Tag Archive: martyr


Unblocking Romero

AMDG

Statue of Oscar Romero outside Westminster Abbey

Statue of Oscar Romero outside Westminster Abbey

We had a special night last Thursday here in Manchester hosting the Romero Trust and Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP. Fr Timothy gave an engrossing talk entitled the Disturbing Truth, Oscar Romero, The Church & the Poor – he spoke with a compassion and authority that kept the packed church of 400+ gripped. Oscar Romero was the Bishop of El Salvador who was killed in 1980 for his commitment to the poor.  We were reminded how this quiet, ‘bookish’ bishop was ‘converted’ to the cause of the poor, when he looked on the bullet ridden body of his friend the Jesuit Rutilio Grande who had been assassinated by right wing paramilitaries.  Romero spoke out fearlessly against the repression of the poor from that point on – till it became inevitable that he would have to be silenced.  He was shot dead during mass in his Cathedral, and it was shocking to find out that when they prepared his body for burial they discovered that the inside of his trousers was coated with salt.  It is probable that he saw the assassin at the back of the cathedral before he was shot – and that the anxiety caused an excessive sweating – but he would not abandon the prayer of the mass.

 Timothy Radcliffe lecture 31 10 2013 (6)People came from all over the North of England to hear Fr Radcliffe – and it was clear that there is a great love for Romero. So it is heartening to hear that Pope Francis has unblocked his cause for canonisation.   Timothy argued that for Romero, the fundamental moral choice was between dialogue and violence. Patient dialogue is not about negotiation but transformation. The deepest truths are only attainable through patient exchange, building friendship, transforming our hearts and minds. It is the very opposite of violence. Britain at one level is more tolerant than El Salvador was in the 80’s however a more subtle dynamic of violence is at work.  In modern Britain, the contempt for the poor often takes the form of contrasting the so-called good, hard-working poor, and the imagined multitude of ‘skivers’, parasites devouring benefits.  The uncomfortable truth is that the vast majority of poor people in this country work but simply are not paid enough.  Romero had to be assassinated because he refused to collude in the myth of the wickedness of the poor.

Timothy Radcliffe lecture 31 10 2013 (105) In giving a vote of thanks, Eammon O’Brien, the president of the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy, commended Timothy for inspiring a new generation of Catholics.  He pointed out that the Chaplaincy has just opened the first student-run foodbank in the country, and that his words would inspire them to deepen their commitment to the poor through the regular soup runs, and supporting a breakfast club at a local primary school.  They would challenge the globalisation of indifference and the denigrating language of the poor. It was great to have Bishop Brain of Salford & Bishop Rawsthorne of Hallam with us for the talk.

AMDG

The Jesuits run one of the most prestigious High Schools in Cairo, Holy Family College,  an urgent message was sent from the superior Nabil Gabriel   on Saturday

College_de_la_sainte_famille_black_whiteThe situation here is very tense. Yesterday Friday, after the noon prayer at the mosque ‘El Fath’ on the Ramses place has started a rally of the Muslim brothers. They wanted to gather there and to move to the El Tahrir Square to take it by assault. The word order was given to all the mosques to rally. …… (later on)…… We must expect retaliation from the Muslim brothers as a result of the disappearance of the two places of ‘sit-in’.  We are watching the news on all channels of information as you. We do not understand the attitude of the West and the United States who defend at any price Morsi and its supporters on the pretext that it was “democratically elected”. They do not want to see the reality in the face and find that they have to do with an international terrorist movement. We have not finished to make the balance sheet of the burned churches as well as other public or private institutions. One thing is clear, they want to take revenge by sowing disorder. We limit to the maximum to travel and are watching the events as you and on the testimony of people who call us. Pray that people demonstrate wisdom and quiet down.

