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Peace group pays tribute to missing Filipino priest

Father Rudy Romano is among at least 2,000 people to fall victim to enforced disappearances since the 1970s.

Churchgoers light candles in a Redemptorist mission community in the city of Legazpi on July 11 to mark the 33rd anniversary of the disappearance of Redemptorist priest Rudy Romano in the central Philippines. (Photo supplied)

An ecumenical peace group in the Philippines on July 11 marked the 33rd anniversary of the disappearance of a Redemptorist priest and leading figure in the resistance movement against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform paid tribute to Father Rudy Romano's "contribution to the advancement of peace and human rights" in the country.

Ofelia Cantor, coordinator of the peace group, said Father Romano "dedicated his life to the promotion of peace, a duty that every Christian should fulfill."

The Redemptorist priest was last seen on July 11, 1985, outside his convent in the central Philippine city of Cebu being snatched by unidentified armed men.

The 44-year-old priest was an active leader of the movement against the dictatorship of then president Ferdinand Marcos.

He was the executive secretary of the Coalition Against People's Persecution and the national vice-chairman of the New Patriotic Alliance.

Norma Dollaga of the Promotion of Church People's Response said Father Romano "journeyed with the poor" and will never be forgotten.

"[Father Romano] taught us that religious life means serving the people and God unconditionally," she said. "The church must take pride that it has a son like [Father Romano] who would risk his life for the sake of others."

The Redemptorist congregation, meanwhile, reiterated its call on the government to "deliver justice to victims of enforced disappearances.”

It said Father Romano was "maligned, harassed, and eventually abducted ... because he stood for the truth and defended the rights of the poor and the weak."

Redemptorist priest Ariel Lubi, superior of the vice-province of Manila, said the congregation has more priests like Father Romano "who would never abandon the poor in their mission."

"Let us be like Father Rudy who fought for social equality, who defended the faith by serving the people, and who brought the church to the peripheries," said the priest.

Cristina Palabay of rights group Karapatan said enforced disappearances and killings continue because the government insists on "purely military solutions" to armed conflicts in the country.

She said more than 2,000 people have fallen victim to enforced disappearances since Marcos declared martial law in the 1970s.

Palabay said a culture of impunity has encouraged the use of methods of abduction and extrajudicial killing to silence dissent.

Bishop Deogracias Iniguez of the Ecumenical Bishops' Forum said the church "must never stop to amplify the cry of the poor for a just and lasting peace."

"Do not be scared," said the prelate. "There will be more Father Romanos who will sacrifice their lives to preach the Good News."

Source: UCAN

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