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Memorial mass for migrant victims in downtown San Antonio

53 people died from heat-related illnesses following a human smuggling attempt uncovered by San Antonio Police on Monday.

SAN ANTONIO — Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller presided Thursday over a memorial mass to remember victims and survivors following the deadliest smuggling incident in U.S. history Monday. 

San Fernando cathedral hosted the ceremony. The church's bells tolled 53 times for each victim. 

On Monday, 48 people were found dead in the back of a semitrailer in southwest San Antonio that was involved in a human smuggling scheme. Several people were taken to area hospitals where five more people died. Of the victims, 40 were men and 13 were women.

Churchgoers prayed in communion with Saint Toribio Romo, patron for some migrants.

The archbishop called for immigration reform. He told his church it is wrong to sit idly during a humanitarian crisis.

"We pray for new ways of relating to one another - respecting the human person," Garcia-Siller told KENS 5 before the mass. "For that, we include our leaders of our state and country, to work for comprehensive immigration reform."

"It's urgent," he continued. "We pray, in God's mercy, something will happen."

He instructed the church to create political incentive for change, expressing gratitude for victims who now personify a migrants' struggle. He also prayed for forgiveness for sins against migrants. 

Garcia-Siller conducted the homily in Spanish and then in English. 

Related story: 53 migrants dead of heat-related sickness after being found in semitruck in San Antonio

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice confirmed four men are arrested and charged in connection with the event, including two Texas men charged with human-smuggling resulting in death.

The Justice Department has identified those two as Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, and Christian Martinez, 28.  

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said that while migrants and asylum-seekers from other nations tend to pass through San Antonio en route to their next destinations, Monday night's discovery was "a far different situation than what we see." 


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