Fr. Fausto Tentorio laid to rest

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/25 October) –  When the 39-year Italian missionary Fr. Tullio Favali was gunned down by a paramilitary group on April 11, 1985, the 33-year old Fr. Fausto Tentorio “could have changed course, packed up his bags and head for a safer and kinder place on the missionary map,”  Kidapawan Bishop Romulo dela Cruz said.

“But he did not. He had fallen in love with his people,” the Bishop said in his homily at the mass concelebrated with six other bishops, two of them former bishops of Kidapawan, and 90 priests, at the Our Lady of Mediatrix Cathedral here.

On Tuesday noon, eight days after he was felled by ten bullets at his convent’s garage in Arakan, North Cotabato, Tentorio was laid to rest at the Queen of Prophets cemetery in the Bishop’s Compound in Balindog,  in a grave near Favali’s. He was the third member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) gunned down in Mindanao, the second in North Cotabato.

Tentorio was accompanied to his final resting place by some 3,000 parishioners and sympathizers led by Bishop dela Cruz and Zamboanga Arcbhishop Romulo Valles, formerly Bishop of Kidapawan.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Cardinal of Milan sent messages which were read during the mass. Tentorio’s  brother, sister-in-law, two nephews and a friend, arrived from Italy. The PIME Superior-General, Fr. Gian Battista Zanchi, arrived from Rome and the Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Luca Fornari, the Bishop said, “twice violated his own (government’s) travel advisory not to visit Mindanao by returning to attend this funeral mass, after visiting a week ago to see for himself what happened to Father Fausto.”

Attending the funeral mass were a mixed crowd – President Aquino’s representative, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Mindanao Development Authority chair Luwalhati Antonino, Representatives Nancy Catamco, Luz Ilagan, Teddy Casino, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, military officials led by Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, Tentorio’s parishioners from Arakan and Columbio,  representatives of religious groups, militant groups and Lumads (indigenous peoples).

Outside the cathedral, militant groups displayed placards stating, “Justice for Fr. Pops” “Punish Fr. Fausto’s  perpetrators,” “Condemn the military’s Oplan Bayanihan,”

Some wore shirts declaring “Justice for Fr. Pops” or pasted “Justice for Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio. End Impunity Now” stickers on their shirts.

In relative obscurity

Tentorio, whom the Bishop described to be one who was “content to labor in relative obscurity,” had been described in at least 500 news reports, articles, statements and declarations “for what he purportedly stood for,” the Bishop said. He said Tentorio was described  as “an environmentalist-priest,” “a human rights defender,” “the anti-mining activist,” “the protector of cultural minorities.”

He thanked everyone for the expressions of sympathy and solidarity, adding these have been a source of comfort and hope but “there is a tendency, even by well-meaning souls, to enlarge the life of one who has met a high-profile death.”

“We do not have to boost to mythical proportions Fr. Fausto’s life in order to make sense of his tragic death,” the Bishop said, adding he should be remembered “simply as a good and faithful priest who loved his people and sought to serve them as best as he could, even in the face of danger to his own life.”

He said Tentorio wanted to be remembered through a verse from the Prophet Micah, which he had asked, in his last will and testament, to be written on his tombstone: “You were told, O Man, what is good and what God requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Dela Cruz said Tentorio showed mercy, especially to the poor and the Lumads (indigenous peoples). “He sought justice for them, when they were dispossessed of  their land, when they were harassed by men with arms, when their own government seemed to abandon them. By doing that – even in a quiet and humble manner, for Fr. Pops was no firebrand –  can earn you enemies, enemies that go after even the kindest of men.”

“Imong pangandoy, akong pangandoy”

The bishop added that Tentorio’s last will and testament was written in Italian but he added these words in Binisaya: “Ang imong pangandoy, akong pangandoy, and imong pakigbisog, akong pakigbisog: Busa kaw ug ako usa ra. Kauban sa pagpanday sa ginharian sa Dios” (Your dream is my dream. Your struggle is my struggle. Therefore, You and I are one: companions in building the Kingdom of God).

“Stripped of all editorializing, social commentary, and propaganda literature, Fr. Fausto’s death is simply an emulation, a following and imitation of Jesus’ own death on the cross,” dela Cruz said.

He noted that when Favali was killed 26 years ago, “something like resurrection followed and  is now reflected in the number of priests of the Diocese. Fully one half of their number coms from the Tulunan-M’lang area where Fr. Favali met his martyrdom.”

The Diocese of Kidapawan has about 40 priests, 25 of them Diocesan. Of the 25, 12 or 13 are from Tulunan and M’lang.

“Fr. Fausto, rest in peace. Your labors have ended. With your prayers, we will take up and continue your work,” the Bishop said.

Pope Benedict XVI sent a message through Cardinal Tarciio Bertone,  thanking God for Tentorio’s “witness as  a good and faithful priest who tirelessly and courageously served the Filipino people for many years” and called for the “renunciation of violence and the building of a just and peaceful society where all live together in harmony.”

Italian ambassador Fornari expressed “outrage and disdain for a despicable act.”

“What makes us so indignant is the injustice, the mpunity of the perpetrators,” he said.

But Fonari added he has  received “ample assurance” from the Philippine government that it will exert all efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The PIME Superior-General, Zanchi,  said “may (Tentorio’s) sacrifice bring peace and justice in Mindanao.”

“Ciao, Fr. Fausto,” he said.

PIME Philppines Superior, Fr. Gianni Re, thanked the public for their expressions of support and Tentorio’s family “for allowing us to keep the body of Fr. Favali here in the Philippines.”

He said Tentorio wanted a “simple, quiet funeral.”

“Ngayong parang I feel guilty, parang nakasala ko ba. Pero pasensya na lang, ito talaga ang gusto ng mga tao dahil sa ilang dakong gugma. Gusto nila ipakita sa imo.” (Now I feel guity. I feel as if I’ve sinned. Please understand this is what the people want because of their great love for you. They want to show you),” Re said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)