The Philippine bishops refuse to carry firearms
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has opposed a proposal by the national police chief Oscar Albayalde which would allow priests to carry arms in order to protect themselves. Albayalde, justified the proposal he made last week by stating that arming priests who are in continuous danger: “would help our work if they held arms to feel safe.”
For the last ten years violence has been increasing in the Philippines and many priests have been the victims of attack. In the last six months alone, four clerics were assaulted, and friction is growing between the government and the church.
According to news sources in the Philippines, many priests are willing to arm themselves as a precautionary measure. This is especially true, in the south of Manilla, where there have been several attacks against religious personnel.
The debate about arming the clergy has been going on for some years. The dispute started in 2013 when a law of parliament called the “comprehensive firearms and ammunition regulation act” listed the professions that were allowed to hold arms. On this list, we find lawyers, journalists, ministers of worship and priests.
The Philippine bishops are not content with this solution. They strongly condemned the proposal of the government. “We are the people of God, we are ecclesiastic people and facing danger or eventually being killed is part of our profession”- said Romula Valles, the bishop of Davao and the bishop of the Philippine episcopal conference.
Pablo Virgilio David, the bishop of Calookan is “deeply disappointed” by the attitude of some priests who supported the police and agreed to bear arms to protect themselves. However, the bishops are ready to help priests defend themselves. Rolando Rirona, the archbishop of Caceres offered to teach martial arts to priests as a purely defensive objective, instead of allowing them to carry arms. “It’s important to be able to protect yourself. However, the priests shouldn’t become superheroes like Superman, or Spiderman, and interfere in every little dangerous situation”.
Father Jérome Secillano the Secretary General of the Public Affairs Committee for the Episcopal Conference concluded: “The priests are artisans of the peace, not accomplices of violence”.
The bishops are not alone in this fight against the proposal of the government. The opposition parties, who disagree with the violent politics of Duterte, support the bishops. In the last two years, 23,000 people would have been assassinated by the government for drug trafficking. According to the opposition member Leila de Lima, holding a firearm goes against every religious vocation. “Instead of arming the priests, it would be better to disarm President Duterte,” he said.
At the same time, the parliament asked for an investigation into the assassination of priests. The results were surprising. The upsurge in violence against the clergy came after a speech of president Duterte in which he spoke out against the Catholic Church.
According to Senator Risa Hontiveros; “These assassinations strengthen the culture of impunity”.
The Catholic Church openly opposes the politics of the government of Duterte and the policies that makes the life of priests in the Philippines difficult.
Translator: Ungvári Ildikó
Source: La Croix