CLINT, Texas - A local priest is especially grateful to be back with his parish after he said he was assaulted and robbed with men carrying AK-47s on a recent trip to Mexico.
Father Francisco Lopez, the Parochial Vicar at San Lorenzo Mission in Clint traveled to Mexico City in late December to officiate a wedding. While driving back outside Torreon, the priest said four men stopped him and the family he traveled with and robbed them.
"They pointed an AK-47 at my chest," said Lopez in Spanish, during an exclusive interview Wednesday.
The priest said the attack lasted about 10 minutes but felt "like an eternity." He said the assailants asked him if he was a member of the Juarez cartel, after seeing the Chihuahua license plates of the truck he was riding in. Lopez showed them his identification and proof he is a priest, he said.
Lopez said the armed men were riding in a dark pickup and had several unidentifiable bulks of flesh wrapped in plastic bags on the back of the pickup.
"I was never afraid to die because I felt God was there with us," Lopez said.
After minutes of interrogation, Lopez said the men robbed him and his three other traveling companions of their cell phones and the car they were riding in. They hitched a ride to a bus station several miles away and then bought passage to Juarez, Lopez said.
The priest, one of only 53 in the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, said he preferred not to say what drug cartel the attackers allegedly said they belonged to.
Parishioners at San Lorenzo on Wednesday were surprised to learn what the discreet priest had gone through.
"He was saved because at that moment, he was praying and the Lord and the Virgin Mary were with him. If you have faith, you can overcome anything with your faith," said Margarita Leos, who went to the mission with her husband to pray.