JESUITS-MURDERS Oct-29-2008 (330 words) xxxi
Two Jesuit priests in Moscow found brutally murdered in apartment
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Two Jesuit priests were murdered brutally in Moscow after being attacked with blunt objects.
Jesuit Fathers Otto Messmer, 47, and Victor Betancourt, 42, were found dead late Oct. 28 in their Moscow apartment.
The Russian bishops' conference denounced "those who committed this terrible crime" and prayed Russian authorities would "be able to find the criminals."
"The assassin is in a state of serious, horrible sin and whoever committed (the crime) must undergo just punishment," the conference said in an Oct. 29 statement sent to Vatican Radio.
It said it hoped once the perpetrators were found, the Russian courts and society would pronounce "an objective juridical and moral judgment" for the crimes committed.
In a note distributed to journalists at the Vatican press hall, head of Vatican Radio, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said a police investigation was under way.
The murders had been carried out "with blunt objects," he wrote.
He said authorities suspect Father Betancourt had been killed before Oct. 26 since he had not shown up to celebrate Sunday Mass that day.
Father Messmer may have been killed Oct. 27 since he had returned to Moscow from Germany that night, Father Lombardi wrote.
Concerned about not having seen or heard from the priests, another Jesuit went to their apartment Oct. 28 where he found them dead, wrote Father Lombardi.
Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, called on all Jesuits to pray for their brothers in Russia and for the end to all violence.
The funeral Mass was to be celebrated by Moscow Archbishop Paolo Pezzi the evening of Oct. 29 in Moscow's Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
Father Messmer, a Russian citizen, was born in Kazakhstan. He had been head of the Russian independent region of the Society of Jesus since 2002.
Father Betancourt, an Ecuadorean citizen, studied in Argentina, Germany and Rome and had been working in Russia since 2001.
The two priests worked together at Moscow's Church of St. Louis de France.
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