Rome Newsroom, May 7, 2021 / 09:00 am
The sainthood cause opened this week of Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, who died on May 3, 2000, after being held for 43 days by Islamists.
The Claretian missionary was killed at the age of 34, just six years after his ordination as a priest and 11 years after making his first profession as a religious.
On March 20, 2000, Gallardo was kidnapped, together with a school administrator, five teachers, and 22 students from the Claret School of Tumahubong, a village located on the island province of Basilan, in the Philippines.
The majority of the population in Basilan is Muslim; the next largest religious group is Catholic. Gallardo, who was the school’s principal, and the teachers and students, were taken captive by the Islamic separatist group Abu Sayyaf, the East Asia branch of the Islamic State.
Gallardo died when he was shot in the head, shoulder, and back at close range, after repeatedly refusing to renounce his Catholic faith. Three teachers and five children also died when they were caught in a gunfight between the terrorists and the military.
When Gallardo’s body was recovered, it was discovered that the nails on his index fingers and toes had been pulled off before he was shot. There were also other signs of torture.
The Territorial Prelature of Isabela, led by Bishop Leo Dalmao, officially opened Gallardo’s cause for beatification on May 3, 2021, the 21st anniversary of his death.
The ceremony took place at St. Vincent Ferrer’s Church in Tumahubong, the town where Gallardo had volunteered to serve the year before his murder.