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Philippine Church leaders denounce killing of priests

MANILA (UCAN): Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, archbishop of Manila, said “freedom is fake” because people are “toying around with justice” amid the spate of killings in the country as Church leaders in the Philippines railed against the attacks and killings of members of the clergy in recent months.
“We repeat: It is against the will of God to destroy life. Killing is not a solution to personal and societal problems,” said the cardinal in his Philiippine Independence Day message on June 12.
The Philippines marked its 120th Independence Day two days after assassins shot and killed Father Richmond Villaflor Nilo at Nuestra Senora dela Nieve chapel in the barangay of Mayamot, Zaragoza, in Nueva Ecija. 
Cardinal Tagle appealed to Filipinos to “seek God’s forgiveness for our sins against life.”
To honour the memory and pray for those who died, the cardinal ordered church bells to be rung at eight o’clock every evening.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, condemned the killing of Father Nilo, which the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines earlier denounced as “outrageously evil.”
The archbishop said in statement: “They are killing our flock. They are killing us shepherds. They are killing our faith. They are cursing our Church. They are killing God again as they did in Calvary,”
He called on the president, Rodrigo Duterte, “to stop the verbal persecution of the Catholic Church because such attacks can wittingly embolden more crimes against priests.”
Church leaders declared June 18, the ninth day following the death of Father Nilo, as a Day of Reparation with Masses to be offered “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.”
Church bells in Lingayen-Dagupan are to ring for 15 minutes at six o’clock in the evening of June 18 to mark the time Father Nilo was killed. The image of the dead Christ or the Black Nazarene will also be brought out in procession in parishes.
“We are not afraid. We trust in the Lord. We are ready to battle for God’s honour,” read a statement from the clergy of Lingayen-Dagupan.
“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,” they added.
“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,” the statement read.
The presidential palace has ordered the Philippine National Police to prioritise the investigation into the killing of Father Nilo who was the third priest and the second in Nueva Ecija province to be killed in the past three months.
Father Mark Ventura was gunned down after celebrating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan province, in April while Father Marcelito Paez, was killed a few hours after assisting the release of a political prisoner in Jaen town, also in Nueva Ecija, in December 2017.
Father Rey Urmeneta, a one time chaplain to the Philippine National Police from the parish of St. Michael the Archangel Calamba, Laguna, was also assaulted by two gunmen on June 6, but fortunately survived.
The attacks come amid the spate of executions of thousands of suspected drug dealers and users in the country since 2016.
Catholic priests and bishops were among the most vocal critics of the of the so-called war on drugs that has already claimed up to 23,000 lives in the past two years.

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