Wednesday, 26 October 2011 11:15
Doing what Jesus did in Nazareth thousands of years ago, Italian missionary Father Fausto Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission (PIME) lived, worked, and died with his "own" people in Arakan, a hinterland town in North Cotabato.
Such was how Kidapawan Diocese Bishop Romulo dela Cruz described Father Tentorio in his 15-minute homily during the funeral for the slain Italian priest at the Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace Cathedral in Kidapawan on Tuesday.
Bishop dela Cruz said that because Father Fausto had fallen in love with his people in Arakan town, and he said to them, “Your dream is my dream; your struggle is my struggle… therefore, you and I are one in building the kingdom of God here on earth.”
Father Tentorio started his missionary work in North Cotabato just months after PIME priest Fr. Tulio Favali was killed in 1985 by a para-military assassin in Tulunan, also another poor town located in the boundary of the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and North Cotabato.
Dela Cruz said that what surprised him was that after Favali was killed, “a resurrection followed”.
A number of Diocesan priests, the Bishop stressed, came from Tulunan town where Father Favali met his martyrdom.
“I know that even if we lost Father Fausto, we are not without hope…. I know we will also have another resurrection,” he said.
Tentorio’s legacy: "Do justice, show mercy"
In his last will and testament, Father Tentorio said that he wanted to be written in his tombstone the following words, “You’re told, oh Man, what is good… to do justice; to show mercy; and to walk humbly with my God.”
“This is what Father Fausto did that we considered his legacy: He showed mercy to the lumads in Arakan town. He sought justice for them when their lands were grabbed from them; when they were harassed by men in arms; when their own government seemed to abandon them,” said the Catholic bishop.
During Monday’s vigil, village chieftain and tribal leader Gayotin Tomanding said that Father Tentorio’s death was a big loss to their tribe.
“When we were bereft of assistance of the government, we sought help from Father Fausto. And he would always be there for us. He would always lend a helping hand. He would always give us food if we need to nourish our body. He would give us farm tractors if we wanted to plow our fields… When he died, part of us also died,” Tomanding said in vernacular.
Tomanding was in tears when he recounted how Father Tentorio risked his life just to protect him from soldiers who were looking for him after he was wrongfully accused of supporting the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) in Barangay Tomanding, a lumad-dominated village in Arakan.
Tomanding said he had to leave his family and his village because of the accusation.
Father Tentorio, according to Bishop dela Cruz, had also survived many attempts on his life.
In 2003, he had to seek refuge in another village in Arakan when a group of armed militia was said to be looking for him.
Three years later, soldiers, in full battle gear, raided the parish where Father Tentorio was holding a free dental and medical mission.
The soldiers alleged the priest was keeping in his convent a number of wounded rebels.
Tentorio was also accused of supporting the rebel movement.
*Final resting place
Fr. Tentorio, shot dead inside his parish in Arakan town, was buried inside the cemetery at the Bishop’s Palace in Barangay Balindog here near the grave of Father Favali.
His body was brought in procession after the funeral mass celebrated by Bishop Dela Cruz, PIME missionaries, and many other priests from different congregations.
Militant and progressive groups from different provinces in Mindanao held a funeral march along the highway after the mass, demanding from the government the immediate pullout of military troops in Arakan town and in areas in North Cotabato.
They also demanded a full-blown investigation on Tentorio’s killing.
*No sketch yet of Tentorio’s killer
Tentorio sustained 10 gunshot wounds in different parts of his body, reports from the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Fausto said.
A week after the killing, Chief Supt. Lester Camba, head of the SITG Fausto, said they have the sketch of a male person who could give a lead to the killing. This person was monitored to have been looking for Father Tentorio for four times since January,” said Camba.
Camba is not discounting the possibility that the person might be involved in the killing.
“Why would be his reason for asking the priest’s whereabouts? Since January, the same person was looking for Father Tentorio for four times. He only asked one question: “Where is Father Fausto?” After knowing that the priest was inside the chapel, he would leave the place. So that raised a doubt,” said Camba.
The STIG Fausto has at least eight witnesses who have yet to execute their affidavits so that the police could use the document for the eventual filing of charges against Tentorio’s killer or killers.
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