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Thousands walk for life

MANILA (UCAN):  People turned out in their thousands as they came out strongly against what they described as threats to life in rallies held in major cities across the Philippines on February 24. 
Among the issues raised were drug-related killings, a proposal in Congress to legalise divorce and changes to the constitution.
In Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle led priests, religious, and lay people in an early morning Walk for Life around the capital’s Rizal Park.
In his homily, the archbishop of Manila appealed to people to value life, even those of their enemies and society’s so-called outcasts.
“Let us bring back the belief that the lives of other people, even of our enemies, are a gift from God,” Cardinal Tagle said.
The relatives of those who have been killed in the government’s war against drugs joined the candle-lit procession, which started at the Quirino Grandstand, in which an estimated 2,000 people took part.
“Life is a gift from God. But when we start thinking of other people’s lives in terms of their usefulness to us, it becomes so easy for us to just do away and discard life,” Cardinal Tagle said.
The cardinal noted that it is “easy to walk for one’s loved ones, but quite difficult to do the same for one’s enemies.”
In the central Philippines, an estimated 5,000 people joined a Walk for Life with Mary led by Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu.
The archbishop said that Catholics support the government’s war against drugs but “question the manner it is done because of questionable motives and circumstances.”
He said, “No man has the right to (end) another’s life. God is the beginning and end of life. Let us protect life from womb to tomb.” 
Rights groups say that close to 12,000 suspected drug users and peddlers have been killed in the government’s campaign against narcotics.
“I hope all threats to life and the series of killings will stop because we are all brothers and sisters in Jesus and Mary,” said the archbishop of Cebu.
In Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma warned that the drug-related killings “will create more problems.”
He noted that, “While we are trying to solve one problem, we are creating another.” 
He added that the hope of the Church is “for the government to promote due process” in the campaign against illegal drugs.
The Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the bishops’ conference released a pastoral statement opposing proposals to legalise divorce.
The statement reminded the country’s legislators to protect the constitution which recognises marriage “as an inviolable social institution” that must be protected by the state.
The bishops noted that Filipino children deserve a home where love, faithfulness, and forgiveness reign.
“They don’t want to see their parents quit because there are difficulties in their relationship,” the statement read, adding that even in difficult marriages, “children have benefited psychologically, physically and spiritually.”
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, said people should rally to show the “disastrous effect” of divorce on communities.
“Divorce is a direct affront to the law ordained by God. The destruction of families by divorce is indeed a project of Satan, the enemy par excellence of God,” said the bishop.
“The Church is all for the protection of rights, especially of aggrieved parties in marriage,” Father Jerome Secillano of the bishops’ communications office said.
“But protection of rights should go hand in hand with upholding our cherished institutions like marriage,” added the priest.
He said that while divorce vindicates the rights of women, “it is unfortunately to the detriment of marriage and family as sacred institutions.”
The government thanked Church leaders for the peaceful marches, saying that the president, Rodrigo Duterte, “is open to constructive criticism.”
Presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, said, “He (Duterte) allows everyone, including protesters, to fully exercise their right to express their grievances within the bounds of the law.”
Roque said the Walk for Life is a “testament that democracy and freedom are very much alive in the Philippines.” 
The Philippines is the only Catholic country in the world, aside from the Vatican, where divorce is prohibited by law except for Muslims.

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