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Pray for Philippine drug war victims pope asked

MANILA (UCAN): Philippine senator, Bam Aquino, asked Pope Francis to pray for the he country, especially for poor Filipinos who suffer the brunt of drug-related killings. The legislator met with the pope on the sidelines of the 9th annual meeting of the International Catholic Legislators Network, held from August 23 to 26, in Rome.
“Holy Father, I have some letters from our religious leaders in the Philippines. Our country needs your prayers,” Aquino told the pope during a private audience at the Vatican.
The opposition senator said one of the letters asked the pope to pray that the violence in the Philippines comes to an end. He also asked the pontiff to pray for the welfare of widows and orphans of those killed in the government’s war on drugs, which has reportedly claimed about 23,000 lives.
A statement released by Aquino’s office on August 23 noted that Pope Francis “smiled back” at the senator, took the letters and blessed Aquino and the rosary that he was holding.
Philippine authorities claim that nearly 1.3 million drug users and street peddlers have surrendered in the two-year campaign, including 215,000 who have undergone rehabilitation. Police have promised to overhaul the anti-drug campaign several times, but human rights groups say there has been little noticeable change.
In August, the president, Rodrigo Duterte promised no let up in the bloody campaign. National police chief, Oscar Albayalde, said the “reinvigorated anti-illegal drugs and anti-criminality campaign (will be) surgical and chilling.”
Prosecutors of the International Criminal Court have launched an assessment of whether “crimes against humanity” might have been committed by the Duterte administration.
However, Philippine police have rejected accusations by rights groups that suspected drug users and dealers were being systematically executed.
In his message to Catholic and Christian legislators, Pope Francis said Christian politicians should use humility and courage to bear witness to their faith.
Aquino said the pope’s message encourages Catholics “to stand up for God and for fellow Filipinos against all odds and with all humility and courage.”
A known critic of Duterte’s drug war, he said, “If you really have faith, then you should not be afraid to stand for God and for our countrymen.”

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