26 year-old Filipino Jesuit on the road to sainthood


Brother Richie Fernando was a 26 year-old Jesuit seminarian from the Philippines when in 1996 he died protecting his Cambodian students from a hand grenade.

He is now on the road to sainthood, thanks to a norm issued by Pope Francis this summer that opens the door to canonisation for those who have “voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this regard.”

Fernando was sent to Cambodia while still a seminarian. He worked as a teacher in a technical school for the handicapped.

In the school, people who were disabled, most especially landmine victims, learned skills which help them earn a living.

Among his students was Sarom, a sixteen-year-old boy who was a victim of a landmine. He wanted to finish his studies there but he was asked to leave by the school authorities for his disruptive attitude.

According to Fernando, Sarom was tricky but he still had a place for him in his heart.

On October 17, 1996, Sarom came to the school for a meeting. Angered, he suddenly he reached into a bag he was carrying, pulled out a grenade, and began to move towards a classroom full of students; the windows of the room were barred, leaving the students no escape.

Fernando came up behind Sarom and grabbed him. Sarom tried to free himself but the missionary held on to Sarom.

Sarom accidentally dropped the grenade behind Richie, and in a flash, Richie was dead.

While the Philippines is a Catholic-majority country, the island nation only claims two canonised saints thus far, both of whom died in the 17th century.

However, numerous causes have been opened in recent years, with many people in the various steps of the process of canonisation.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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