March 30, 2000
volume 11, no. 64
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


    BASILAN, Philippines ( - Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines have demanded the Vatican act as mediators in negotiations to release Catholic students, teachers, and a priest kidnapped last week.

    "The rebels want to talk with a representative of the Vatican," said Father Carlos Rivas, provincial superior of the Claretian missionaries in the Philippines, who for eight days has been negotiating with a band of separatist kidnappers.

    A Muslim group calling itself Al Harukatul, led by rebel leader Abu Sayyaf, is holding 33 hostages, including Filipino Father Rhoel Gallardo, 34, also a Claretian. The kidnapping took place on March 20 on Basilan island.

    The guerillas forced their way into the Claret School in Tumahubong village and then three other schools in the area, taking more than 50 hostages, including headmaster Father Rhoel Gallardo, who is also a parish priest. The separatists are part of Muslim guerilla groups fighting for independence in the southern Philippines.

    Father Angelo Calvo, confrere and close co-worker of Father Gallardo, said: "We must make it clear to the kidnappers that the Vatican cannot engage in talks directly. The local Church can and has the necessary autonomy and can act for the good of the people." Immediately after the kidnapping, Bishop Romulo De la Cruz of Isabela on Basilan and Father Carlos Rivas went to express solidarity with the families of the hostages and try to negotiate.

    "When we reached Tumahubong," Father Rivas said, "we found many in the little church praying for the hostages. Our presence gave them new courage. They need moral support in this tragic situation."

    "I spoke to some of the teachers and students," Father Rivas said. "A group of Muslim children told me they saved a Christian teacher by giving him a school uniform to wear and mixing him up with the students, so the rebels didn't notice he was a teacher."

    During his General Wednesday Audience Pope John Paul II launched an appeal for an end to fighting in Mindanao, voicing "closeness and solidarity with the families who are suffering in this situation."


March 30, 2000
volume 11, no. 60

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