Two armed men shot and killed Italian issioner Father Salvatore Carzedda May 20, making him the second Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) priest killed in the Philippines.
Capt. Inocente Carpio, police station commander of Zamboanga City, 850 kilometers south of Manila, said Father Carzedda was driving a van to the PIME house May 20 when he was ambushed shortly before 10 p.m.
Carpio said the suspects rode a white motorcycle. "One of them drew a .45-caliber pistol and fired four times on Father Carzedda," he said.
Carpio added the motive of the killing is yet unclear but could be related to Father Carzedda´s role as assistant director to the Islam-Christian "Silsilah" Dialogue Movement established by PIME Father Sebastiano D´Ambra in Zamboanga eight years ago.
Silsilah, an Arabic word meaning "chain," is intended to build fraternity and develop unity between Muslims and Christians.
Father Carzedda wrote two books, "Inter-religious Dialogue: A Paradox," a compilation of research on Muslim, Christian and ethnic communities, and the "Quranic, Jesus in the Light of the Gospel," which seeks to reconcile Muslim and Christian views of Jesus Christ.
Carpio said Father Carzedda´s death may have been the work of Muslim radicals convinced he was bent on converting them.
The commander also said police received reports that the target could have been Father D´Ambra, and Father Carzedda´s killing was just a "case of mistaken identity."
On May 23, the PIME Fathers issued a statement saying "it appears that the killing was well planned and executed, not the case of robbery or accidental crime."
"We would like to know exactly what kind of individuals or groups are behind the killing and the specific reasons why he was murdered in such a way," said the statement signed by 12 PIME priests.
The statement added, "We ask anyone who can to help us obtain justice for his death, or at least to understand what led to this act. The truth can make us free."
The statement said it is sad to see a "man of God and peace" stopped by violence, "but God will find a way to transform us all."
"Father Carzedda´s dialogue will continue in deeper ways among all who were touched by his life and death," the PIME statement said. "Even his killers may feel the gentle power of love that can transform us all."
Bishop Francisco Cruces of Zamboanga condemned the killing and urged the police to conduct a speedy investigation.
"If they can do it to a priest whom we thought to be behaving well, they can do it to anybody," Bishop Cruces said. "Father Carzedda wanted to bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians."
Ustadz Yusof Abubakar, Muslim Grand "Mufti" (Muslim interpreter of religious laws) for western Mindanao, also expressed sorrow and sympathy for the Catholic Church.
Describing Father Carzedda as a "man of peace and man of God," Abubakar said, "I condemned the killing because it appears that here in Zamboanga, priests are no longer safe."
Father Carzedda, a native of Sardinia, Italy, was first assigned to the Philippines in 1977.
In 1986, he became the formation director at PIME´s theology school in Chicago, United States.
He returned to the Philippines in 1989 to help Father D´Ambra with the Silsilah movement in Zamboanga.
-- On April 11, 1985, PIME Father Tulio Favali was shot to death in Mindanao´s North Cotabato province.
His murder remains unsolved, but many believe he was killed by military agents because of his open criticisms against human rights abuses in the country.