Manila prelate to wash feet of refugees, abducted priest

Holy Thursday ritual in Philippines aims to create awareness over plight of displaced people
Manila prelate to wash feet of refugees, abducted priest

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila washes the feet of a former drug addict during the Holy Thursday ritual in 2017. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)


The parents of a slain Filipino migrant worker and a kidnapped priest are among those whose feet will be washed by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila during this year's Holy Thursday observance.

Among the 12 people who will join the washing of the feet ritual in the Philippine capital is Father Teresito Suganob, who was held hostage by extremist gunmen last year.

The 57-year-old priest from the Prelature of Marawi had been working for Christian-Muslim dialogue in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao prior to his capture in May.

"Even after his agonizing ordeal as a hostage ... he still believes in promoting understanding and peace among peoples," read a statement from Manila Cathedral.

Father Suganob has been described as a "living witness and beacon of faith and communion" during the celebration of the Year of the Clergy and Consecrate Life" in the Philippines.

The parents of Joanna Demafelis, a migrant worker found dead inside a freezer in Kuwait, are also included on the list of Cardinal Tagle's "12 Apostles."

Demafelis' parents, Crisanto and Eva, have become "witnesses" to the plight of Filipinos working abroad who risk their safety to give their families back home a decent life.

The maid's mutilated body was found in January inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait, where she worked for a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife.

Authorities said she had likely been dead for more than a year.

The washing of the feet ritual is traditionally done on Holy Thursday, to commemorate Jesus' washing of the feet of his apostles.

Last year, Cardinal Tagle washed the feet of drug users and policemen as a "gesture of peace" after thousands were reported killed in the government's war against narcotics.

Aside from Father Soganub and Demafelis' parents, the Manila prelate will also wash the feet of a foreign couple, who sought refuge in the Philippines due to religious persecution.

"This is a new mission for the Philippine Church, opening our arms to our Christian brethren who suffer persecution in their country," said Cardinal Tagle.

The statement from Manila Cathedral said the Holy Thursday ritual aims to raise awareness about the plight of refugees.

The Philippine bishops' migrant ministry reported that there are about 30 refugees, mostly from Pakistan, being cared for by the local church.

There are also about 600 other refugees and asylum seekers registered with the government, the majority of them are from Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Representatives of urban poor dwellers, tribal people who fled their homes because of the armed conflict in Mindanao, and soldiers will also be part of the ritual.

They were chosen to heed the call of Pope Francis to "embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.

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