PRO_MiniaAnother Jesuit from the community visited the Jesuit works in Minia, 250 kms South of Cairo along the Nile.  He witnesses sad scenes of destruction in the Jesuit school there and sent photos - Yesterday I went to Minia with Father Magdi, we discovered the state of destruction, there is a lot of material damage: the building of the association JBA is completely burned, the buses and cars are all also burned, the glass for windows of the residence and the school have been broken by the rocks that were launched during the event before-yesterday! For the moment, there is a little quiet, but we expect the demonstration after the noon prayer, it is hoped that they will not nonsense. I praise all what our companions (Brother Radi Mounir, Father Bimal Kerkata, Brothers Amir Adel and Emil-Fawzi ) have done, a tremendous amount to protect the premises. Yesterday we have not slept the whole night to be vigilant after attempts to launch Molotov cocktails on the side of the buildings of the Association!I have just arrived in Cairo, the situation at the place Ramses is disturbing. Pray the Lord to protect Egypt of violence!

Finally we continue to pray for the Jesuits who are missing in Syria – who Pope Francis himself prayed for on the feast of St Ignatius.  Unconfirmed reports are coming through that Fr  Paolo Dall’Oglio has been killed.  Very little of the systematic attack on Christians and Christian institutions is being reported here in the UK by the BBC.  Perhaps it is politically correct shortsightedness, however I think it is due to a pernicious and popular misconception about Christianity – that Christians are the oppresors not the oppresed. ACcording to the Frankfurt based Society for HUman Rights – 80% of acts of religious discrimination in the world today are against Christians.  Aid to the Church in Need estimates 150,000 CVHrisrtians die for their faith every year – that is a staggering 17 people an hour.  However this doesn’t sit well with the smug prejudices of the Western Liberal Elite.   You get a sense of the frustration those who are on the front-line feel (see the superiors message above) as he talks about the attitude of the West.  The excellent commentator John Allen – talks about a Global Persecution of Christians and comments on how under-reported it is – excellent examples are here and here.

Meanwhile all we can do is pray for our brothers in Egypt and Syria or in their words - Pray that people demonstrate wisdom and quiet down and Pray the Lord to protect Egypt of violence!

 

 

 

 

Heroic Self Sacrifice

AMDG

FotoAsuwitchTomorrows  Saint is the remarkable St Maximiliam Maria Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan who famously gave up his life in place of another in the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.    Before his arrest Kolbe was famous in Europe for his ministry in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. He had founded the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw, a seminary, a radio station, and several other organizations and publications.

German Stamp commemorates Kolbe (with Auschwitz stamp on it)

German Stamp commemorates Kolbe (with Auschwitz stamp on it)

His arrest by the Gestapo was partly due to his heroic effort in sheltering Jews, with over 2000 being hidden in his monastery.  It was after three prisoners successfully escaped from the camp, that he deputy camp commander, picked 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!”, so Kolbe volunteered to take his place.  After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied and they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid.

Something that brought this amazing story vividly alive to me was listening to an interview on the internet.  Saint Cast is an excellent website run by a marathon running brain surgeon from America, Paul Camarata.  A few years ago he posted a fascinating audio file – of an interview and translation of  an eye-witness to this event.  One of the saint cast listeners – found that a member of his parish in Uppsala, Sweden, a guy called Tadeusz Raznikiewicz, was an eyewitness to the last days of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

 

This amazing interview can  be listened to by visiting the saint cast website here >  Eyewitness acount to Kolbe’s last days 

 

The Power of Modern Saints

AMDG

Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, one of the first martyrs to be caught on celluloid

It is often said that John Paul II canonized more saints that many previous popes put together.  Some have been critical of this, muttering about the lowering of standards, or cynical about the funds needed to set up a quick process for ‘a cause’ to be investigated.  Saint-making is easier, they claim,  for rich and powerful groups and religious orders who wish their founder or member to be elevated to the altars.  I feel that this criticism is often misguided, churlish and a little mean-spirited.  The desire of John Paul II to make saints that we could relate to in the modern world, that would make holiness an accessible and realistic goal was far-sighted and big-hearted. We all need inspiring role models to spur us on, especially in an age of dubious celebrity and a media that promotes a self destructive narcissism. It is great to be able to show youngsters powerful pictures of Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, being executed by Mexican authorities.  The picture, taken in the age of celluloid says this is not a legend, it is real, it is relevant, we can have a faith like his.

