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Holy Father mourns death of Irish missionary in the Philippines

Pope John Paul II said he was deeply saddened by last week's murder of Columban missionary Fr Rufus Halley in the Philippines.

The Pope expressed his sympathy to the Columbans, as well as Fr Halley's family and friends, in a telegram signed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

In the message, addressed in English to Fr Edwin A. de la Pena, Bishop of Marawi, John Paul II expresses gratitude to God for Fr Halley's devoted missionary service and his conviction that "his memory will inspire those whom he served to ever greater fidelity to Christ and more intense commitment to the cause of peace."

Fr Halley was returning to his monastery last Tuesday when he was attacked by armed men who tried to kidnap him. Police said he died instantly from a blow to the head.

Fr Halley lived in Malabang, a coastal city of Muslim majority, for some 20 years. He worked in a parish and helped foster interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims. On Saturday, hundreds of Christians and Muslims attended his funeral in Cagayan De Oro. Family members from County Waterford, Ireland, were on hand too.

Police believe they know the name of the gunman, allegedly a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Muslim group fighting for independence on the island, the Irish Times reported Saturday.

Text of papal telegram