CHICAGO (JGL) – A great grandnephew of Jose Rizal is hoping that when Pope Francis visits the Philippines in January, the pope will be reminded of his letter, requesting to revisit his great granduncle’s alleged retraction against abuses of Catholic priests prior to his death by firing squad 118 years ago next month at Luneta (Rizal Park), where the Pope is going to celebrate a mass before millions.
Dr. Ramon G. Lopez, 72, a semi-retired obstetrician and gynecologist and inventor, wrote Pope Benedict a ten-page dissertation entitled, Pro Amore Patriae – Fiat Lux” (For the Love of Country – Let There Be Light) The Dr. Jose P. Rizal Retraction Issue Revisited, three years ago. His letter was acknowledged received by the Vatican but has remained unanswered.
But when Benedict retired and ceded the papacy to Francis, Dr. Lopez followed up his letter last May 20, 2013, congratulating Pope Francis and extending “our prayers to you as our new Vicar, and shepherd to the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.”
He said he also copy-furnished his letter to Luis Cardinal Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, whose subordinates invited him to the “118th year remembrance/commemoration of Lolo Jose’s martyrdom.” Dr. Lopez said in an email Monday (Dec. 1), “attending the con-celebrated Mass of Pope Francis at Luneta is a possibility, though unlikely.”
In an interview with the Journal GlobaLinks , Dr. Lopez, one of the two doctors who are also grandnephews of Dr. Rizal, quoted Philippine Sen. Camilo Osias as saying, “Either Rizal did or did not retract. The burden of proof is upon those who insist that he did. And they must come forward with a documentary or other evidence that is irrefutable and convincing. Until that evidence that is incontrovertible and overwhelming is produced, free men and thinking men cannot accept Rizal’s retraction as fact. … Now, if he retracted and yet he was executed on that fateful December 30th, the crime of his murderers becomes doubly heinous.”
Dr. Lopez, a Manila-born and now resident of Chicago’s outlying suburb of Joliet, Illinois, told the Pope in his letter quoting Austin Coates’ book, “Rizal – Philippine Nationalist and Martyr,” as saying that “Fr. Vicente Balaguer, S.J., claimed that he performed the canonical marriage between Rizal and Josephine Bracken from 6:00 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. of December 30, 1896, nearly on hour before Rizal was executed by firing squad. The marriage was purportedly witnessed by one of Rizal’s sisters. But the Rizal sisters denied their presence at such wedding as Rizal was martyred at 7:03.
NOBODY SAW BRACKEN AT FORT SANTIAGO
Lopez said nobody reported seeing Bracken in the vicinity of Fort Santiago in the morning of execution.
There were three priests – Fr. Jose Vilaclara, Fr. Estanislao March and Fr. Vicente Balaguer – who escorted Rizal from Fort Santiago to his “last mile” to Luneta to give spiritual care to the condemned Dr. Jose Rizal. Why is it that only Father Balaguer could “describe” a wedding while Fathers Vilaclara and March could not corroborate the occurrence of such marriage ceremony?
It was claimed that marriage was consecrated by Fr. Balaguer because Rizal had recanted his “religious errors.”
If Bracken were married to Rizal, her subsequent marriage to Vicente Abad at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Hong Kong would have shown records that she was a “Rizal” by marriage, or that she was the widow of Dr. Jose Rizal.
In 1960, there was an inquiry over the Cardinal-Bishopric of Manila for evidentiary proof of a Rizal-Bracken marriage but nothing came out of the inquiry. And he asked, “Why?”
From Dapitan to Fort Santiago, the Catholic Church had demanded from Dr. Rizal a retraction before allowing the canonical marriage with Bracken. Coates said, “The Spaniards publish the same thing about everyone who is shot. Besides, nobody has ever seen this written declaration in spite of the fact that a number of people would want to see it .. It is (always) in the hands of the Archbishop.”
Lopez said, “if there was no marriage, there could have not been a retraction, and Dr. Jose Rizal met his martyrdom “unconfessed.”
