MANILA, Oct. 25, 2011— The potential for peril will not prevent a group of Italian missionaries to minister to the inner regions in Southern Philippines.
Though Fr. Fausto Tentorio is the third Pontificio Instituto Missioni Estere priest to be killed in the resource-rich but largely poor area where Muslim rebels and al-Qaida-lined militants operate, the PIME is unfazed.
But the challenges it now faces have become alarming.
“My answer was sometimes I felt tired, sometimes I felt fear. However, this is our mission. This is what God has given to us,” said Fr Giovanni Re, PIME regional superior.
There are 22 PIME (or Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) missionaries in the Philippines and Tentorio, or “Father Pops” as he was popularly known, was one of the 10 assigned in Mindanao.
Tentorio had worked among the indigenous peoples in North Cotabato, living with them. His advocacy also included his commitment to ensure the survival and rights of the IPs, often marginalized and robbed of their land.
“He worked, he spoke for them, he helped them until the time came that he was killed,” said Re. “I hope his sacrifice will help us in fulfilling our own mission that God has given to us.
“I know there are times that our will weakens but let us pray to God to give us more courage and strength in fulfilling our mission,” he added.
On Tuesday, Tentorio was laid to rest in Kidapawan City after a solemn funeral service at the Our Lady of Mediatrix of All Graces Cathedral with more than 40 bishops, priests and PIME missionaries as concelebrants.
In his homily, Kidapawan Bishop Romulo de la Cruz lauded Tentorio for defending the rights of the poor, the tribal people and for leading the fight against environmental destruction in his diocese.
He revealed that the priest’s last will and testament, written in both Italian and Visayan, expressed his love for the people of Arakan, where he served as parish priest for several years, and the poor people in Mindanao.
After the Mass, thousands of Tentorio’s friends walked to his burial site inside the compound of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Bishop’s Residence in the city’s Balingog village.
Also in attendance were Italian Ambassador Lucca Fornari, Tentorio’s brother Felix, with his wife, children, and other friends from Italy.
Of the three PIME missionaries murdered in Mindanao, Tentorio was the second in North Cotabato.
In October 1985, his fellow missionary Fr. Tullio Favali, 39, was killed in Tulunan, North Cotabato by a group of private armed guards, and Fr. Salvatorre Carzedda, engaged in dialogue with Muslims, was killed in Zamboanga City in May 1992.
In 1998 Fr. Luciano Benedetti was kidnapped. His abductors, a Muslim group, released him after about 2 months. In 2007, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi was also kidnapped by an armed group, but was released after two months of captivity. [CBCPNews]