MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Martyrdom is “not a remote possibility” for Catholics in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao where a priest and several church staff members were abducted by gunmen last month, a Jesuit priest said.

“I hope the hostages will stand for their faith,” said Jesuit Father Tim Ofracio, who is helping advance the cause for martyrdom of Jesuit Father Francesco Palliola, ucanews.com reported. Born in Naples, Italy, Father Palliola was killed in Mindanao in the southern Philippines in 1648.

Father Palliola and Father Teresito Soganub, who was kidnapped by terrorist gunmen with several Catholics in Marawi May 23, “are witnesses to their faith,” he said.

Sporadic clashes continued June 9 as Philippine security forces hunted terrorist gunmen who earlier tried to occupy the southern Philippine city.

“The value of witnessing cuts across generations,” Father Ofracio said. “These are values that raise the dignity of the human person.”

He said there is a demand for a “new kind of martyrdom” today, “like dying to yourself and living for others.”

The fate of Father Soganub remained uncertain after a Philippine military official said that the priest probably was alive almost three weeks after his abduction.

Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, head of a Philippine army division in Mindanao, told the local online news site MindaNews that peace emissaries were certain the priest remained alive.

Father Soganub was last seen on a video posted on social media May 30 when he appealed to the government to stop the offensive against his abductors.

Bishop Severo Caermare of Dipolog announced June 9 that the diocesan process for the cause of martyrdom of Father Palliola, who has been named a servant of God by the church, is about to close and move to Rome for review.

If the Vatican approves the priest’s cause, he would be on track to be the first saint from Mindanao and the first martyr to have worked and died in the Philippines.

Born into nobility in Italy May 10, 1612, Father Palliola joined a Jesuit expedition to the Philippines.

Bishop Caermare said the priest might have been Neapolitan, “but his love for God, his great passion for mission and caring for the people made him truly Mindanaoan.”

The Vatican earlier posed no objection to the beatification process of Father Palliola, who established Christian settlements in the western part of Mindanao among the Subanon tribe.

A Subanon tribal leader killed Father Palliola in the coastal village of Ponot in Zamboanga del Norte province Jan. 29, 1648.

Although he died 369 years ago, the Jesuit priest is remembered in the oral history of the tribe as a “loving and protective father.”