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Mindanao Jesuit missionary close to being declared ‘Blessed’


By Christina Hermoso

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints has declared as valid the investigation into the sainthood cause for a 16th century Jesuit missionary who served in Mindanao.



The cause of martyrdom of Fr. Francesco Palliola was opened in January 2016 and was formally closed in September 2017 by Dipolog Bishop Severo Caermare at the Holy Rosary Cathedral in Dipolog City. The diocese submitted the result of its inquiry into Fr. Palliola’s life to the Vatican in November 2017.

“This is good news for the declaration of validity gives permission for the postulator of the said cause to start with the composition of the ‘positio,’” said Fr. Patrick Dalangin of the Diocese of Dipolog in a Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) News post.

The ‘positio’ is a biography and official position documenting the missionary’s life and works to prove his martyrdom.

“The cause convenes theological, historical and professional consultants. If majority of the theologians are in favor, the cause for martyrdom is passed on for examination by the member cardinals and bishops of the Congregation. An affirmative vote is needed from the cardinals and bishops before they present the cause to the Pope, who approves and authorizes the Congregation to draft a decree declaring the candidate a martyr. For a martyr, no miracle is required. Thus when the Pope approves the position declaring that the person was martyred for the faith, the title ‘Blessed’ is granted,” the CBCP said.

Born in May 1612, Palliola entered the Society of Jesus in 1637. He arrived in Manila in 1643, then in Dapitan the following year.

He mastered Visayan and later, learned the Subanen language to reach out to the lumad community of the Subanen. The missionary is credited as being the first European and Jesuit to do so.

In Dapitan, he went on missionary journeys to establish the settlements of Ilaya, Dipolog, Dicayo and Dohinob, Ponot and Quipit. When Josef Zanzini (aka José Sanchez) was assigned as his assistant, he left Zanzini in charge of the Visayan communities while he devoted himself to the lumads.

He also established ‘visitas’ as far south as the boundaries between present-day Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur.

While visiting Ponot to reconcile with a Subanon named Tampilo, who had turned away from the Christian faith, he was killed by Tampilo and his co-conspirators in the early morning of January 29, 1648. “While dying, he forgave his enemies and commended himself to Jesus and Mary. He died clutching the rosary and a crucifix he brought from Europe. The site of his martyrdom has been a place of pilgrimage over the years,” Dalangin said.

A street in the town of Manukan in Zamboanga del Norte was named after him.

Bishop Caermare calls on the faithful “to pray for a prompt declaration of martyrdom of Fr. Palliola and his beatification as he hopes for the country to have its third saint, and the first from Mindanao.

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