By Leslie Ann Aquino
We are not afraid.
Thus declared the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan led by Archbishop Socrates Villegas and his clergy in a pastoral message released following the killing of another priest in Nueva Ecija.
Father Richmond Nilo of the Diocese of Cabanatuan was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Sunday. He is the third priest killed in the country in the span of six months.
“They are killing our flock. They are killing us the shepherds. They are killing our faith. They are cursing our Church. They are killing God again as they did in Calvary,” read the message dated June 12.
But Villegas and his clergy said they are not afraid because they trust in the Lord..
“We are ready to battle for God’s honor. They want to bury us priests. But they forget that we priests are seeds. When you bury us, we will grow more and flourish. You cannot stop the Gospel from growing. You cannot stop God from being God. You cannot muzzle the voice of Truth,” the message read.
The prelate and his clergy lamented how the nation has turned into a “killing field” with killings happening in the streets, homes and even chapels.
“They kill everywhere. They are happy to kill. But we are not a nation of killers,” the message read.
“Are you still clapping? Are you still laughing? You still find it funny? You still think “Dapat lang”? Are you still saying “Pagbigyan natin”? Are you still saying our people feel safer now? Are you still saying this is the best government we ever had? Is this the change you want? Are these the changes you dream of? Are you still saying “There are some good things happening! Focus on the good?” it further read.
They said they won’t be surprised if they are cursed again for speaking up.
Amid all the killings, the church leaders asked these to the faithful: Are you afraid to talk? You think silence is a virtue? You think we your shepherds should sow unity by being like the monkeys who see and speak and hear no evil? You think we can be the next target if we speak? Do you still care? Where is your faith? You talk in whispers. You are afraid to be heard? Have we become numb and dumb?
With what has been happening, the archdiocese will observe a Day of Reparation on June 18, the ninth day of the death of Father Nilo.
On the said day, Masses in the archdiocese will be offered as reparation for the sins of blasphemy against God, the sins of sacrilege and calumny hurled against our priests and bishops; the murders that continue without relent.
Parish priests were asked to expose the Blessed Sacrament for one hour for the parishioners to adore and make reparation and also hear confessions.
All parish church bells will toll for fifteen minutes at six o’ clock in the evening on June 18th to commemorate the time when Father Richmond Nilo was killed.
The image of the Santo Entierro or the Black Nazarene will be brought out in procession in the evening of June 18th to close the Day of Reparation.
In their message which will be read in the pulpit in Masses on June 17, Archbishop Villegas and his priests also called on their fellow priests from the other dioceses and religious congregations to join them in the observance if their bishops and religious superiors agree.
“Let us implore the grace of God to touch the heart of the President of the Philippines to stop the verbal persecution of the Catholic Church because such attacks can unwittingly embolden more crimes against priests,” they said.
They stressed that killing is a sin and it is wrong.
“This is not Filipino. This is not Christian. This is not how our parents taught us. The earth, soiled by the blood of Father Mark Ventura, Father Tito Paez and Father Richmond Nilo, is crying,” read the message.
“The bloodied soil is crying to heaven for justice. God’s justice be upon those who kill the Lord’s anointed ones. There is a special place in hell for killers. There is a worse place for those who kill priests” it further read.
The pastoral message to the people of God by the clergy of the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan was also signed by Bishop Elect of Bayombong Elmer Mangalinao.