Relatives of slain Italian priest Fr Fausto Tentorio have assured farmers and tribal Manobo people they will carry on with his projects that some believe might have caused resulted in his death earlier this month. Felici Tentorio, the eldest brother of Fr Tentorio, said the family would “continue to send support from Italy for the projects of our dear brother,” during a funeral mass last week. Father Giovanni Vettoretto of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME) and Fr Tentorio’s assistant pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish translated as Felici Tentorio spoke in Italian to thousands of mourners who filled Kidapawan cathedral. Among them were parishioners of Arakan town, where Fr Tentorio was shot to death on October 17 inside the church compound. Also in attendance were members of the tribal Manobo community and farmers served by literacy and health programs that Fr Tentorio had established. Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of the Karapatan Human Rights Group for southern Mindanao, said the late priest also set up and found funding for children’s day-care centers in Arakan and organized the Tri-Farmers Program for Community Development, which trained lumand, or indigenous people, about their rights under the law, how to speak and negotiate with authorities, and methods of sustainable agriculture. Fr Tentorio also promoted the Genuine Agrarian Reform bill, or House Bill 374, as well as campaigns against large-scale mining operations around Arakan. Danny Gumanao of the Davao-based Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc, said thousands of students around Mindanao island had benefited from scholarships established by Fr Tentorio. He described Fr Tentorio as a provider of “what the farmers and lumads needed.” “He gave them animals for their livelihood, from ducks, chickens and goats to pigs, cattle and horses. He gave them feed for the animals, food for their families and bamboo, wood, nails and galvanized iron for their houses,” Gumanao said. “He always found ways to provide the poor,” he said, citing the thousands of children of tribal families and settlers in Columbio, where he was assigned in 1980-1985, and in Arakan, where he served from 1985 until his death. Bishop Romulo de la Cruz of Kidapawan told reporters after the burial at the bishop's residence grounds that it would be up to the PIME who among their 20 missionaries in Mindanao would be assigned to succeed Fr Tentorio in Arakan parish. He said PIME Fathers told him they would be meeting soon.
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