TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines- More than a thousand attended the funeral and burial of Cagayan priest Fr. Mark Ventura on Monday, May 7.
Ventura was shot dead by riding-in-tandem killers just as he was blessing children after celebrating the Mass in Barangay Piña Weste in Gattaran, Cagayan on April 29.
Family members, over a hundred priests of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, friends, relatives, supporters, and parishioners paid their last respect to Ventura during the funeral mass held in St. Peter Metropolitan Cathedral in Tuguegarao.
In his homily, Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg said the Catholic Church has a "young" and "dedicated" priest, recalling Ventura as the first priest he ordained after he was installed as an archbishop.
Utleg blamed the "failed system" of the society on the rise of killings and impunity, saying the poor have gone to crime to earn for their living.
He added that Ventura had asked him to be assigned in the remote areas of Cagayan to serve as missionary priest.
With the death of Ventura, the archbishop urged the clergy to persevere in their mission of serving the poor. More than a hundred priests were present during the funeral mass.
"May this be the last...We don't want [any one of you] to be the next victim," Utleg said.
Police earlier said they are zeroing in "serious personal grudges" as possible motive in the killing of Ventura. They also issued the computerized facial composite of the gunmen as they announced the P300,000 reward for any information leading to arrest of the suspect and the mastermind.
Several organizations and personalities had issued their statements of condemnation and call for justice.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a statement on the "brutal killing," condemning it as an "evil act."
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle also denounced the murder of Ventura in a homily, as he asked for the tolling of church bells every 8 pm.
Ventura was the second priest to be gunned down in 4 months, said the CBCP News.