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Slain Cagayan priest laid to rest

Slain Cagayan priest laid to rest

Archbishop Sergio Utleg leads the funeral mass for slain priest Mark Ventura at the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Tuguegarao City, May 7, 2018. MARK SALUDES

By Roy Lagarde

May 7, 2018

Manila, Philippines

Making his final trip to the cathedral where he was ordained, Fr. Mark Ventura was eulogized as martyr for the poor and crusader for social justice in Cagayan province.

More than a thousand people on Monday gathered at the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Tuguegarao City where the priest’s coffin was placed on the floor throughout the entire funeral mass.

“We condemn in strongest terms this brutal and cowardly act,” said Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg in his homily.

Ventura was the first to be ordained priest by Utleg when he assumed the post as Tuguegarao archbishop in 2011.

Utleg said he was expecting Ventura, a young but “zealous and dedicated” priest, to have “a long and fruitful” ministry; but only ended from an assassin’s bullet.

What was the reason for his death?

The archbishop said one thing is for sure: “he was killed by a hired killer”.

Hired killers, he said, thrive in a society where many people are poor and jobless, where it is profitable to commit a crime “and where criminals are not caught but are rewarded instead”.

“It is an indictment of our own failures as a society that allows killings and murders to be committed with impunity,” Utleg added.

Ventura was shot dead after celebrating Mass and while baptizing children in Gattaran town, Cagayan on April 29.

He was known for his anti-mining advocacies and for helping indigenous peoples in the province.

The prelate earlier called on the police authorities to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators and to bring them to justice.

After the mass, the remains of Ventura were brought, through a funeral procession, to the Tuguegarao public cemetery where he was buried.