Todays saint Maximilian Kolbe in Auschwitz

Today’s memorial of St Maximilian Kolbe belongs to the same category.  Kolbe, the Franciscan, who offered to substitute his life for a condemned man’s in Auschwitz, is a modern saint, a martyr of the Nazi’s.  After a prisoner had escaped, 10 men were chosen to be put to death as revenge, when one of them pleaded that he was a family man, Fr or ‘Pate’ Kolbe offered to take his place, much to the amazement of the German Officer.  ‘Are you crazy’ he said – the ten men were locked up without food and water, as hostages to be released if the  I have discovered not only photo’s of Maximilian Kolbe (right), but also an interview with an Auchwitz survivor who was an eyewitness to Kolbe’s death.  Now living in Sweden, 88 year old Tadeusz Raznikiewicz  was recorded and translated by a fellow parishioner in Upsalla.  It lasts about twenty minutes and is absolutely absorbing listening. You can listen to it  by clicking on this link – Kolbe eyewitness interview –  the interview starts about 18mins into podcast. through the website ‘The Saint Cast’.

‘Saint Cast’  is produced by a remarkable man in America, Dr Paul Camarata.  He is a brain surgeon and a marathon runner, and somehow he finds time in between these activities  to make these podcasts about Saints. Although the ‘American’ style of the podcast is quite different to European ears – I love listening to these podcasts, in fact through ITunes you can download all the previous episodes.

 

AMDG

Bishop J P Andaya – 15 years a missionary in Africa before being appointed to Apostolic Vicarate of Tabuk. Its remote nature makes it a mission area and thus not a diocesis …. yet!

Well it promises to be a Christmas we will never forget!  In the West we are used to a slightly frenetic round of anxious present buying, potentially hazardous Christmas Parties and then maybe a blow out followed by a few lazy days  in front of the box.  Here in the Phillipines Christmas is celebrated slightly differently.  Come Boxing Day everything is back to normal – all the energy builds up before Christmas. Simbang Gabi,  the nine-days before Christmas in the Philippines, is where all the action happens. Masses begin as early as 4 a.m., a tradition that is said to date back centuries, to the time when Filipino farmers under Spanish rule had to rise early to find time to worship before toiling in the fields. The priests saw that the people attending the novenas were tired and numb from work in the fields, even though they continued to want to come.  As a compromise, the clergy began to hold Mass early dawn when the land would still be dark, a break in tradition prevalent in Spain and her Latin American colonies. This tradition has been enthusiastically embraced and continues till today.

Four of us met the very impressive Bishop of Tabuk this morning, and he has assigned us our places.  I am to be posted to Tanudan, perhaps the most remote parish, although one of my companions has to cross a river more than thirty times to get to his mission station.  The Bishop himself is going to accompany me for the first few days.  I was surprised and very impressed to find out that he tries to visit the more remote areas when he can,  He seems to be a bishop that doesn’t need his comforts!  He informed me that it will be about a 10 hour hike to get to our base.  I was told later told me that the Bishop said 10hrs because he has shorter legs!  Then the daily routine is a five/six hour hike – arrive at a mission station – rest – rise early for mass and then off again to the next stop.  The place has no resident priest at the moment, its thin mountain air makes it a challenge to fill the spot –  so it may be possible that for some of the villages it may be their first mass for months.  We were given a detailed briefing of the different social situations we would encounter/ possible tribal tensions / as well as rather worringly stories of four priests who have been killed in the last 30years. In my place Fr Elias Baleng was caught up in a tribal conflict and was killed protecting two women -he was probably a martyr.  The Church has responded by establish a peace-makers movement, which has significantly reduced tit-for tat tribal killings. Due to this it seems I much safer and stable, and the priest is seen as a valuable commodity – at least at Christmas time!!   It will almost definitely be safer from the streets of North London.  Strikingly hearing about  the tribal tensions and violence reminded me of the gang violence and postcode ‘wars’ in London.

