MANILA, Oct. 18, 2011— The brutal death of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio, who was gunned down yesterday in Southern Philippines, has torn apart his close family members in Italy.

The priest’s elder brother, Felix, said they are “shocked and dismayed” over what happened to Fr. Tentorio who spent most of his life serving the people in the Diocese of Kidapawan, in North Cotabato.

“The last time my brother came to Italy, a year and a half ago, he told us that the situation in Kidapawan was not tense at all, that there was nothing to fear,” he said in an article posted at the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) news website.

“And now this news… We always advised him to be cautious, be careful,” he lamented.

The family of Fr. Tentorio in Santa Maria de Robagnate, in Lecco province received the news of his death directly from the Philippines last night. They also received the visit of the PIME superior in Milan.

The missionary from the Vatican-based PIME, and who had been in North Cotabato for more than three decades, was shot dead on Monday by a lone gunman for still unknown reason.

Fr. Tentorio, 59, was the parish priest of the Our Lady of Perpetual Church in Arakan Valley and headed the Kidapawan diocese’s Ministry on Indigenous Peoples (IPs).

He was also known as human rights and staunch anti-mining advocate in the province.

In 2003, according to the PIME, Fr. Tentorio had narrowly escaped being executed, on one of his visits to tribals of Kitaotao, Bukidnon province, portions of which are part of the parish of Arakan.

Since then the “situation had calmed down and there were no major signs of tension,” it said.

Fr. Tentorio’s nephew, Simone, 27, a bank clerk, visited his uncle in North Cotabato last January.

“He was very peaceful and serene, even if he was prudent. When we passed areas that he did not know, he locked the car and closed the windows,” he said. “But there seemed to be no problems. I even walked to visit the place and the house where he had escaped execution in 2003.”

He also described his uncle as a man of simplicity and humility, adding that “he was a person who wanted to live exactly like the local people and he was loved because of this.”

Local police are investigating the incident but so far, there appears to be no apparent motive for the murder of the missionary. [CBCPNews]