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Filipinos mourn Italian priest who pioneered catechetical works

Father Savatore Putzu spent about four decades serving in the catechism ministry

Italian Salesian priest Father Salvatore Putzu (1938-2023) holds the Directory for Catechists in this file photo

Italian Salesian priest Father Salvatore Putzu (1938-2023) holds the Directory for Catechists in this file photo. (Photo supplied)

Published: January 30, 2023 11:05 AM GMT

Updated: January 30, 2023 11:31 AM GMT

Catholics in the Philippines have paid tributes to an Italian Salesian priest who is hailed nationally for his pioneering catechetical works for about four decades.

Father Savatore Putzu died in the capital Manila on Jan 27 at the age of 84, following a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer, Salesians of the Philippines said.

The cancer had metastasized in his lungs and liver leading to health complications and death, the order said.

“The immediate cause of death was a hepatorenal failure,” Salesian Father Ronnie Urbano, rector of Don Bosco announced on social media.

Father Putzu was the founder of the congregation’s publishing house which he established together with four lay volunteers in 1989.

He became Word and Life Publication’s chairman and editor-in-chief, which started publishing catechetical materials for children and adults used in parishes and schools in the country.

While teaching catechism at Salesian-run schools in the Philippines, Father Putzu “Filipinized” the Catechism of the Catholic Church by integrating Philippine culture, his fellow confreres said.

He later published his methods of teaching catechism in the Philippines, as well as the challenges in propagating the faith in the archipelago.

“He lived a very fruitful and grace-filled life as a true son of Don Bosco, the patron saint of publishers and the Catholic press. He served the Lord as someone who always has in his heart the spread of the Good News of His Kingdom,” Father Urbano added.

In 2008, Father Putzu spoke to a catechism class for unmarried couples, which he hoped, would enter the Sacrament of Marriage “without a fee” charged by their parishes. He urged the ending of domestic violence and insisted that men should respect women and their children.

“A real man never hurts a woman! Be very careful when you make a woman cry because God counts her tears. The woman came out of a man’s rib, not from his feet to be walked on, not from his head to be superior, but from his side to be equal! Under the arm to be protected, and next to the heart to be loved,” Father Putzu had said.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines called Father Putzu’s death a “great loss” to catechists in the country.

“He will always be remembered as someone who has championed the field of Catechesis and New Evangelization; as a Salesian priest who always had a gentle and caring heart for the poor and the most in need; and as a great devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as seen in most of his writings,” Father Ernie De Leon, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Catechism and Catholic Education told UCA News.

Father Putzu also served as the executive director of the commission for more than 10 years.

“He will also be remembered for pioneering the popular ‘Study Edition’ of official Church documents like the papal encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, and the Directory for Catechesis, among others. He simplified them so that our catechists may easily understand them,” Father De Leon added.

Father Putzu has been instrumental in the production of the National Catechetical Directory of the Philippines and the wider expansion and circulation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Catechism for the Filipino Catholics, according to Manila catechist Dolores Castro.

He was born on October 12, 1938, on the Italian island of Sardinia. He made his first profession on Oct. 27, 1963, and was ordained a priest on Sept. 7, 1974.

On Sept. 15, 2022, Father Putzu received the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 16th Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards by the Asian Catholic Communications Inc.


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