A church in Mexico City was the scene on Sunday of the death of Juan, a man in his sixties who got down on his knees to pray at the entrance of the church, made his way up the main aisle still on his knees, passed out, and died within minutes in front of the altar.
The same afternoon the parish priest celebrated Juan’s funeral Mass accompanied by several parishioners.
The official report states that Juan entered Jesus the Priest parish church, around noon on Februay 21, and died shortly thereafter on his knees in front of the altar, about 45 minutes before the start of the afternoon Mass.
The sacristan, who witnessed the man’s collapse, quickly informed the pastor, Fr. Sajid Lozano, who called an ambulance, but "there were several signs indicating there was no more we could do because he had already died," the priest said.
Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Lozano said that “Juan came on his own two feet to his funeral Mass with his body present there, which is the death of the just, a death without suffering.”
"Juan had the strength and the courage to come to the house of God to take his last breath," he added.
According to the magazine Desde la Fe, a publication of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, very few people knew Juan, but moved by the way he died, many participated in the funeral Mass.
Police and paramedics "told us that the death had occurred due to a sudden heart attack and that there were no signs of violence," the priest told the archdiocesan magazine. The authorities also gave the priest permission to go ahead with the Mass and suggested that he find one of Juan's relatives.
Mexican law states that when a person dies outside of a hospital, the body cannot be removed until the coroner and local prosecutor come to examine the body to verify there was no foul play.
Consequently, Juan’s body had to be left right where he died. As the Sunday Mass was scheduled to begin shortly at 1 p.m., Lozano made the impromptu decision to make it the funeral Mass for the deceased.
A young man who was passing by near the church was able to identify the body and then accompanied the authorities to the family's residence. The son of the deceased was at home, and shocked by the news, went to the church to participate in the funeral Mass.
As a sign of respect, Juan’s body was covered with a white sheet brought by one of the faithful and a candle was placed at his feet.
Lozano told ACI Prensa that “death is still a painful and unexpected event”, and it is “only through faith that we have the hope that it is not the end of everything, but the beginning of eternal life."
The pastor told Desde la Fe that the faithful "prayed for a person they did not know, but that he was a member of the community."
The dramatic turn of events “made a big impact on the people,” surprised by what had happened, and “together we reflected that death is only the end of our pilgrimage in this world, but the beginning of eternal life," he concluded.