DIPOLOG CITY -- The Catholic Church officially launched last January 6 the diocesan process for the cause of martyrdom of Fr. Francesco Palliola, the first step toward beatification and canonization to sainthood.
In ceremonies highlighted by Mass at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Dipolog, Bishop Severo Caermare announced the opening of the Cause of Fr. Palliola, an Italian Jesuit missionary who dedicated his work and his life to the people of Mindanao.
If declared a saint, Fr. Palliola will be third from the Philippines, after St. Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila and St. Pedro Calungsod of Cebu -- and the first to come from Mindanao.
Born into nobility, in the town of Nola in Naples, Italy, on May 10, 1612, Fr. Palliola joined some 40 Jesuits on an expedition to the Philippines. After a trip of over two years, he finally landed in Iligan on January 2, 1644, beginning a mission in Mindanao that would take him to Dipolog, Dapitan and the rest of the Zamboanga Peninsula, spreading the Catholic faith to the locals, including the lumads.
Fr. Palliola was martyred at Ponot, now Jose S. Dalman town, on January 29, 1648 by Tampilo, a converted native leader who had left Catholicism, and who the priest was trying to bring back to the faith. He died at the age of 37.
A painting of Fr. Palliola, showing a dagger piercing his throat, remains at the archives of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Together with traditions passed on since his death, and written records of individuals who have been healed after praying to him, the painting is a reminder of Fr. Palliola's lasting impact on the people of the Peninsula. His gravesite, marked by a modest memorial, continues to be regularly visited by those who seek his intercession.
Work on Fr. Palliola's sainthood has been a collaborative effort involving not just the Diocese of Dipolog but also the Jesuits and the Augustinian Recollects who had worked in the area.
On the eve of the opening of Fr. Palliola's cause, Bishop Beniamino Depalma of the Diocese of Nola also sent a message to his counterpart in Dipolog, expressing their joy and support.
Bishop Caermare said they are hopeful of Fr. Palliola's cause.
"Padre Palliola may have been Neapolitan, an Italian by birth; but his love for God, his great passion for mission and caring for the people of the Zamboanga Peninsula, particularly the Subanon lumad, made him truly Mindanaoan" he said.
He added that though Fr. Palliola lived close to 400 years ago, he continues to care for his adopted homeland to this day, interceding for people in need -- including fisherfolk who carry on the tradition of stopping by his grave to pray for a good catch.
With the opening of the cause for his martyrdom, an investigative process is now set in motion, to ascertain the authenticity of his life, the renown of his sanctity, and the miracles attributed to him. (PR)