Stolen church bells being returned

Following repeated requests from the Philippines, the Balangiga church bells US troops stole as war booty after the 1901 Balanginga Massacre are to be returned.

The massacre occurred during the Philippine-US War (1899-1902).

At present, two of the bells are displayed at the US 11th Infantry Regiment’s former base at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. Another bell is displayed at the US 9th Infantry Regiment at Camp Cloud in South Korea.

Even as long ago as 1911, Filipino officials were questioning the propriety of taking church bells as war souvenirs.

Since then, numerous people, including Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s military ambassadors and the Catholic Church – have sought their return.

One who lobbied for the bells’ return was former President Fidel Ramos, who in 1998 asked US President Bill Clinton to help.

Clinton refused the request, citing the National Defense Authorization Act which prohibits “the return of veterans’ memorial objects to foreign nations without specific authorisation in law.”

Others in the US argue the bells should stay where they are, including Stephen Kravitsky from the Wyoming Veterans Commission. He says local vets see the bells as a memorial.

” I think there’s an emotional attachment to them,” he says.

Despite objections from some people, US Defense Secretary James Mattis has told Congress the bells must be returned.

He and the Philippine ambassador to the US, Jose Manuel “Babe” del Gallego Romualdez, are planning to hold a ceremony at Warren Air Force Base to start the process of formally returning the bells.

Although there has been no official word of the bells’ return, the parishioners of Balangiga are looking forward to it.

“It’s a welcome development. The parishioners … have been patiently waiting for its eventual return,” says Msgr Pedro Quitorio III of the Borongan diocese.

The bells will be returned to the St Lawrence the Martyr Parish in Eastern Samar.

“The physical church of Balangiga is ready for the return of its bells. It was reconstructed after it was devastated by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013. It has two belfries. The other one is empty but awaiting for the return of its bells,” Quitorio says.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , , ,