The priest who founded migrant shelters in northeast Mexico dies of covid

File photo dated 23 August 2011 that shows Father Pedro Pantoja during a press conference in Mexico City, Mexico.  EFE / Sáshenka Gutiérrez / Archive
File photo dated 23 August 2011 that shows Father Pedro Pantoja during a press conference in Mexico City, Mexico. EFE / Sáshenka Gutiérrez / Archive

Saltillo (Mexico), Dec 19 (EFE) .- The priest Pedro Pantoja, founder of some of the main migrant shelters in northeastern Mexico, died in Saltillo, capital of the northern state of Coahuila, after a week of being hospitalized by the covid-19.
The Diocese of Saltillo reported this Saturday of the death of Pantoja, known as the “Pastor of Migrants”, which occurred due to a cardiac arrest the previous day, which leaves a void in the fight for the rights of this population in northern Mexico .
“We regret the loss of a man who gave his ministry to the defense of the human rights of migrants and refugees. Let us continue in prayer for his soul and for the prompt resignation of his family, friends, friends and the staff of the Casa del Migrante ( de Saltillo) “, indicated the institution.
Raúl Vera, bishop emeritus of Saltillo, told Efe that the priest Pantoja began in 2002 to build a shelter to house citizens of Central America fleeing poverty and violence to seek asylum in the United States.
“The first Migrant House was opened in a school loaned by the state government in early 2002 in Ciudad Acuña,” located on the Coahuila-Texas border, said Vera, who is also known for his defense of migrants and other minorities. .
Later, the religious narrated, Pantoja dedicated himself to building the Casa Belén in Saltillo, the largest shelter in northern Mexico, through which thousands of migrants, most of them from Honduras, Nicaragua, Salvador and Guatemala, have passed since the end of 2002 To the date.
In these facilities, immigrants receive food, lodging, clothing, medical care and the possibility of making telephone calls to their relatives in Central America or the United States.
The shelters have also protected Central American migrants from threats from organized crime groups that specialized in kidnapping them to demand ransom from their relatives in the United States.
For his work in defense of the human rights of migrants in 2011, priest Pantoja received the Rafto International Human Rights Prize awarded by the Rafto Foundation of Belgium.
Alberto Xicoténcatl, current director of the Saltillo Migrant House, said goodbye to Father Pantoja with a message on his social networks.
“I love you and will always love you. For everything I have lived together I celebrate your life and your work. I love you very much. Thank you for being with me through the good times, but especially the bad times. For your trust, for your love, your solidarity, your wise and timely advice, “he wrote.
The Diocesan Center for Human Rights “Fray Juan de Larios” and other national and foreign organizations have scheduled tributes to bid farewell to Father Pantoja, said the Diocese of Saltillo.
His death reached the federal government cabinet, where the head of the Interior Ministry (Interior Ministry), Olga Sánchez Cordero, lamented the loss.
“A social fighter congruent with his faith, values ​​and convictions, unfortunately passed away today. All the people who knew his vocation of service will miss Father Pedro Pantoja,” Sánchez Cordero declared in the early morning hours.

Melissa Galbraith
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