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas!

Everywhere we have been told to expect packed churches. So today I am shedding some weight from my backpack to prepare – but I have invested in a wireless broadband so I am taking my laptop! Hopefully there will be a few mountain tops en route where I can get a signal and post photos and news!  Having just googled Tanudan – I will share one of the images (on the right) which has got the juices flowing! I just hope I can navigate the rope bridges safely – without making too much of a fool of myself!

This may be my last post till Christmas – that is up to the Smart Bro network and how much it penetrates the Cordillera mountains!  If so have a lovely holiday and thanks for reading!

Parishioners and friends of slain missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio line up to see his remains at the Notre Dame of Arakan, North Cotabato on Sunday, October 23. Fr. Tentorio was the school director. Photo by Ruby Thursday

Fr Fausto PIME (Pontifical Institute for Missions) was killed on Oct 17 by a man who shot him with 10 bullets.  On Oct 25 his remains were laid to rest beside the grave of Fr Favali, PIME  also murdered.  10,000 mourners joined the procession in a four km route.  Present were his brother, relatives and in-laws, Fr General of PIME, Italian Ambassador, 80 priests, three bishops and government officials. This is the Bishops homily at his funeral.

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Father Fausto disliked ceremonies; especially ceremonies that drew attention to himself. He was quite content to labor in relative obscurity as a priest for thirty years in North Cotabato, first in Columbio, and then in Arakan. But the attention Father Fausto managed to escape from in life, he must now endure in death.

In death, he is now called an environmentalist-priest, a human rights defender, the anti-mining activist, the protector of cultural minorities.

But there is a tendency, even by well-meaning souls, to enlarge the life of one who has met a high-profile death.

We do not have to boost to mythical proportions Fr. Fausto’s life in order to make sense of his tragic death. He should be remembered simply as a good and faithful priest, who loved his people, and sought to serve them as best as he could, even in the face of danger to his own life.

How did Fr. Fausto want to be remembered?

In his last will and testament, Fr. Fausto wished that his tombstone to contain the following: “You were told, O Man, what is good and what God requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah)

That is what Fr. Fausto did. He showed mercy, especially to the least of God’s children among his parishioners, the lumad. He sought justice for them, when they were dispossessed of their land, when they were harassed by men with arms, when their own government seemed to abandon them. But doing that—even in a quiet and humble manner —can earn you enemies, enemies that go after even the kindest of men, like Jesus of Nazareth, whom Fr. Fausto followed all the way to Arakan.

And Fr. Fausto knew that.

Twenty-six years ago he saw what happened to Fr. Tulio Favali, PIME, who was gunned down by paramilitary assassins. He could have changed course then, packed up his bag, and head for a safer and kinder place on the missionary map. But he did not. He had fallen in love with his people.

In his last will and testament, he wrote this, in Bisayan, to his people:  “Your dream is My dream, Your struggle is my struggle. Therefore, You and I are one; companions in constructing the Kingdom of God.”

When his assailants felled him with bullets, Fr. Fausto was exactly where he chose to be—with his people. When he met death, Fr. Fausto was doing exactly what he had been praying for strength to continue doing: ministering to the people he now called his own. He would not have it any other way.

So it can be plainly said without a doubt, that Fr. Fausto’s death is nothing less than a fulfillment of what St. John says in the gospel: “Greater love than this no man has than he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” Stripped of all editorializing, social commentary, and propaganda literature, Fr. Fausto’s death is simply an emulation, a following and imitation of Jesus’ own death on the cross.

And we gather here in this liturgy because we do not want to lose the essential meaning of Fr. Fausto’s death. More accurately, we are here to be caught up and enlivened by his death, now united with, and suffused by, the saving power of Jesus’ own crucifixion and death. And because Fr. Fausto faithfully began the pattern of the paschal mystery, some form of the resurrection for us will not be far behind. What will it be? We do not know.

