Father Jesus Reynaldo Roda, a missionary in the Southern Philippines murdered by armed men suspected of links to al-Qaeda, won praise for his courage around the world, MindaNews reports.
Father Roda, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was serving at Notre Dame of Tabawan School as part of a humanitarian mission. On January 15, armed men forced their way into the school chapel in which the priest was praying. The priest resisted their kidnapping attempt, and was shot and killed.
According to a letter from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Benedict XVI was “saddened” over the “brutal and tragic killing” of the priest.
"Paying tribute to the courage and faithfulness shown by this generous priest in his ministry as head of Notre Dame School, his Holiness commends Father Roda's example to priests and people throughout the region, and especially to the young," Cardinal Bertone said.
“Fr. Rey is a martyr, a great missionary… His death is a beautiful reminder for all of us of a true commitment and strength to the calling of our service (to God),” said Archbishop Romulo G. Valles, Archbishop of Zamboanga City, in his homily during a Friday evening mass and vigil held at a chapel in the Zamboanga Metropolitan Cathedral.
Father Antonio Moreno, president of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Zamboanga University, called for a “speedy but thorough investigation” into the priest’s killing. He spoke on behalf of an association of private schools, of which Notre Dame of Tabawan is a member.
“He was a very good person, helpful and kind especially to the poor,” said the priest’s co-worker, Oscar Pulay, Sr., principal of Notre Dame of Tabawan.
Pulay told MindaNews that the people of Tabawan “lost a father.” He said that the priest sponsored many students who are now studying at different universities.
“He was a simple person but serious in life and had a big heart for the people of Tabawan,” said Father Roda’s friend and seminary classmate Father Raul Biyasbas in his testimony at the cathedral.
“He would rather sacrifice himself as long as [it was] for the good and welfare of his people,” he added.
Father Roda’s remains will be buried at an OMI cemetery on January 23. Two other OMI clerics, including a bishop, have been killed in the region.