By Leslie Ann Aquino
Seminarians who are losing heart and feeling discouraged in pursuing their vocation because of the recent killings of priests were advised by a Catholic prelate to forget about priesthood.
Caloocan Bishop Pablo David, the Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said this is because priesthood is no place for “cowards.”
“The priesthood is not for cowards; it is not for the fainthearted. Jesus would probably say to you if you complain about times of persecution or adversity, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden,” he said in a Facebook post.
“If a priest is murdered because he defends human rights, like Fr. Tito Paez, or he speaks out for environmental protection, like Fr Mark Ventura, or he protects victims of rape and defends the Catholic faith, like Fr Richmond Nilo, and his death causes you discouragement instead of inspiration, then I advise you to forget about the priesthood and just leave the seminary as soon as you can,” added David.
The three priests mentioned by the prelate were killed by unknown gunmen, the latest of which is Fr. Nilo, who was laid to rest in Cabanatuan Friday.
David said Fathers Paez, Ventura and Nilo should be viewed not as victims but rather as martyrs, who opted to choose the path of Jesus despite the dangers that come with it.
“Victims are those who have no choice about their fate; it was merely imposed on them,” he said.
“No, these priests made a choice; they opted to be ‘martyrs’, meaning witnesses, from the start. They chose this path, the road less traveled by,” David added.
Martyrdom, he said is not about dying for a cause, it is about living out that cause, no matter if it could mean suffering and death.
“From the moment they chose the path of Christ, they already chose the path of suffering and death,” David said.
Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said Nilo’s death is a great challenge to priests and laypeople.
“We must never waver in our resolve to serve our flock; we must persist in following the steps of Jesus Christ; we must forge on with courage in the battle against evil forces in our midst,” he said in a statement.
“With his death we call out to God, our Father, for greater mercy. Please shake the consciences of these evildoers and make them repent of their serious offense against Him and His ministers. We ask God to heal our land of people who harbor hatred in their hearts and who incite people with evil thoughts and words against our faith and belief,” Santos added.
He then appealed: Please stop killing priests. Please stop the killing.
Meanwhile, Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas wrote a letter for his fellow Karlista (alumnus of San Carlos Seminary), Fr. Nilo.
In his letter, the prelate expressed his desire to meet the killer of Nilo.
“I wish I can meet the one who gunned you down. I won’t hurt them. I just want to ask them: Why?…Im looking for an explanation,” said Villegas.
“The Karlistas don’t want revenge rather justice. But we don’t expect justice anymore from those in power. They might even create unfounded stories or rumors about you,” he added.
But, Villegas said God knows everything and with Him there is real truth and real justice.
Last Sunday, Nilo became the third priest killed in the country inside six months after the murder of Ventura in Gattaran, Cagayan on April 29; and Paez in Jaen, Nueva Ecija last December 4.
This is aside from the one involving Fr. Rey Urmeneta of the St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Calamba, Laguna, who was wounded after also being shot by still unidentified suspects last June 6.