But this we know. After Fr. Favali was killed 26 years ago, something like a resurrection followed and is now reflected in the number of priests of the Diocese. Fully one half of their number comes from the Tulunan-Mlang area where Fr. Favali met his martyrdom. So, even as we shed tears today for the loss of a well-loved priest in Fr. Fausto, we are not without hope for the kind of resurrection heaven has in store to surprise us.

Today, then, as we bring Fr. Fausto to his final resting place, we should say “thank you,” first, to his family for allowing him to come and stay with us, for giving him to us. His brother and his sister-in-law and nephews are here with us, all the way from Italy.

Second, we should thank the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and all Fr. Fausto’s confreres. Their General Superior from Rome, the Very Reverend Father Gian Battista Zanchi, PIME and local superior, Reverend Father Gianni Re, PIME, are here with us.

It is said that the Colliseum of Rome, though outside Vatican City, is still considered as belonging to the Catholic Church for the earth on which it stands has been soaked by the blood of countless Christian martyrs who died there in the olden days. In a similar fashion, the local church of the Diocese of Kidapawan is like that. Long after the PIME Institute shall have deemed the Diocese no longer a mission area for its members to be sent to, we shall forever remain yours, for we are marked by the blood of Favali and Fausto, two of the finest missionaries the Institute has ever produced.

Our last word of thanks goes to Fr. Fausto who, though he lies there in silence, must be fidgeting in spirit, unable to wait for all this to end. So, I shall be brief.

“Fr. Fausto, rest in peace. Your labors have ended. With your prayers, we will take up and continue your work.”

+  Romulo de la Cruz, D.D.

Kidapawan City, Cotabato, Philippines

October 24, 2011, Feast of Anthony Mary Claret

AMDG

A supporter of murdered Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio becomes emotional as he lights a candle as other activists hold a banner demanding justice for the priest at the start of a nine-day candlelight protest in front of the Davao City Hall. (photo by Romy Elusfa, InterAksyon.com)

The strategy of the enemy according to St Ignatius  “He goes around to lay snares for people to seek to chain them. First to tempt them to covet riches that they more easily obtain the empty honors of this world and then come to overweening pride. The first step then, will be riches, the second; honor, the third; pride, these three steps lead to all other vices”  Spiritual Exercises Week 2, Fourth Day

There were 0ver 400 views of the previous post No Greater Love  about two recent ‘martyrs’  in the Phillipines, The Jesuit scholastic Richie Fernando and this weeks murdered missionary Fr Tentorio( (FT). So I suppose it would be good to update you on the situation with FT.  It is important to stress that there is an investigation underway and there has been no formal allegations made. However following it in the Phillipino press from Manila, everyone in Mindanao, where the killing took place, seems to be making the same connections. It has also shown me how impressive the media is over here, free and forthright at times – but at a cost.  Anyway below in the form of bulletpoints are what I have gleaned so far.

  • Agreement seems to be that FT was killed by a professional hitman, implying powerful enemies
  • Extrajudicial Killings‘ is a major problem in the Phillipines, which led to Freedom House changing the countries status from ‘Free’ to ‘partially Free’ in  2008, a relegation that still applies
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists claim that the Phillipines is the third most dangerous country to be a journalist after Iraq and Somalia
  • FT was campaigning against the open-pit mining (Tampakan Project) proposed by a company called Sagittarius Mines (SMI)
  • The project claims that it will exploit the worlds largest untapped gold/copper seam
  • The Dioceses of Marbel, Digos and Kidapawan  are currently coordinating efforts to stop SMI from getting its Environmental  Compliance Certificate to operate its Tampakan Project
  • In their annual report they claimed to have contributed P2.5 billion to the Philippine economy last year, and paid P399 million in taxes and fees.
  • Workers from the mining company are regularly attacked and sometimes killed by the communist ‘New People’s Army’
  • In this climate, companies create politically sanctioned  agreements with the military to have ‘private armies’ protect their interests,
  •  According to Clemente Bautista of NGO Kalikasan, FT was already threatened by elements of the Bagani paramilitary group under the 73rd Infantry Brigade
  • Xstrata Copper owns 62.5 percent of the controlling equity at Sagittarius Mines and are based in Switzerland

