Philippines: ‘A Martyr for Peace’ Commemorated

 After 15 Years, Community Recalls Death of Claretian Fr. Rhoel Gallardo

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Fifteen years ago, a Claretian priest was violently killed and now his community is commemorating his life.

According to Fides, in the southern Philippines’ Basilan community, Bishop Martin Jumoad of the Prelature of Basilan, commemorated Father Rhoel Gallardo’s life,  calling him “a martyr for peace” during his homily celebrating the late priest’s life.

“Fifteen years after his martyrdom, today we say thanks to Fr. Rhoel for giving his life to the Church,” he said, noting, “His blood becomes a source of inspiration for all of us Christians.»

In Mindanao and in the Sulu islands, Claretian priests have said they remember him as «a brother who gave his life at the service of the faithful in Basilan.»

On May 3, 2000, the Claretian priest was killed by militants of the Abu Sayyaf radical Islamic group. Gallardo was taken hostage by the terrorist group along with four teachers and 22 students of the Claret School of Tumahabong, in March 2000.

Three teachers and five children were also murdered.

According to military officials, Father Gallardo was tortured and shot in the back of the head as he had his hands tied behind his back by the escaping rebels.  Many hostages stated the priest was beaten regularly by rebels. Medical examiners had told the Bishop of Basilan at the time that the nails on both of Father Gallardo’s big toes were pulled out.

Recalling the tragic moments of the abduction and murder, survivors of this seizure said Fr. Gallardo «encouraged not to lose hope, asking them to always pray with the Holy Rosary.»

While this martyrdom is being remembered, the Philippine Congress is considering approving the «Bangsamoro basic law,» a law that if passed, will establish a new Muslim autonomous region. (D.C.L.)

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