More than 3,000 people, including his younger sister, gathered in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, on Mindanao Island April 11 to mark the first anniversary of the murder of PIME Father Tullio Favali.

“The death and martyrdom of Father Favali has effected the whole world. He is a symbol of dedication, an inspiration for all those who work for justice and peace,” said Monsignor Tomaso Caputo, secretary to the apostolic nuncio.

The 38-year-old Italian missioner was shot April 11, 1985, by paramilitary Civilian Home Defense Forces in Barrio Esperanza, 944 km south of Manila. About 50 clergy and Religious joined Bishop Orlando Quevedo of Kidapawan in celebrating a Mass of Resurrection, whose theme was “The blood of martyrs is the life and hope of our Christian faith.”

The Mass, it was explained, was to honor the memory of his sacrifice and take him as a symbol of all who died in service to the local Church in recent years. — Dozens of open-back trucks brought delegates from throughout Kidapawan and neighboring dioceses to the Mass. Many people carried large wooden crosses enscribed with the names of local residents and Church workers killed during the past three years — generally assumed to be victims of summary executions after being arrested by military. The crosses were later planted around Father Favali´s grave, at the edge of which an altar was prepared on the flatbed of a huge cargo truck. During preparations for the liturgy, two eyewitnesses told the crowd of Father Favali´s killing. This was followed by a reading of names and personal details about other dead diocesan workers.

— Bishop Quevedo´s homily spoke of Father Favali and other victims as it modern day martyrs” and “an example and inspiration to all of us,” challenging us with “the true meaning of life.” Reflecting on the present Philippine situation, Bishop Quevedo, who was named the new archbishop-elect of Nueva Segovia (Luzon) March 22, said, “We have new life and a new spirit in our country, but we need inspiration and good example. These martyrs of our Kidapawan diocese provide this.” “What has happened since February is only the beginning,” he said, referring to the change in government. “We pray the memory of the example and sacrifice of these martyrs will remain with us.”

— After the Communion, Bishop Quevedo introduced Archbishop Philip Smith of Cotabato and Bishop Federico Escaler of Ipil, who was cheered as the first bishop of Kidapawan and Bishop Quevedo´s predecessor. Bishop Escaler appointed Father Favali to his parish in Tulunan after the PIME superior requested an assignment “in the poorest of parishes.” “Before the murder of Father Favali,” he said, “bishops of the Philippines felt there was not enough concrete evidence to condemn the violence that was escalating around the country. Father Favali´s death changed all of that.” “The bishops spoke out,” he continued, “and insisted that a government based on abuse of its people can not command the respect of those people.”

— Monsignor Caputo conveyed the sympathy of Pope John Paul II to the people of Kidapawan diocese and to Father Favali´s family and parish. “Our Holy Father commends all of you for your defense of justice and Christian peace,” he said. “In his May 3, 1985 address, our Holy Father recalled the brutally murdered Father Tullio Favali as attempting reconciliation and peace-making.”

— The interest of Philippine President Corazon Aquino in the death of Father Favali was also mentioned. During a campaign visit to Kidapawan, she visited the priest´s grave an referred to his heroic service to the poor in recent radio and TV addresses.

— Elicia, Father Favali´s younger sister, who led a delegation of friends and neighbors from Italy, thanked the people for their expressions of sympathy. She also asked that, as a symbol of the bond which exists between her family and community and the people of Kidapawan, an exchange of soil take place.

Members of her party then presented a container of soil from Father Favali´s home town in Italy, and a similar sampling of soil from the gravesite of the murdered priest was taken by the group. The visitors then asked Bishop Quevedo to call those who testified in the court trial of the murderers of Father Favali. As each came forward, Father Favali´s sister and companions presented scrolls of appreciation for “your courage in risking to testify so that justice will prevail.”