Filipino priest killed in Cambodia considered for beatification

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 12) — Another young priest might join the ranks of Filipino Catholic martyrs.

The Philippine chapter of the Society of Jesus officially opened the investigation for the cause of beatification of Scholastic Richard Michael "Richie" R. Fernando, S.J last January 9.

"The Philippine Jesuits understand that this is a long process, that can take five or ten years," the Jesuit order wrote in a statement. "We are very happy though that from the time of his death, many young people have already been inspired by Richie's life of service and the ultimate sacrifice he made for God's poor and oppressed in Cambodia."

The order asked for support and prayers in long-winded process that could possibly lead to Fernando's pronouncement as a saint.

Fernando was on his way to ordination when he was assigned to Cambodia in fulfillment of his requirements. He worked at a vocational training center for landmine survivors, polio survivors, and the disabled.

In 1996, one of the students who committed many offenses at the center was dismissed. He returned with a hand grenade, and Fernando held him back in an effort to protect the other students.

According to an account posted by the Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference, the perpetrator pleaded with Fernando: "Let me go, teacher; I do not want to kill you."

The grenade supposedly fell out of the perpetrator's hand, bounced behind the two, and "hit Fernando on the back of his head." The 26-year-old scholastic fell on top of his former student, covering him from the blast and saving other students in the process.

In a Facebook post, historian Brother Amado Tumbali, S.J. said they were open "if anyone holds any primary data (both positive and negative) on the person, death, or even a miracle attributed to... Fernando."

 

Apart from accounts of his life, possible miracles associated with Fernando may also be reported during this stage. The information can possibly be used to argue for or against his beatification.

Information can be directed to Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, the assigned local postulator for the cause. An Office of the Postulator will soon be set up at the Loyola House of Studies in Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City.

According to the Jesuits' official statement, a postulator must gather the life story of Fernando and present his biography to the Diocese of Novaliches for the second stage of the canonization process. If the Diocese finds proof of a virtuous or saintly life, the case will be forwarded to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Jesuits' General Postulator Fr. Pascual Cebollada, S.J. will represent the case in Rome.

Upon beatification, the candidate is pronounced a "Blessed" by the Pope and is a step away from canonization or sainthood.

To date, there are only two Filipino saints: Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod.

In September last year, the cause for beatification of another Jesuit priest, Fr. Francesco Palliola, S.J., was forwarded to Rome. Palliola was an Italian missionary who was stationed in Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao.

The remains of the late Archbishop Teofilo Camomot were also exhumed in Cebu with Vatican observers earlier this month. The local Diocese is also stepping up its bid to have Camomot canonized.