Priest tortured, executed by Abu Sayyaf up for sainthood
Fr. Rhoel Gallardo

Priest tortured, executed by Abu Sayyaf up for sainthood

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - May 4, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Prelature of Isabela in Basilan opened the “cause of beatification” or the first phase for sainthood for Claretian missionary Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, who was taken hostage, tortured and killed by the Abu Sayyaf 21 years ago.

Isabela Bishop Leo Dalmao, a Claretian missionary, celebrated yesterday morning’s mass for the beatification of Gallardo at the San Vicente Ferrer Parish Church in Tumahubong village, Sumisip town, Basilan.

“Martyrdom is a gift given to those who are worthy in the eyes of God. It could have occurred to any of us who were the young missionaries then, but it was given to Fr. Rhoel because, in hindsight, he was the most prepared to receive the crown,” Claretian Missionaries’ Provincial Superior Fr. Elias Abuyan Jr. said, citing Gallardo’s four exemplary acts: sacrifice, suffering, search and surrender.

Abuyan said Gallardo, who died at 34, lived a life of sacrifice and renunciation after giving up a lucrative career when he volunteered to be assigned to Tumahubong, Basilan, his last assignment.

He said Gallardo’s life was a constant search for God and his people, leading a life of prayer and simplicity as a true shepherd concerned about his flock.

“He also searched for his sheep. During the 43 days of captivity, he looked for the female teachers because they were separated from the male captives and Fr. Rhoel knew that they were more vulnerable. But every time he would inquire about their situation, the Abu Sayyaf bandits would punish him. In times of danger and crisis, he was a true shepherd searching for his flock,” Abuyan said.

Abuyan recounted that Gallardo “stood up for God who was faithful to him until the last drop of his blood” when the priest refused to renounce his faith, even under threat.

Gallardo, along with teachers and students from the Claret School of Tumahubong, was held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf on March 20, 2000.

He died on May 3 of the same year, caught in the crossfire between the bandit group and security forces who were trying to rescue the kidnapped victims.

He was later found with several bullet wounds on his body and bore signs of torture. The bandits also killed three teachers and five children.

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