his path and opened fire in Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

The Philippines is a diverse country, with a primarily Christian population, although there is an ongoing conflict with Islamist armed groups seeking independence in the south of the country.