Mexican priest who defended migrants dies of COVID-19

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Migrant advocates and Roman Catholics on Sunday marked the death of Rev. Pedro Pantoja, a priest who helped found a migrant shelter in the northern Mexico city of Saltillo.

Pantoja died of COVID-19 on Dec. 18. The shelter where he long worked, the Casa del Migrante, confirmed that he was hospitalized on Dec. 12 because of a coronavirus infection.

Bishop emeritus Raúl Vera said it was a sign from God that Pantoja died on Dec. 18, which is the international day of migrants.

“Here, our Father, was saying ’this son of mine will be an advocate before me for the migrants of the world,” Vera said in a mass Sunday.

The Casa del Migrante wrote in a statement that “he too was here as a migrant, and his journey has reached its final destination, with God.”

Pantoja had worked with migrants for decades, starting in the 1960s, both in the United States and northern Mexico.

For many years, the northern border state of Coahuila was dangerous for migrants because of drug cartels active there.

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