Fr Tentorio had pointed to a particular mahogany tree among the hundreds he had planted at the back of the convent in the 1980s, as the one that would be used for his coffin when he dies

Fr Tentorio will be buried on Wednesday.  What is clear is that there is a culture of impunity in the Phillipines that allows the politically well connected to literally get away with murder.  As another Jesuit pointed out to me over dinner – Extra-Judicial Killings is a term usually used for the assasination of ‘criminals’ – It is not clear what Fr Tentorios Crime was. From what I can gather, he opposed irresponsible mining practices,  especially the plans of Sagittarius Mines Inc. to open-pit mine the minerals on the lands of the indigenous people of the Dioceses.

The second part of St Ignatius meditation of the Spiritual Exercises is as follows - Christ our Lord, the Lord of all the world, chooses so many persons, apostles, disciples and sends them throughout the whole world …….  there are three steps. The first poverty, opposed to riches, the second scorn or contempt, opposed to worldly honor, the third humility, opposed to pride. From these three steps Christ leads them to all virtues
LDS

No greater love…..

Advocate for the rights of indigenous people

AMDG      The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church… (Tertullian)

Father Fausto Tentorio was killed yesterday morning, just minutes after celebrating Mass in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, as he was leaving to meet with the other priests of the diocese, at the bishop’s house. According to eyewitnesses, his murderer, with the sense of security that belongs to those who have powerful patrons, approached him and shot him twice in the head. Then he calmly left on his motorcycle, his face covered by a helmet. An autopsy report said he was shot eight times.

According to Asia News - he was a priest commited and loved by his parishoners.  Long pastoral visits by motorbike, by car or on horseback to visit the most isolated tribal groups, sleeping on a mat on the floor, eating the poor things of the natives to build a church where being foreign or local does not create unfair exclusion or differences; also a commitment to the education of children and adults.

Mindanao has long been an active area of both radical Muslim groups and the rump of the Communist groups that fought Marcos.  Kidnappings are common here.  However in this case there is no evidence that Fausto was killed by either groups, in fact the The Moro Islamic Liberation Front condemned the killing, calling it a sign of degeneration of morality and spirituality in the country. News agency UCA News reported town councilor Leonardo Reovoca  said Father Tentorio had been an active law and order campaigner in Arakan and recently was appointed as head of a civilian anti-crime task force in the town. “I am a witness to Father Tentorio’s strong stance against mining and other projects which are not sustainable and would harm and affect the indigenous peoples, in particular,” he said.

I know where my heart is, It is with Jesus Christ, who gave his all for the poor, the sick, the orphan

Yesterday we also remembered the 15th anniversary of the death of Richie Fernando.  A young Filipino Jesuit working in Cambodia as a teacher in a technical school for the handicapped, often landmine victims. Among Richie’s students was Sarom, a sixteen-year-old boy who was a victim of a landmine.  He wanted to finish his studies there but he was asked to leave by the school authorities for his disruptive attitude. According to Richie, Sarom was tricky but he still had a place for him in his heart. On October 17, 1996, Sarom came to the school for a meeting. Angered, he suddenly reached into a bag he was carrying, pulled out a grenade, and began to move towards a classroom full of students. Richie came up behind Sarom and grabbed him, he accidentally dropped the grenade and in a flash, Richie was dead.

Four days before he died, Richie wrote to a friend in the Philippines, “I know where my heart is, It is with Jesus Christ, who gave his all for the poor, the sick, the orphan …I am confident that God never forgets his people: our disabled brothers and sisters. And I am glad that God has been using me to make sure that our brothers and sisters know this fact. I am convinced that this is my vocation.” Shocked by what he had caused, Sarom sat in his jail cell and mourned too. In March 1997, Mr. and Mrs. Fernando wrote to Cambodia’s King Sihanouk, asking for pardon for Sarom; somehow, someone had to stop the violence. Sarom had not wanted to kill Richie. “Richie ate rice with me,” he said. “He was my friend.”

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