ARAKAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews/22 October) — When he joined the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Father Fausto Tentorio signed a declaration that in gratitude to God for the “great gift of a missionary vocation,” he was “aware that it involves the possibility of finding myself in situations of serious risk for my health and personal safety on account of epidemics, abductions, assaults and wars, up to the eventuality of a violent death.”
“With trust in God I accept everything as coming from His hands, and I offer my life for Christ and for the spread of His Kingdom,” Tentorio declared, as quoted by Father Gian Battista Zanchi, PIME Superior General in a statement from Rome a day after Tentorio’s murder.
“That is what he declared and that is what he lived. His sacrifice took place only a few days before World Mission Sunday and coincided with the call of Pope Benedict XVI to give a new impetus to the new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes,” Zanchi wrote.
The 59-year old Tentorio, who spent more than half his lifetime in Mindanao – 33 years – and who fought for and with the marginalized, particularly the Lumads (indigenous peoples), met a violent death early Monday morning, October 17, just outside his convent in Poblacion Greenfields, six days before World Mission Sunday, in the month dedicated for Indigenous Peoples.
World Mission Sunday is on October 23 and this year’s theme is “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God
A statement of the PIME Regional House in Zamboana City on October 19 said Tentorio’s Last Will and Testament contained a biblical passage from Micah, Chapter 6, Verse 8. A tarpaulin with Tentorio’s photograph and these verses is displayed on the facade of the Bishop’s Residence in Balindog, Kidapawan City, the supposed destination of Tentorio last Monday for the monthly Presbyterium: “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what God requires of you: to do justice, lo love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
“These words in a nutshell contain all the life and mission of our brother priest. In truth, he walked humbly with his God, doing justice and loving goodness on behalf of the poorest among the poor and marginalized as Filipino Indigenous People and farmers have been and still are in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato,” the PIME Regional House said.
Tentorio is the third PIME Italian missionary gunned down in Mindanao, the second in North Cotabato.
His murder “has renewed in all of us the pain and the loss of our two brother martyrs” — Father Tullio Favali, 39, killed in Tulunan, North Cotabato on April 11, 1985, and Father Salvatorre Carzedda, 49, killed in Zamboanga City on May 20 1992. But it also renewed the PIME community’s “commitment to witness the Gospel in spite of risks of all kinds.”
“We have made a promise to serve the Church and the people in the Philippines as we have done since 1968, counting on the presence of the Lord Jesus…. and so we will not leave at this moment, but remain and continue to serve.”
“Evil will not triumph with the death of Father Fausto!,” the PIME said.
“None of our confreres has the intention of being a hero, but simply of being faithful to his missionary vocation,” Zanchi said.
“I am here, I will continue”
Tentorio’s assistant parish priest, Giovanni Vettorello, 43, also of the PIME, wants to stay on despite the killing of his mentor because “I love this place, I love these people.”
“I didn’t know Fr. Tullio, I didn’t know Fr. Salvatorre,” but now “I am realizing what they went through and to keep going, not to surrender to any danger,” he told MindaNews on Thursday.
He said there was a proposal for him to “step aside for a while” but Vettorello said, “I will go on. I like to stay here in Arakan. It will be more painful if they force me to go (out of Arakan).”
“I am here, I will continue,” he said.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI)in a statement October 17 said: “For a fellow missionary who selflessly worked to help the Indigeneous Peoples and the poor farmers of Arakan Valley in North Cotabato” to die in such a manner, we are saddened by the fact that there are sectors in our society who are against our work to help bring about peace in Mindanao.
In a statement, the Claretian Missionaries-Philippine Province said Fr. Tentorio’s death “serves as an inspiration for us to selflessly share in the mission work of Christ for those who are marginalized and oppressed by the society.”
It added that Tentorio’s death “shall not be meaningless, because his legacy of life of service and steadfastness to his mission keeps our hearts ablaze with love, hope, and enthusiasm to serve.”
Four OMI missionaries were gunned down in Mindanao between 1971 and 2008, among them the Bishop of Jolo, Benjamin de Jesus, in 1997. One Claretian missionary, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, was killed by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan in 2000. [see other story] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)