Florida Priest Shot Dead in Tanzania at Entrance of Church

A senior Florida priest was shot dead at a church service on Sunday in Tanzania, leaving the community in mourning.

"We sadly report the tragic death of Father Evaristus Mushi, a priest of the Diocese of Zanzibar, Tanzania, age 56," the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg posted on Facebook Tuesday.

Father Mushi was apparently shot dead when he arrived for church service on Sunday morning in Zanzibar. It was the second attack on priests in the Muslim-majority country in recent months.

"Father Evarist Mushi was blocked by two young men at the entrance of the church, one of the attackers shot him in the head," said police spokesman Mohammed Mhina, according to Daily Nation.

Another Catholic priest was wounded on his way home from church on Christmas Day, pointing to tensions between the religious communities in Tanzania.

The east African country, with a 45 million population, has a relatively divided religious make-up, with 61 percent of residents identifying as Christians, mostly Roman Catholics, and 35 percent identifying as Muslims, according to The Pew Forum. As much as 97 percent of people in the Zanzibar Archipelago, however, are Muslims.

"For now, we cannot say what the motives are for the attack, but we have launched search operations for the attackers," said Mhina.

In their post remembering Father Mushi, the Diocese of St. Petersburg reminded the community that he was a priest of 27 years, and began serving at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, Spring Hill in the summer of 2001, before moving on to the Diocese of Zanzibar.

"The Chancellor's Office has been hearing today from those who knew him and were touched by his ministry of love and kindness," the diocese stated, as it asked the community for prayers for the many Catholic priests and nuns throughout the world facing hardships.

One user on Facebook shared of his memories of Father Mushi: "Kathy and I were privileged to have Fr. Mushi at our home a few times for dinner. He was a funny friendly man to get to know and most importantly a truly spiritual man. I am so saddened to hear of how he died, my heart is heavy at this senseless and tragic loss. You Will be missed Fr."

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