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Catholic community mourns death of Arizona priest in car crash

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Tucson, Ariz., Feb 11, 2020 / 12:26 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Tucson has announced the death of a local priest, who was killed in a car crash Friday.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that our dear Fr. Raul Valencia, Pastor of Santa Monica Parish in Tucson, was in a tragic car accident today and has died,” said Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson in a Facebook post Friday.

“This news comes as a tremendous shock to his family, parishioners, and friends. Department of Public Safety officers informed his family that death was instantaneous,” the bishop said.

“I kindly ask your prayers for our dear Fr. Valencia, his family, and his parish. Of course, the death of a priest also affects the body of the presbyterate profoundly. Let us keep one another in prayer as well.”

According to local media, Valencia was involved in a two-car collision along Interstate 19 on the morning of Feb. 7, as he travelled to visit family in Nogales, which is near where the accident occurred.

The diocese announced that a viewing for Valencia will take place Feb. 10 from 6-10 p.m. A funeral Mass will take place the following day at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Nogales, with local Bishop José Leopoldo González of Nogales as the main celebrant.

Another funeral Mass will be held Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson. The priest will then be buried at Holy Hope Cemetery in Tucson.

Valencia, 60, was ordained a priest in 2003 following a career as a dentist. He owned his own practice for 11 years in Nogales, Mexico – a border town opposite of Nogales, Arizona – where he was born and raised.

He ended his practice in 1997 when he began attending Seminario Juan Navarrete y Guerrero. The next year, he transferred to Assumption Seminary in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas, where he finished his theological studies in 2002.

Following his ordination, Valencia was assigned to St. Monica’s, where he served for a year in 2003. He was then assigned to St. Jude Thaddeus in San Luis, Arizona, where he served until he became the pastor of St. Monica’s in 2011.

Father Edson Elizarras, the pastor at Saint Christopher’s in nearby Marana, had known Valencia since high school. He told KVOA 4 that the priest was a man of tremendous character.

“He was very supportive and always said ‘Si se puede, you can do it, don’t be afraid, take courage in the Lord’,” Elizarras said.

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