John Paul II, in Telegram, Mourns Irish Missionary´s Death

Christians and Muslims Attend Funeral in Philippines

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 2, 2001 ( John Paul II said he was deeply saddened by last week´s murder of Irish missionary Rufus Halley in the Philippines.

The Pope expressed his sympathy to the priest´s Columban religious congregation, family and friends in a telegram signed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

In the message, addressed in English to Father Edwin A. de la Pena, prelate of Marawi, John Paul II expresses gratitude to God for Father Halley´s devoted missionary service and his conviction that «his memory will inspire those whom he served to ever greater fidelity to Christ and more intense commitment to the cause of peace.»

Father Halley was returning to his monastery Tuesday when he was attacked by armed men who tried to kidnap him. Police said the priest died instantly from a blow to the head.

Father Halley lived in Malabang, a coastal city of Muslim majority, for some 20 years. He worked in a parish and helped foster interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims. On Saturday, hundreds of Christians and Muslims attended his funeral in Cagayan De Oro. Family members from County Waterford, Ireland, were on hand too.

A Belgian priest, Father Bernard Maes, who was with Father Halley three hours before his death, said the parishioners of Malabang and the nearby town of Balabagan had vowed to continue the work of peace started by the Irish priest.

«It must be continued,» Father Maes told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. «Despite the high risks we are facing, peace-building will go on.»

Police believe they know the name of the gunman, allegedly a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Muslim group fighting for independence on the island, the Irish Times reported Saturday.

The alleged driver of the gang´s getaway car, Abdulsamad Ibrahim, has surrendered to police authorities, the Times said. Another suspect who reportedly served as the gang´s lookout, identified by police as Canal Macapondo, was arrested Friday.

Following is the telegram sent on behalf of the Holy Father.

* * *

The Very Reverend Edwin A. de la Pena
Prelate of Malawi

Deeply saddened to learn of the brutal murder of the Reverend Rufus Halley, the Holy Father sends heartfelt condolences to you and to the Columban Fathers, to the priests, religious, and laity of Marawi, and to Father Halley´s family and friends in Ireland. In giving thanks to God for Father Halley´s devoted service as a missionary, His Holiness is confident that his memory will inspire those whom he served to ever greater fidelity to Christ, and more intense commitment to the cause of peace. Invoking the comforting gifts of the Holy Spirit upon all who mourn in the hope of resurrection, His Holiness commends Father Halley´s noble soul to our heavenly Father´s mercy and love, and to all gathered for the solemn funeral rite, he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State

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