Beatification of missionary slain by Abu Sayyaf pushed

- Mike Frialde -
A group of former Claretian seminarians have started a movement that would push for the beatification of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, a Claretian missionary who was abducted, tortured and then executed by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan five years ago.

The group calling itself the Association of Former Claretians launched the movement yesterday as they, along with Gallardo’s family and friends, marked his fifth death anniversary with a Mass at his tomb at Himlayang Pilipino in Quezon City.

"Under the rules of the Church, the process of beatification can only start five years after the death of the candidate," said Allan Navida, the group’s leader.

Navida recalled how the Abu Sayyaf forced Gallardo to renounce his faith but he refused.

"He was tempted several times by the bandits to commit sin in exchange for his freedom, yet he remained firm to his faith. He was even forced by the bandits to have sex with a young woman but he refused and never gave up his faith," he added.

Navida said Gallardo’s steadfastness and his concern for the welfare of his fellow captives irked the Abu Sayyaf.

Ordained a Claretian priest in 1994, Gallardo suffered three gunshot wounds in the head, shoulder and back, and the nail of his index finger and his toenails were plucked out two or three days before he was shot at close range.

Gallardo was also reportedly beaten up by his captors everytime he would pray the rosary along with the other male hostages.

Gallardo was the director of the Claretian school in Tumahubong, Basilan when he was abducted along with 52 students and teachers of the school on March 20, 2000.

They were held captive for six weeks, during which one male and two female teachers were also executed.

In April 2000, the Abu Sayyaf released some of the hostages after negotiations with the government.

Navida is confident that the Vatican will seriously look into Gallar—do’s possible beatification because of his deeds and acts of faith.

"It is time for the Catholic Church, especially in the Philippines, to have an inspiration in its struggle to work for peace amid the new challenges like terrorism confronting us," he said.

Fr. Bernardo Blanco, himself a former Abu Sayyaf captive, supported the move to have Gallardo beatified. "Let us not forget the martyrdom of Fr. Rhoel," he said.

Navida said his group is now gathering documented accounts of Gallardo’s deeds from his fellow hostages while they were in captivity.

As for miracles, which the Vatican says are needed to be attributed through the intercession of the candidate before he or she is beatified, Navida says, "It can come later. Anyway, we are facing a long process here. But miracles can speed up the process."

Meanwhile, Gallardo’s alleged executioner, Alhamser Manatad Limbong, alias Commander Koso—vo, was one of the Abu Sayyaf members killed in the failed jailbreak in Taguig City recently.

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