April 8, 2025 –When Miguel Pantaleon was ordained into the Catholic church last month, it was the biggest day of his young life. The 28-year-old trainee priest had spent almost a decade working towards joining the clergy. At a packed Mass in his dusty village of Rincon del Carmen in western Mexico, he was officially brought into the priesthood by the diocese bishop.
Watching in the front pew, his mother, Petra Florencio, beamed with pride. Miguel is the 11th of 13 children, and his vocation is a source of great prestige for his family.
However, Petra would also be forgiven for harbouring a few doubts: Miguel has joined the riskiest priesthood in the world. More than 50 priests have been killed in Mexico since 2006, nine of them under the current administration alone. Some were killed for speaking out against cartel violence, others caught up in the crossfire of an unending conflict between rival criminal organisations. Almost always, the murders go unpunished and unsolved – the authorities often carrying out only the most cursory of investigations.