NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Father Richmond Nilo, the second priest in Nueva Ecija killed by gunmen in the last few months, was buried on Friday, June 15, at the San Nicolas de Tolentino Cathedral in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.
Around the same time that family, friends, and church followers buried the priest, authorities announced that the primary suspect in the killing had been arrested.
Before the burial, priests, nuns, parishioners, and bishops filled the cathedral to join in prayer for a funeral Mass.
The coffin of Father Nilo rested on the floor before the altar, with the bible and the crucifix atop it – a tradition for priests meant to portray the humble lives they lead. Bishop Sofronio Bancud concelebrated the funeral Mass with papal nuncio Archbishop Gabriel Giordanno Caccia and other priests and bishops from the diocese.
In his homily, Bancud began by thanking everyone who joined the mass amid the heavy rain as it meant how much Nilo touched the lives of so many.
Nilo was known to be a hardworking priest who pushed to preside over at least 7 to 10 Masses every Sunday to accommodate as many small chapels as he could for families who could not afford to commute to the town’s parish.
“It seems as if we are forgetting our humanity,” Bancud said in Filipino in his homily, recalling the violent death of Nilo.
Father Nilo was shot to death on Sunday, June 10, as he was preparing for evening mass at the San Pablo Chapel, a village chapel in Barangay Mayamot, Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija. A gunman shot him from the window. About 70 parishioners witnessed the crime, and watched as their priest fell on the altar, and his blood stained the floor.
He was the 3rd priest killed in the Philippines since December 2017 and the second in Nueva Ecija, according to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. (READ: ‘They are killing our flock. They are killing us shepherds.’)
“To be human is to be good, and to do good…. To be human is to know how to love, sympathize, and help. It is saddening to see how others choose not to help those who are in need simply because they do not feel they are part of it,” he added.
Bancud added that the death of Father Nilo was not about him, not about priests and bishops, but about Jesus Christ.
“If we are being targeted, then they are targeting Jesus Christ,” he said. “We will draw strength from Jesus Christ.”
Before the Mass ended, some mourners were also asked to speak about how their lives were touched by Nilo.
Juliet Ocampo, a deaf and mute student from the College of Immaculate Conception, Nueva Ecija –where Nilo was president for 8 years – shared how his program for hearing-impaired students helped her become who she is today.
Nilo was one of few priests who practiced and understood sign language.
“Father Richmond is the reason why there is a program for hearing-impared students like me. For 8 years, he helped us. We would not have finished school if it weren’t him,” Juliet said through an interpreter.
“Father Richmond, thank you for making sure that we are understood,” she said.
After the Mass, priests carried Nilo’s coffin outside the cathedral as hundreds of mourners surrounded them with cellphones and cameras on hand.
Bishops, priests, and immediate relatives bid their last goodbyes to Nilo before he was buried. White flowers were offered, and balloons were released to the sky, as rain and tears poured around him.
Nilo served the diocese of Cabanatuan for 4 years, and served as priest for 17 years. He was 43. – Rappler.com
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