The gruesome unsolved murder of a priest in the Philippines two years ago continues to be the focus of bishops’ attention and calls for justice.
On 10 June 2018, gunmen entered a chapel in St Vincent Ferrer parish in northern Luzon, Philippines, where they found Fr Richmond Nilo preparing for Mass. They opened fire in front of some 70 parishioners, hitting him seven times.
Police have reportedly arrested one suspect, but the motive for the deadly attack remains unclear and as many as seven suspects remain at large, even though the Philippine National Police set up a special task force to investigate the murder.
“We make our appeal once again to the police authorities to act swiftly in the investigation,” The Union of Catholic Asian News – UCAN – service quoted the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, “and to go after the perpetrators of this heinous crime and bring them to justice.”
At the time, Fr Nilo’s murder drew the attention of rights groups in the Philippines.
The Karapatan organisation released a statement condemning a series of attacks – on a journalist, a prosecutor, and Fr Nilo – as indicative of a more general disintegration of law and order in the country. The Karapatan statement said the incidents were “clear signs of a thriving climate of impunity in the Philippines.”
Marking the anniversary of Fr Nilo’s murder, Cabanatuan – the diocese where Fr Nilo was slain – remembered the murdered priest was an inspiring figure. “He inspired us to love and defend our Catholic faith,” the diocese said in a statement shared to social media, “and to serve the poorest of the poor.”
UCAN reported that the homilist at a suffrage Mass in Cabanatuan to mark the anniversary, Fr Jeffrey dela Cruz, offered prayers for Fr Nilo “and all persecuted Christians in other parts of the world defending their faith.” He went on to say, “We need to speak and stand up, especially when our faith is trampled upon.”