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Priests Take the Lead in Fierce Revolt Against Drug Gang in Mexico's Michoacan

Tim Johnson - The News Tribune
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January 19, 2014
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Vicar Gregorio Lopez Geronimo models the bulletproof vest that he now uses when he celebrates Mass at the Cathedral in Apatzingan, a small city in Mexico's Michoacan state. (Tim Johnson/MCT)

APATZINGAN — In medieval times, a powerful Christian military order known as the Knights Templar fought during the Crusades. Today, meth-peddling gangsters have taken the Templar name, and in an ironic twist they are finding Roman Catholic clergy among their fiercest enemies.

In the embattled Mexican state of Michoacan, Catholic priests are openly backing armed vigilante groups that are waging war against the Knights Templar gang.

Some priests allow the vigilantes to ring church bells to summon citizens to meetings. Others use their pulpits to lambaste local and state officials for colluding with the Knights Templar.

The anger of the clergy is aimed with equal vehemence at gangsters and at government officials, who they say have not done enough to rein in crime and extortion. That vexation will get a vast airing at morning Mass this Sunday, when priests across the Apatzingan diocese will read a scathing pastoral letter from Bishop Miguel Patino Velazquez that accuses federal police and soldiers of doing little to capture Knights Templar bosses.

“Their leaders are fully identified and yet no authority stops them,” the letter says.

Read the rest at The News Tribune

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