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Philippine Independent Church deplores former Supreme Bishop's murder
Friends, supporters recall Bishop Ramento's selfless commitment to justice

By Matthew Davies
10/4/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  The Most Rev. Godofredo J. David, 11th Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), or the Philippine Independent Church, has rebuked the brutal killing of Bishop Alberto B. Ramento of Tarlac, former IFI Obispo Maximo, in an October 4 statement that said his death has enflamed the hearts of the clergy and members of the Philippine-based church "to remain faithful to her pro-people and pro-labor heritage."

Ramento was found stabbed to death at his rectory in the Parish of San Sebastian, Tarlac City, on the morning of October 3.

Although the initial police investigation reported the incident as a case of robbery with homicide, "the Ramento family, the clergy and the faithful of the Diocese of Tarlac believe that the motive is much deeper than what has come out from the spot investigation," David said in his statement. "There are glaring indications that Bishop Ramento's murder was thoroughly planned and politically motivated. We believe that the brutal killing was the inevitable consequence of his principled engagement with the people and their struggle for the fullness of life."

Ramento had been an outspoken critic of the Philippine government and a leading advocate for peace and human rights in the country.

"I know they are going to kill me next but never will I abandon my duty to God and my ministry to the people," the statement quoted Ramento as saying to his family.

On behalf of the IFI, David "denounced in the strongest possible terms this barbaric and dastardly act against a man of the cloth within the premises of his own church,” and urged the authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation and bring the perpetrators of Ramento's murder to justice.

Ramento's murder is the latest in a sequence of killings of Christian leaders in the Philippines over the past two years.

The full text of the IFI statement is available at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_78361_ENG_HTM.htm

The Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director of Peace and Justice Ministries for the Episcopal Church, called upon the Philippine Government “to protect all of its people and to end the threat, harassment, and even murder -- including most recently our own Bishop Ramento -- of Christians engaged with the poor in social justice ministry.”

Social prophet, icon

Ramento was a well-loved pastor in the IFI and earned a reputation as a social prophet, "and an icon in the nationalist struggle of the Filipino masses with his uncompromising stand for national sovereignty and patrimony," David said in his statement. "He was a true advocate of just peace," as well as being a respected figure in the ecumenical movement in and outside the country.

As chair of the IFI Supreme Council of Bishops (SCB), Ramento strongly condemned the state of political repression “and grave situation of human rights violation in the country," the statement said. "He has particularly denounced the unabated extra judicial killings of militant leaders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, church people and innocent civilians under the watch of the current administration."

Peter Ng, Asia and Pacific Officer for Anglican and Global Relations, offered his condolences on behalf of the Episcopal Church.

"It is with great sadness to hear about the shocking news of the death of Bishop Alberto Ramento," he said. "He will be remembered as a man who championed the down-trodden and the victims of injustice -- he stood for them and stood with them. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his bereaved family, to the Iglesia Filipina Independiente members in the Diocese of Tarlac, and the IFI in the Philippines and around the world. We will miss his continued partnership with us at the Episcopal Church.”

A September 26 statement from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, one of the 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion, denounced political killings in the country, saying that "the deliberate and wanton taking of somebody else's life is anathema to Christian teaching as it is abhorrent to civil society."

The Episcopal Church has maintained historical links with both the IFI and ECP. A Concordat of Full Communion that commits to mutual mission and ministry between the Episcopal Church and the IFI was first signed in 1961.

At the 75th General Convention, an updated version of the Concordat was signed by David and Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold -- in the presence of ECP's Primate, the Most Rev. Ignacio Soliba -- as part of a June 19 reception for ecumenical and interfaith guests. Ramento had been instrumental in the Concordat's drafting process.

At the General Theological Seminary (GTS) of the Episcopal Church in New York City, where Ramento was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1994, Professor J. Robert Wright recalled the courageous leadership of the former Obispo Maximo on behalf of the poor and outcast peoples of the Philippines.

Wright, who is historiographer of the Episcopal Church and professor of ecclesiastical history at GTS, upheld the close relationship between the Episcopal Church and the IFI, as well as the close involvement of the seminary's faculty in drawing up the related documents of full communion and in compilation of the Filipino Missal in 1960 and 1961.

"They are a church whose heart beats very close to that of the General Seminary and its ideals," said Wright, who recalled the affection of the many who attended the ceremony when the degree was conferred. "One of the treasures in my library is a copy of that Missal, autographed by Bishop Ramento when he was here in 1994. What he stood for then is now greatly magnified by the tragic way that his life was taken."

David asked for prayers for Ramento, who he described as "a fatherly pastor, a social prophet, an uncompromising nationalist, a peacemaker, and a champion of the peoples' cause, who now joins his Creator."

The statement concluded: "As we mourn the death of a beloved member of the IFI family, may we find inspiration from his life and death even as we commit to stand firmly for what he believed in and fought for. Let his death find meaning in our continuing resolve to live out the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ upon which Bishop Ramento dedicated his life."

An earlier ENS article is available at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_78351_ENG_HTM.htm.