Italian missionary who served in Sirawai dies

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DAPITAN CITY – An Italian missionary, Father Allesadro C. Brambilla of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), who served the dominantly Muslim town of Sirawai in Zamboanga del Norte province for 28 years passed away at 10:30 pm on April 16. 

“The Diocese of Dipolog mourns with Santo Nino de Sirawai Parish and the PIME for the death of Fr. Brambilla,” said the FB page of the diocese, which has ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the entire Zamboanga del Norte, including the Muslim dominated “triple S and B” towns (Sibuco, Siocon, Sirawai and Baliguian).

The diocese statement said that Fr. Brambilla served Sirawai from 1986 to 2014. “He will never be forgotten for his consoling presence and selfless generosity in supporting those who wanted to study,” the statement added. 

He was 78 years old. 

A statement of PIME in Vatican City said Fr. Brambilla died in Paranaque, Manila, after days of suffering malaise attributed to pneumonia and his doctor ordered for hospitalization. The priest died while on an ambulance. 

Fr. Brambilla was born on March 29, 1943, in Gorgonzola, Milan, Italy. He entered the PIME seminary in Monza in 1962 and was ordained priest on June 28, 1973. 

He was sent to the Philippines in 1974 and by 1986 he served Sirawai, which the PIME statement said was marked by “political guerrilla, insurrection and the problem of logging”. 

After being accused several times for involving himself in Sirawai’s problems, Fr. Brambilla was recalled to Italy – this time to Rome – to work as PIME General Treasurer until 1997 when he returned to Sirawai. 

He was invited back to PIME headquarters in 1993, but he declined saying, “… I no longer expected such an invitation: because the recent killing of Father Salvatore Carzedda (in Zamboanga City) a few months ago, we lack of personnel, then Sirawai is a place of people who come and go, the stable community is made up only of a small group of faithful, so the presence of the priest is really important…”

There were several times when Fr. Brambilla’s life was threatened in Sirawai, reportedly by illegal loggers and when government and American forces were pursuing in the town’s hinterlands, the Abu Sayyaf group that kidnapped American Martin and Gracia Burnham, but he refused to leave.

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