CBCP Commemorates Italian Priest for Peacemaking Efforts in Mindanao

Italian priest to receive highest award from CBCP for interreligious dialogue work in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced on Friday that it will confer its highest award on an Italian priest recognized as a leading figure in interreligious dialogue in Mindanao.

Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra will be receiving the Bishop Jorge Barlin Golden Cross, which is the group’s highest distinction, named after the 19th-century Catholic leader and the country’s first Filipino bishop.

For nearly 50 years, D’Ambra, 82, has been based in Mindanao, facing interruptions in his mission due to threats on his life.

He arrived in Zamboanga City in 1977, amidst tensions from the Moro National Liberation Front’s secessionist movement and the martial law regime. As a missionary priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (Pime), D’Ambra advocated for peaceful coexistence, assisted Muslim Filipino refugees, and worked as a local peace negotiator.

Despite surviving assassination attempts and recalls to Italy, D’Ambra continued his mission in the Philippines. He co-founded the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Zamboanga City in 1984, promoting dialogue and harmony among Muslims, Christians, and other faiths.

The Silsilah movement has garnered international recognition, receiving awards such as the Goi Peace Award from Japan’s Goi Peace Foundation and the World Interfaith Harmony Week Award. It also led to the establishment of the Emmaus Dialogue Community and the Emmaus College of Theology.

D’Ambra has also served as the first executive secretary of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue, demonstrating outstanding service and embodying the ideals of Bishop Barlin.

The formal awarding ceremony for Fr. D’Ambra will take place during the CBCP’s 128th plenary assembly in July.

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