By Leslie Ann Aquino
The increasing number of priests being killed in the country has alarmed members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
“I am deeply sad and bothered because we may note that Fr. (Richmond) Nilo is the third priest to be killed in these recent months…Let us pray for Fr. Nilo, let us pray for Bishop (Sofronio) Bancud and the clergy, religious and people of the Diocese of Cabanatuan,” Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, CBCP president, told Church-run Radyo Veritas.
He appealed to police authorities to give justice to the priest.
“I would really appeal, really appeal to our authorities especially the police to do their best to investigate and bring the perpetrator/s of this crime to justice. That’s at least, the least among the things that we can do. We can do a number of things but… it is a very important thing to restore our confidence that in this crime like this, justice will be done,” said Valles.
Bishop Bancud, meantime, condemned the killing of one of his priests.
“We condemned in the strongest possible terms and deeply mourn the brutal murder of Fr. Nilo, and the escalating violence and culture of impunity in the country even against helpless clergymen,” he said in a statement.
To kill a priest for whatever motive or cause, Bancud said is not only “unchristian” and “inhuman” but also “un-Filipino.”
“We demand for justice, for thorough and impartial investigation of the case and for its swift resolution, as we likewise appeal to those who might have material knowledge on this matter to please cooperate with police authorities,” said Bancud.
Although alarmed by the number of priests being killed, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said this will not stop the Church from speaking the truth and proclaiming the Gospel.
“St. Paul was behind bars and was chained but continued his proclamation of the good news,” he said in an interview.
Unidentified suspects shot dead Fr. Nilo of the Diocese of Cabanatuan at around 5 p.m., Sunday while he was about to celebrate Mass in the chapel of Brgy. Mayamot, Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija.
The murder of Fr. Nilo marks the third killing of a priest in the country in six months, following the killing of Fr. Mark Ventura in Gattaran, Cagayan on April 29 and Fr. Marcelito Paez in Jaen, Nueva Ecija on December 4.
Last June 6, Fr. Rey Urmeneta of the St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Calamba was wounded after being shot by unidentified suspects.