KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/24 October) – As it was for slain Italian missionary Tullio Favali 26 years ago, thousands of parishioners, sympathizers and protesters will walk the four-kilometer stretch from the Our Lady of the Mediatrix Cathedral to the Queen of Prophets cemetery in the Bishop’s Compound in Balindog to bring Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio to his final resting place Tuesday morning.
Thousands also joined the long convoy of motorcycles, trucks, vans and jeepneys as Tentorio’s remains were transported from the Notre Dame of Doroluman in Arakan to the Catheral 53 kilometers away. At least 30 buses and other vehicles with multisectoral representatives from Davao City also arrived for the overnight vigil and funeral.
Tentorio’s casket was brought down to the main door from a roofed cargo truck at 11:55 a.m. Kidapawan Bishop Romulo dela Cruz, who waited at the main door of the Cathedral, officiated the Rite of Welcome for the Deceased Priest to the Church.
After the blessing, the casket was wheeled towards the altar for the continuation of the rites.
Tentorio’s brother, Felix, sister-in-law and two nephews and a childhood friend, were seated on the first row. The family sat beside Tentorio’s casket in the caravan from Arakan.
Justice for Fr. Pops
“We seek justice, but justice hopefully to be given to us by the proper authorities,” dela Cruz said in his homily.
“Justice should not come from and through violence because this is not the way of Christ. Justice must be couple with mercy,” he said.
“We call for justice, we beg the Lord for mercy on those who do violence, those who do injustice so that they may be converted,” the Bishop added.
It will be the second time Tuesday for the Bishop to officiate a mass for a murdered priest. He was Bishop of Basilan when Claretian missionary, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, was kidnapped and later tortured and killed by the Abu Sayyaf
Dela Cruz told MindaNews shortly before Tentorio’s casket arrived, that they are still awaiting an update from the investigators. He said the problem is that there are no witnesses in the killing of Tentorio outside his convent on October 17, unlike Favali’s on April 11,1985 which was witnessed by many residents in Tulunan, North Cotabato. .
Chief Supt. Lester Camba, deputy regional police chief for Administration and concurrent head of Task Force Fausto, was among those who waited for Tentorio’s casket to arrive. He and the Bishop were starting to talk when the casket arrived. The provincial police chief, Sr. Supt. Cornelio Salinas was also there. A “police assistance center” has been set up to ensure orderly viewing of Tentorio inside the Cathedral.
Camba told MindaNews they are “looking at all angles.”
“He looked so peaceful”
Bishop dela Cruz began his homily with a Biblical passage on Christ as the way, the truth and the life.
“In death, Fr. Fausto looked so peaceful. Perhaps what Jesus said in today’s Gospel today became truly his. Do not be troubled. You have faith in God,” he said.
He cited one of the letters of St. Paul, that “nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God..”
“Fr. Fausto, indeed, looked so peaceful. It must be because he was ready for anything. And while he was very secretive – he did not tell us his fears – he testifies to us his great love for God … The time for Father Fausto has come and he was ready for it,” the Bishop said.
The Bishop earlier told MindaNews at the cathedral’s main door how Tentorio’s face “looked so peaceful” and how he was ready for any eventuality.
He said Tentorio had prepared for his casket – he had repeatedly reminded his parishioners and colleagues that this particular mahogany tree he planted in the 1980s be used for his casket- and “his last will and testament was on his table.”
The bishop could not say when that last will was put on Tentorio’s table.
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.
A similar tarpaulin also hangs on the wall on the right side of the Cathedral, where Tentorio’s casket was placed for public viewing after the noonday rites. Behind it is the statue of the Our Lady of the Mediatrix, wearing a black robe over her white dress.
Tentorio is the third PIME Italian missionary gunned down in Mindanao, the second in North Cotabato.
Bishop dela Cruz said masses would be held at the cathedral at 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Monday and the funeral mass is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Dela Cruz said the funeral mass will be concelebrated with the former Bishops of Kidapawan – Juan de dios Pueblos (now Bishop of Butuan), Romulo Valles (now Archbishop of Zamboanga), bishops in neighboring areas and some 50 priests. Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Kidapawan Bishop from 1980 to 1986, is presently in Rome.
Camba said the main problem of the investigators is that there were no witnesses to the crime.
He appealed to parishioners of Arakan that “if they truly love Fr. Fausto, help us in the investigation.”
He said that based on interviews with possible witnesses, they have come up with a sketch of a man who had reportedly been looking for the priest four times since January.
“He might be able to provide us a lead. We want to know who is he is, where he is from, what is his affiliation.”
“We are not saying he is the likely killer of Fr. Tullio. We are saying he might be able to provide us a lead,” Camba said.
Camba added that reports about mining interests or the military as behind the killing are “mere speculations for now” even as he stressed they are also looking at these angles.
“We want to have credible witnesses,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)