Almost one month after the death of Fr. Carlos Riudavets, a suspect has been apprehended in the murder of the Jesuit priest.
Peruvian National Police arrested Osman Pitug Wajush, who denied involvement in the assault on the Spanish missionary in mid-July. According to Police Commander Juan Jiménez Marvelli, the suspect had to be removed from Chiriaco to protect him from assault at the hands of upset locals.
Pitug was apprehended on at least two warrants. He was a prime suspect partly because his sister was employed at the school, giving him access to information on the normal activities of Jesuits and other personnel working there.
However, some Jesuits have expressed doubt that Pitug is guilty of the murder. Government authorities are still investigating the crime.
In the days following the murder, the Peruvian Province of the Society of Jesus took measures to protect other Jesuits, who were also threatened prior to the murder of Fr. Riudavets.
The Jesuit community was effectively closed, and the school’s administration was entrusted to Fe y Alegría of Peru, the network of 68 educational institutions that “begins where the asphalt ends.” Two Jesuits in formation who lived in the community were missioned elsewhere; one returned to his home province in Africa, and another moved to a different part of Peru.
In a letter to “the whole apostolic body of the province,” Provincial Fr. Juan Carlos Morante, SJ explained that a Jesuit “will visit the school regularly to help with the supervision.” “With the Bishop and with Fe y Alegría we will evaluate the future of the school and our presence in it,” Morante wrote.
Riudavets’ death seems to echo an emerging trend in some Latin American countries, where clergy face much more deadly job risks than their North American counterparts.
One week after the funeral, Jesuits, religious sisters and lay colleagues gathered at San Pedro, the Jesuit Baroque church in central Lima, to commemorate Riudavets.
Miguel Cruzado, SJ eulogized Riudavets as “a living legend in the most noble tradition of the Society of Jesus: that of being sent on mission to a culturally diverse world.”
As a generation of Spanish and American missionaries to Peru begins to diminish, Riudavets’ passing is one more example of a dedicated pastor leaving a significant gap to fill for younger Jesuits and lay collaborators.