A priest who was abducted in Mexico has been found alive after three days, but "with notable signs of torture," the Roman Catholic Church said Sunday.

The Rev. Jose Luis Sanchez Ruiz was the third priest abducted in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz since September. The other two were found shot to death a few days after they were kidnapped.

Although Sanchez Ruiz was spared that fate, his abduction brought new attention to attacks on priests in Mexico, which also saw another priest killed in the western state of Michoacan in September.

Prosecutors have suggested that robbery may have been the motive in all three killings this year. But fellow priests suggested something else may have been involved in Sanchez Ruiz's kidnapping. Bishop Fidencio Lopez said Sunday that Sanchez Ruiz "had been dumped, with notable signs of torture" at an undisclosed location.

His disappearance sparked two days of unrest in the town of Catemaco, which is known for its faith healers and exuberant jungle. Angry residents burned part of the town hall and a police patrol truck while demanding the release of the priest.

The Rev. Aaron Reyes, spokesman for the diocese, told the Milenio television news channel that Sanchez Ruiz had been threatened in recent days because of his activism.

The priest "had received threats in recent days because he is a defender of human rights and social causes. He has criticized the system of corruption and the crime problem in Catemaco," Reyes said.

Sanchez Ruiz took part in a recent protest of high electricity bills, an important issue in the town because of its extreme heat.

At least 31 priests have been killed in Mexico since 2006. Most of the attacks occurred in areas of Mexico plagued by drug cartel violence.

Mexico's Catholic Media Center says Veracruz, Guerrero and Mexico states are the most dangerous for priests. Along with Michoacan, they are among the states with the worst drug-cartel problems.