Catholic priest shot dead after mass in the Philippines. File picture

Manila - A Catholic priest known for his anti-mining advocacy was shot dead on Sunday after celebrating Mass in the northern
Philippines, police said.

Father Mark Ventura was shot twice in a public gymnasium in the town of Gattaran in Cagayan province, 396 kilometres north of Manila,
where the Mass was held.

Ventura, 37, was blessing children and chatting with choir members after the Mass when the suspect shot him from behind, Gattaran police
chief Rodel Tabulog.

The shooter, who was wearing a helmet, fled on a motorcycle with another suspect, Tabulog said.

"We are still investigating a motive for the killing," Tabulog told Manila radio station DZMM, adding that the priest had a positive
reputation in the local community. None of the children or choir members were hurt in the shooting, he said.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Ventura was the second priest to be killed in the country in four
months.

"A priest for almost seven years, he was also known for his anti-mining advocacies and for helping indigenous peoples in the
province," a report on the CBCP website said.

In December, a 72-year-old priest was shot dead in the northern province of Nueva Ecija after facilitating the release of a political
prisoner, the report added.

The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, with more than 80 per cent of some 100 million residents identifying as
Catholic.