José Castillo, killed after 5 years of missionary work for social Pastoral and defence of human rights

Saturday, 20 March 2004

When Joe Castillo and his wife Yelitza completed their studies at the University of Venezuela, as enthusiastic members of the Pontifical Mission Societies they wanted to go on mission to the apostolic Vicariate of Machiques (Venezuela), where they arrived in 1998. The Vicar apostolic, Bishop Ramiro Diaz Sanchez OMI, entrusted them with social pastoral and promotion of human rights: a task which Joe a lawyer and Yelitza a teacher undertook with competence and commitment. For five years they worked hard in contact with people in many different situations helping the poor, defending the rights of the Yukpa and Barì indigenous mountain peoples. The war in neighbouring Colombia had its affect on this area, especially with the arrival of refugees.
When the period of mission was over husband and wife decided to stay and live in Merida. But in the afternoon of 27 August 2003 they were attacked near their home in Tinaquillo in Machiques. In the history of the Vicariate there was never an episode of such violence: their car was stopped by another vehicle from which gunfire rained on the two innocent lay people. Joe died immediately and Yelitza and little boy were seriously wounded. After this incident other pastoral workers in the Machiques Vicariate received threats. (Agenzia Fides 20/3/2004 - Righe 15; Parole 212)