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Venezuelan Catholics hold day of mourning after two Salesians murdered
Catholic News Service

VALENCIA, Venezuela — Salesians in Venezuela marked a national day of mourning Feb. 18, three days after a priest and a brother were murdered in a robbery.

The murders occurred around midnight at the Colegio Don Bosco in Valencia and claimed the lives of Father Jesus Plaza Salessi, 80, and Brother Luis Sanchez Morantes, 84, said a statement from the Salesians. The funerals for the two men were Feb. 17.

Local media reported both men were stabbed to death by suspects ages 13 and 15. Another priest, Father David Marin, was injured in the attack and hospitalized but was recovering, the Salesian statement said.

It added that the suspects "profaned the Blessed Sacrament and stole sacred vessels and other items."

"We also feel deep regret for the two young assailants, obviously disturbed, who committed this terrible act and cut off the lives of two men who dedicated their lives to poor and needy youth," the Salesians said.

A statement from the Salesians in Venezuela asked for the day of mourning in light of the death of the two men and "the many senseless deaths that occur in our country."

The statement said the day was a way "to express our grief and our condemnation of violence, crime and hatred. It is a toxic poison that is choking the country."

The Venezuelan bishops' conference said in a statement, "In the face of this unspeakable and painful incident, which has the Venezuelan church in mourning, we want to express our outrage for what this irreverent act ... indicates of the erosion of values and deterioration of the our social coexistence."

Father Plaza was born in Venezuela, but ordained in Guatemala, where he studied theology and worked mainly in parishes. Brother Sanchez was born in Colombia and worked as a teacher.

Venezuela has suffered from a worsening of violence in recent years; the government does not release official crime figures.

In February, demonstrations intensified as students protested the government of President Nicolas Maduro, who won a contested election last year after then-President Hugo Chavez died of cancer.

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