20th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME | May 23, 2012

It was in the evening around 9 o’clock on that faithful day, 20th of May, twenty years ago. I was waiting at the gate of the PIME House in Suterville, not very far from this spot where it all happened…I was waiting for the return of Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME. He had spent the whole day lecturing for the participants attending the Silsilah Dialogue Course at the Zamboanga City College of Marine Sciences and Technology. It was in the evening around 9 o’clock on that faithful day, 20th of May, twenty years ago. I was waiting at the gate of the PIME House in Suterville, not very far from this spot where it all happened…I was waiting for the return of Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME. He had spent the whole day lecturing for the participants attending the Silsilah Dialogue Course at the Zamboanga City College of Marine Sciences and Technology. A motorcycle passed by and, stopping in front of me, the driver said to me: Binaril ang pari…I don’t know his name, but I know he is one of the people who live here; I have seen him many times because he comes home around here. He told me the location, and so in shock and disbelief, I started running to the spot, but mercifully a jeepney stopped and offered me a ride.  I found Fr. Salvatore’s car smashed against the light post just across from your Chapel; the light post had been knocked out. I saw him peacefully sitting on the front seat and I talked to him for a few minutes as he looked still alive. Getting no answer, I went around to the other side of the car and…I noticed a gun hole just behind his left ear, and looking down, I noticed also a pool of blood at his feet. I know then that he was dead. His killing humanly speaking seemed to trigger the end of the activities of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement that had just started a few years before in order to make Dialogue as a path to peace with God, with ourselves, with others and with nature. But the members of the Movement found a renewed inspiration of the martyrdom of their friend, Father Sal, who was also very fond of repeating in all conversations his favourite Cebuano word, Padayon. Who was Father Salvatore? He was a young priest still in the prime of his life, filledwith a great enthusiasm and energy, and with his heart and mind brimming with many dreams. Newly ordained, he had spent several years in Sicily working with the youth trying to charge them with the missionary zeal. After being assigned to the Philippines in 1977, he studied Cebuano in Manila and then was sent to the mission in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. When he was killed, he had just returned from three years of specialized study in the USA where he had deepened his understanding and knowledge about Interreligious Dialogue, in particular Dialogue between Christians and Muslims. In short, he was an enthusiastic dreamer who was passionately and vigorously defended the ideals of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement before both Christians and Muslims, highlighting not so much our differences, but what unites us all…the Muslims in the Holy Quran recognize Jesus as a Prophet and Mary as the Beloved Mother of the Prophet Jesus.

Both Muslims and Christians worship the one all-loving God who calls all human beings to love Him and to love one’s neighbour. Both Muslims and Christians worship the one all-loving God who calls all human beings to love Him and to love one’s neighbour. Fr. Salvatore was a people person; he easily reached out to everyone with his engaging smile and enthusiastic openness, befriending everyone without much effort. He loved to talk, but he had made ‘dialogue’ the mission of his life. In that way, he was always ready to listen for the essence of Dialogue, as opposed to discussion, is ‘Speak because I am listening’. Now Fr. Salvatore’s voice is forever silent in the silence of peace and the light of God. However, he speaks to us with example of the sacrifice of his life as a ‘Martyr of Dialogue’. Fr. Salvatore was born in Italy. He could have easily served God and the Church there, yet he chose to leave his native land, his family and friends in order to come and be a missionary in the Philippines working in the frontier church which is the church in Mindanao.Right after this Mass we will bless the marble monument which has been erected in front of your Chapel in memory of Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME, the ‘Martyr of Dialogue’. He was killed twenty years ago just across this street. As you will come here Sunday after Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist you will be reminded of Fr. Salvatore’s sacrifice for interreligious dialogue and at the same time, a call to witness your faith to your entire encounter.  Martyrdom is always a call and a gift of God. We may not be called to offer our lives in a violent manner, as Father Salvatore was called to do (He did not want to die, he wanted to live and work for Interreligious dialogue!) but as Christians we are called to witness our faith not so much in words, but in deeds. May Fr. Salvatore’s sacrifice inspire us all and from heaven obtain for us the courage and generosity to be Christ’s witnesses in the world today.

From the Homily of Fr. Giulio Mariani, PIME
After the mass the attendees were invited to go outside the Chapel to witness the unveiling of the marker for Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME. It was Ms. Aminda E. Saño, the President of the Silsilah and Ms. Vita Orlando, a representative of the Italian friends of Fr. Salvatore who revealed the marker to the crowd. This presentation signifies a great recognition of the martyrdom of Fr. Salvatore for the mission of interreligious dialogue and peace. As he genuinely said, “Those who accept the challenge of seeking a better society through inter-religious dialogue should have the faith to endure and the courage to hope”. Despite of some trials and tribulations encountered, we continue this journey with the inner strength from the Lord and the determination to work together for dialogue and peace.

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