Huge crowd of mourners bid farewell to slain priest

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Manila, December 11, 2017: At least a thousand people joined the funeral march for Father Marcelito Paez, a 72-year-old Catholic priest murdered on Dec. 4 on the main Philippine island of Luzon.

The activist priest was ambushed four hours after facilitating the release of a political prisoner.

More than 100 priests conducted the mass with two Filipino bishops – San Jose Bishop Roberto Mallari and Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud – presiding at the Eucharistic celebration.

Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, the Papal Nuncio, attended the mass at the Saint Joseph Cathedral in San Jose, in the province of Nueva Ecija.

He did not give any message and priests billed his presence as “a silent form of solidarity and prayer”.

Tears flowed as mourners lined up to pay their last respects to Fr. Paez, a retired priest who was a national board member and Central Luzon coordinator for the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

He was buried in the Sto. Niño Cemetery in San Jose.

Fr. Paez’s casket was placed on the floor to symbolize his life as a temporary gift from god.

Peers of the priest said it also symbolized Fr. Paez’s humility and decades of service to the poorest Filipinos.

The bishops wore red and violet stoles to proclaim the priest’s “martyrdom”.

Bishop Mallari said that Father Paez’s, when gravely wounded, told one of his assailants, “I am a priest,” prompting a retreat by the man preparing to give him the final shot.

“Father Paez, like a shepherd, vowed to die first before harm reached his flock,” the bishop said.

He did not retreat from danger.

Fr. Paez’s death, the bishop said, should prompt clergy and laity to question the meaning of his sacrifice in terms of both personal change and change within the church.

“How do we rise to the challenges of the times?” Bishop Mallari asked.

The bishop added that Fr. Paez’s example should inspire others to stand up against repression.

Bishop Bancud described Fr. Paez as a “revolutionary” whose love for his homeland ran deep.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, in a message, expressed shock that such barbaric acts against priests still happened.

The attack on Fr. Paez spoke of degradation into a “culture of violence.”

“People do not nail innocent people to the cross anymore,” Archbishop Villega said.

“They are shot by the forces of darkness.”

“On the one hand, I wanted to cry for justice and retribution and yet in my heart there was also the impulse to pray for his killers that God may forgive them for what they have done,” Villegas added.

Balanga Bishop Ruperto Cruz Santos said Fr. Paez looked after lost sheep at the fringes of society oppressed by a system of inequality.

“He retired from active ministry but not from his mission and he continued to serve those who sought his help,” he added.

– ucan

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