Redemptorist priest Amado Picardo

TACLOBAN CITY– Beloved Filipino Redemptorist priest Amado Picardo, who was known for his anti-corruption and anti-rights abuses initiatives in the country, passed away, his religious order announced on May 29. He was 69.

Picardal’s passing was announced by Father Edilberto Cepe, the provincial superior of the Redemptorist Province of Cebu.

“Fr. Picx was a brilliant and courageous missionary. He was a passionate advocate of peace and social justice and a professor of theology who has touched and transformed the lives of many. May the light and joy that he left this world radiate through us as we continue to become beacons of truth and social transformation,” Cepe wrote on their official Facebook page.

Picardal, who lived a hermit life following his retirement, died on the same day he was celebrating his 47th anniversary of his “religious profession of the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience as a Redemptorist.”

He was found lifeless near the retreat house garden, just a few steps away from his hermitage in the mountain of Busay, overlooking the Cebu City metropolis at around 1 pm of May 29.

AI-aficionado, digital spiritual guru

Days before his death, Picardal expressed his newfound joy and enthusiasm in experimenting with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the church ministry.

He even took time to share AI-generated Gospel reflections in his study of the Bible on social media, and urged the public and other Church workers to try AI.

In the last interview with this writer on May 15, Picardal, who was the former executive secretary of Basic Ecclesial Communities under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, urged the faithful to “learn to enjoy the benefits it brings but also be aware of the risks and dangers it brings.”

“AI can help the priest or deacon in preparing his homily. AI chatbot can come up with commentaries and reflections on the readings of the Mass. It can also suggest ideas or themes that may focus on,” Picardal suggested in his May 16 post online.

Despite his old age, Picardal continued to write spiritual and Gospel-related works for his personal blogsite and the CBCP bi-monthly news publication called The Monitor, along with entertaining media interviews online.

Tributes, social contributions

New-York based Human Rights Watch was generous in recollecting the contributions of Picardal in promoting human rights in the Philippines since the Martial Law period of the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr., up to the “bloody drug war” of then firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Picardal helped activists, labor leaders, Indigenous peoples, and other victims of rights abuses for decades. During the Ferdinand Marcos Sr. dictatorship, he was arrested, jailed, and tortured for his work. Aside from being a prolific writer, blogger, columnist, and poet (he posted a poem online hours before his death), Picardal also walked, ran, and biked across the Philippines and Europe to bring attention to human rights,” wrote former Filipino journalist and now HRW senior researcher Carlos Conde on May 30.

CBCP’s Episcopal Commission of Basic Ecclesial Communities also expressed sadness over Picardal’s passing.

“We remember him not only for his leadership but also for his unwavering faith and passion for social justice. May his spirit continue to inspire us to build a more just and loving world,” the commission said in a statement.

Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar also recalled the life and works of Picardal in a special tribute for his beloved Redemptorist missionary brother.

“Clearly, he took his missionary vocation very seriously. He lived up to the challenges of a highly committed Redemptorist, ready to take on any tasks no matter how difficult. In his spare time, he wrote poetry and shared these with me,” Gaspar wrote in his tribute article on May 29 for Mindanews publication.

Early life

Father Amado Picardal, or popularly known as Fr. Picx, was born on October 6,1954 in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte.

In August 1989, Picardal began his higher studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. He joined the Pax Christi – a Catholic Peace movement – in 1990.

In 1991, after he got his licentiate in theology, Picardal went to Rome to finish his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

From May 1995 to March 2011, Picardal returned to Davao, as professor and dean of academic studies at the St. Alphonsus’ Theologate (later renamed St. Alphonsus’ Theological & Mission Institute).

In 2000, he rode his bicycle for peace advocacy across the country (from Davao to Ilocos Norte) covering 2,083 km.