Reuter, 96, passes away

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The honorary Filipino, Jesuit priest James Reuter, died yesterday in the country whose people he considered “the most lovable” in the world.

Reuter, 96, suffered a mild stroke four days ago and died at 12:51 p.m. yesterday at the Our Lady of Peace Charity Hospital in Parañaque City, according to CBCPNews, the official news provider of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Born and raised in the United States, Fr. Reuter was so beloved by Filipinos that in 1984, both chambers of Congress unanimously voted to make him an honorary citizen of the Philippines.

In an interview on his 92nd birthday on May 21, 2008, Reuter said, “Filipinos are really the most lovable persons in the world. They are potential leaders…  think Filipinos are coming to the world of leadership in a strange way. It will be a leadership in spirit.”

Reuter wrote a weekly column for The Philippine STAR – “At 3:00 a.m.” – for many years and was active in Catholic mass media.

Malacañang led in paying tribute to Reuter.

“His love of the Philippines and Filipinos was legendary, so much so it earned him a stature and affection beyond the measure of the many awards, both national and sectoral, that he received throughout his long life,” the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson declared in a statement. “We join the Society of Jesus in the Philippines, the generations of alumni of the Ateneo de Manila University, and men and women of media, arts and letters, who mourn the loss of this man of faith, good cheer and eloquence.”

Reuter arrived in the Philippines in 1938 as a 22-year-old scholastic, taking up his philosophical studies in Novaliches and Baguio.

He was teaching at the Ateneo de Manila on Padre Faura when World War II broke out and the Japanese Imperial Army interned him, first in the Ateneo campus, and then at a prison camp in Los Baños, Laguna, where he and other Jesuit priests wrote songs and produced plays.

After the war, Reuter went back to the US to complete his theological studies at Georgetown University. He was ordained in Woodstock, Maryland in 1946. After a year at Fordham University in New York where he studied radio and television broadcasting, Reuter returned to the Philippines in 1948.

At the Ateneo de Naga where he taught high school and college, Reuter was basketball coach, drama and glee club director, retreat master, confidant and friend to his students and others who knew him.

“One of Fr. Reuter’s unforgettable talents was his drama directorship,” said Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo. “As a young priest I presented some of Fr. Reuter’s one-act plays to the joy of seminarian actors. We had watched so many of his Shakespearean dramas. He was an actor-director… a preacher and retreat master. May he rest in peace.”

Reuter served as executive secretary of the CBCP’s Communication on Social Communications and Mass Media for 39 years, and as director of the National Office on Mass Media.

He was instrumental in organizing UNDA/ASIA, the international Catholic association for radio and TV in Asia. He was also among the founders of the Philippine Federation of Catholic Broadcasters, which includes 41 Catholic radio stations from Laoag to Tawi-Tawi.

In 1989, Reuter received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism and creative communication arts, a year after he was conferred the United Nations Decade Award for his distinguished lifetime service to Philippine culture. In 1996, Reuter was a recipient of the Chino Roces Award for public service. On May 21, 2006, he was conferred the Order of Lakandula with the title “Bayani” or hero by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The CBCP conferred on Reuter in 2008 the Jorge Barlin Golden Cross Award – one of the highest recognitions from the Catholic Church – for his pastoral work through mass media. He was the second recipient of the award.


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