"From the Press Office of the Jesuit Curia in Rome, this morning:
Two Jesuits, Fathers Otto Messmer and Victor Betancourt, killed in Moscow
On Saturday 25 October, Father Victor Betancourt, an Ecuadorian Jesuit working in the St. Thomas Philosophical, Theological and Historical Institute in Moscow, was killed in his home. Two days later, after returning from a trip abroad, Father Otto Messmer, Superior of the Russian Region, was also killed in the same place. On Tuesday 28 October, alarmed by the fact that he hadn’t heard from the two men, a fellow Jesuit who lives in another community went to visit them at home. On finding the dead bodies, he immediately contacted the police.
The police investigations have yet to come to any firm conclusions about cause of these violent deaths.
Father Otto Messmer, son of a profoundly Catholic family of German origin and a Russian citizen, was born on 14 July 1961 in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. He entered into the Society of Jesus on 1 September 1982 in Vilnius and was ordained a priest on 29 May 1988 in Riga. He took his final vows in Novosibirsk on 7 October 2001 and was appointed Superior of the Independent Region of Russia of the Society of Jesus on 13 October 2002. Two of his brothers are Jesuits: Monsignor Nikolaus, Bishop of the Kyrgyzstani city of Bishkek, and Hieronymus, from the German Province.
Father Victor Betancourt was born on 7 July 1966 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He entered into the Society of Jesus on 14 September 1984 in Quito and was ordained a priest in the same city on 31 July 1997. He undertook his Jesuit training in Argentina, Ecuador, Germany and Italy. In 2004, he defended his doctoral thesis in Theology in the city of Rome. Since 2001, he had been responsible for those considering a vocation as Jesuits and at the time of his death he was a theology professor in the St. Thomas Philosophical, Theological and Historical Institute in Moscow.
Father General, Adolfo Nicolás SJ, issued an appeal to all Jesuits to provide assistance and support to, and demonstrate their solidarity with, the Jesuits of the Russian Region in this difficult moment. He expressed his closeness to families of the deceased and thanked the Church for issuing its condolences as soon as the news of the tragedy was made public.
Father General Nicolás urged the whole Society to pray that our fellow Jesuits rest in eternal peace and for an end of all forms of violence.
James Martin, SJ"
Two Jesuit priests in Moscow found brutally murdered in apartment
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Two Jesuit priests were murdered brutally in Moscow after being attacked with blunt objects.
Jesuit Fathers Otto Messmer, 47, and Victor Betancourt, 42, were found dead late Oct. 28 in their Moscow apartment.
The Russian bishops' conference denounced "those who committed this terrible crime" and prayed Russian authorities would "be able to find the criminals."
"The assassin is in a state of serious, horrible sin and whoever committed (the crime) must undergo just punishment," the conference said in an Oct. 29 statement sent to Vatican Radio.
It said it hoped once the perpetrators were found, the Russian courts and society would pronounce "an objective juridical and moral judgment" for the crimes committed.
In a note distributed to journalists at the Vatican press hall, head of Vatican Radio, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said a police investigation was under way.
The murders had been carried out "with blunt objects," he wrote.
He said authorities suspect Father Betancourt had been killed before Oct. 26 since he had not shown up to celebrate Sunday Mass that day.
Father Messmer may have been killed Oct. 27 since he had returned to Moscow from Germany that night, Father Lombardi wrote.
Concerned about not having seen or heard from the priests, another Jesuit went to their apartment Oct. 28 where he found them dead, wrote Father Lombardi.
Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, called on all Jesuits to pray for their brothers in Russia and for the end to all violence.
The funeral Mass was to be celebrated by Moscow Archbishop Paolo Pezzi the evening of Oct. 29 in Moscow's Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
Father Messmer, a Russian citizen, was born in Kazakhstan. He had been head of the Russian independent region of the Society of Jesus since 2002.
Father Betancourt, an Ecuadorean citizen, studied in Argentina, Germany and Rome and had been working in Russia since 2001.
The two priests worked together at Moscow's Church of St. Louis de France.