Lopez said at the Paco cemetery, the name of Dr. Jose Rizal was listed among those who died impenitent. The entry made in the book of burials at the cemetery where Rizal was buried was not made on the page for those buried on Dec. 30, 1896 (where there were as many as six entries), but on a special page, as ordered by the authorities. Thus, Dr. Jose Rizal was entered on a page between a man, who burned to death, and another, who died by suicide – persons considered “unconfessed” and without spiritual aid at the time of death.
Fathers March and Vilaclara, who accompanied Dr. Rizal to the execution site, could have ordered a Christian burial, but did not. They must have known that no retraction was made. Dr. Jose Rizal was laid to earth bare, without a sack, without a coffin. This was the onus of the “unconfessed.”
LAST FAREWELL NO MENTION OF RETRACTION OR MARRIAGE
When Rizal wrote a short and final note to his parents dated Dec. 30, 1896 at 6 a.m., there was no mention of intended retraction and/or marriage.
The Rizal family was informed by the church that between nine to 11 days after the execution, a mass for the deceased would be said, after which the letter of retraction would be shown to the family. Though the family was in attendance, the mass was never celebrated and no letter of retraction was shown. The family was told that the letter had been sent to the Archbishop’s palace, and that the family would not be able to see it.
There was an apparent “discovery” of an obviously forged autobiography of Josephine Bracken, claiming marriage to Dr. Jose Rizal, showing a handwriting that bore no resemblance to Bracken’s. It had glaring errors in syntax, showing author’s primary language was Spanish, not Josephine’s mother tongue of English, thus proving that the document was manufactured and disingenuous.
There was also a confession in August 1901 of master forger Roman Roque earlier that year that he was employed by the friars to make several copies of a retraction letter.
In 1962, authors Ildefonso T. Runes and Mamerto M. Buenafe in their book, Forgery of the Rizal Retraction and Josephine’s Autobiography, made an exposes of six different articles and books purportedly Rizal’s “document of retraction” as copied from the original testament of retraction. But nobody has seen such original. These six different presentations bore differing dates and notes that had been doctored, traced-over, and altered although purportedly coming from the “original” document.
Saying that Dr. Rizal never made recantation of his writings and beliefs, Dr. Lopez urged the Pope “to let the document of retraction be examined by a panel of the world’s experts in hand-writing, and let a pronouncement be made. Let this hidden document come to the eyes of the public for they have the greatest of rights to see, and to judge, and to know what is truthful.”
Dr. Lopez said, “When this comes to pass, in this 21st century, in this age of an “evidence-based” society that demands transparency and full-disclosure, it can be stated that with the now enlightened and reformed Catholicism, and in the spirit of Vatican II, if Pope John Paul II can apologize to the Jewish people for the millennia of misdeeds by the Church, and if Pope Benedict XVI can, in Australia at the 2008 World Youth Congress, apologize to the victims of pedophilia and other ecclesiastical sexual abuses, then, it should not be beyond the Catholic Church NOW to admit the pious fraud it had committed in saying that Dr. Jose Rizal had abjured his writings and beliefs, when all evidences point to the fact that he did not!”
Dr. Lopez is a great grandnephew of Rizal thru the Paciano and Narcisa branches of the Rizal family tree. His father, Edmundo Rizal Lopez, grandson of General Paciano, and Severina Decena, and of Narcisa Rizal and Antonino Lopez. Two separate branches of Rizal tree bore his father’s parents – Emiliana Rizal from General Paciano, and Antonio Lopez from Narcisa Rizal. His father’s parents were first cousins. He is the fifth generation Rizal kin.
Dr. Lopez was interviewed by this reporter together with Marlon L. Pecson during the 20th Gintong Pamana Awards Night Gala last Nov. 15, 2014 at Hyatt Regency Hotel O’Hare at Rosemont, Illinois. As president of Philippine Medical Association in Chicago, Dr. Lopez will also lead a medical mission to Tacloban on Jan. 21-23 and in Calamba, Jan. 27; Bae, Jan. 28; and Jan. 29, Los Banos, all in Laguna. On Feb. 1-3, he will take a non-medical mission to retrace the footsteps of Rizal in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte, where Rizal was exiled and had educated the people in the community.