Filipino "Braveheart" honoured

A Couples for Christ lay movement leader, Roger Francisco, who was one of seven men kidnapped and beheaded by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Southern Philippines, has been honoured as a Filipino "Braveheart".

UCA News reports that mourners at Francisco's funeral Mass in Zamboanga City wore white shirts embossed with the word "Braveheart" and about 30 members of a Catholic renewal movement offered prayers at the burial of their fellow member who was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf extremist group.

Other Couples for Christ (CFC) members likened Francisco to Scottish national icon William Wallace, who about 700 years ago fought for Scotland's independence, only to be beheaded by English soldiers.

Similar to Wallace in the 1995 movie "Braveheart", Francisco was considered a "brave" man, said his uncle, Rizalino Francisco, a former unit head of CFC, a worldwide Catholic movement for renewing and strengthening family life.

Rizalino told UCA News last week that he encouraged other CFC members to wear any of the movement's shirts for the burial but was surprised that most of them wore the shirt that carried the word "Braveheart."

He said, "I think they wanted to refer to my nephew as someone who was brave and had sacrificed so much for his family, only to be killed in that manner."

The Abu Sayyaf on 15 April kidnapped Francisco and six other men working on a road project of Governor Benjamin Loong in Jolo, Sulu province, southwest of Zamboanga City.

The rebel group initially asked the governor to pay five million pesos (US$105,300) ransom for his workers, but when no payment came after five days, the extremists beheaded the men and scattered their remains along the highway where they had worked. Government soldiers later recovered the bodies.

Edwina Aracon, a CFC leader, told UCA News Francisco was a "good" Catholic and has been actively involved in the movement before leaving the city to find a job.

CFC members from Zamboanga City have accompanied Francisco's family and relatives during the burial, and have provided financial assistance to his wife, Lisa, and their two-year-old daughter, according to Aracon.

The couple joined CFC soon after they got married in 2004. They attended Bible study classes held in the homes of fellow CFC members, joined liturgical services and participated in community projects, she said.

The widow believes her husband was "tortured" before he was killed "because his chest bone was broken and there were wounds on his nose and back and his hands were tied together."

Fr Allan Sasi, who led the Mass, said in his homily that Francisco has "gained the crown of martyrdom, just like Jesus."

Therefore, "we are not celebrating a funeral Mass, but a Mass of resurrection," he declared.

The Abu Sayyaf has been involved in kidnapping and beheading foreigners and Filipinos alike. The military launched Operation Plan Ultimatum in August last year, to "neutralise" the group in Sulu, where its leaders purportedly fled.

Catholic group honors beheaded fellow member as 'Braveheart' (Catholic Online, 4/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Braveheart (Wikipedia)
Couples for Christ

20 years for beheading three Christian girls (CathNews, 22/3/07)
Indonesian prosecutors allege man planned hundreds of Christian decapitations (CathNews, 9/11/06)
Philippines killings sign of undemocratic society: Bishop (CathNews, 17/8/06)
Bishop's nephew in latest Philippines political shooting (CathNews, 7/8/06)

7 May 2007