Priest’s murder in Colombia shocks Catholic, civic communities

Priest’s murder in Colombia shocks Catholic, civic communities

SÃO PAULO, Brazil  – Both Catholic and civil leaders in Colombia have reacted with outrage to the brutal June 4 slaying of a Catholic priest in the country’s northeast, during an apparently botched robber which may also have had a personal motive.

Father Ramon Montejo, 45, was approached by two men at a parking lot in the Jesus Cautivo neighborhood of the city of Ocaña, located on the border with Venezuela, as he prepared to take his car and go to the church in Buenavista, another district in the urban area.

An altercation ensued and the men stabbed Montejo several times. CCTV footage shows the moment when the priest is hit and ran over by his own truck, which had been taken by his murderers.

Later that day, the police captured two suspects, José Antony Montilla Jovito, 29, and Misael Rodolfo Valdez Pedrosa, 21. Both of them are Venezuelan nationals who worked at parking lots in Ocaña.

According to the local press, the authorities initially suspected that the perpetrators only wanted to steal Montejo’s truck and ended up killing him after he resisted the robbery.

With the inquiry’s progress, however, the investigators allegedly discovered that the priest previously knew Jovito and even tried to help him in the past. The crime was supposedly motivated by revenge, but no further details have been disclosed by the police yet.

Montejo’s funeral was celebrated in Teorama, a nearby municipality, and drew many of his colleagues, seminarians, and parishioners. On the same day, his community in Ocaña, along with clergy members and local authorities, promoted a ceremony in his honor and asked for peace.

“That’s a terribly painful occurrence, given the way things happened. We all have to keep working and be encouraged to act like peace builders,” Archbishop Jorge Alberto Ossa Soto of Nueva Pamplona, in charge of Ocaña, told the local Provincia TV after the celebration.

Emiro Cañizares, Ocaña’s mayor, affirmed that “Fr. Ramon’s killing is an attack on peace-building.”

“He was a person that has always accompanied during difficult times the several families that had relatives kidnapped,” he told Provincia TV.

Besides acting as a community leader in Ocaña, Montejo was involved in several humanitarian initiatives, including in issues involving kidnappings. A widespread problem in Colombia, abductions of civilians have been more and more common in the region of Ocaña. Several armed organizations are generally responsible, including left-wing guerrillas.

“He would act as a mediator and help the victims to be released. At the same time, he had a deep commitment to the victims’ families,” Father Hector Henao, a long-time peace negotiator in Colombia who knew Montejo, told Crux.

Henao added that Montejo was admired in his region due to his work “amid the complexities that there are in that part of the country,” especially poverty, immigration, and violence.

“The murder’s circumstances are still being investigated by the authorities and we haven’t received concrete information yet. The community is shocked with such a violent attack,” Henao declared.


Ossa Soto released a statement on the same day of the killing in which he condemned the “irrational violence that took the life of a priest who dedicated his life to spreading Jesus Christ’s message of peace and love.”

“We categorically repudiate a barbaric act that attacked not only the life of a human being, but also the fundamental principles of coexistence and humanity,” the declaration read.

Ossa Soto concluded the statement by asking the authorities to promote a deep investigation on Montejo’s killing and the churchgoers to keep the priest’s memory alive and “continue to work for actions that incentivize peace, reconciliation, and respect to life.”

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the special representative of the United Nations’ Secretary-General for Colombia and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in the South American country, issued a statement on Jun. 7 along with the delegation for Church-State relations concerning Montejo’s death.

“We energetically repudiate that act of violence and express our most sincere condolences to his family, his parish community, and to the Diocese of Ocaña,” it read.

A security committee was set up in Ocaña, gathering local authorities of the Executive power, the police, and the Army. The group promised it will be able to present news on the case anytime soon.