CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 12 January 2019

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Fight injustice nun says as she leaves Philippines

MANILA (UCAN): “Pope Francis said you can’t call yourself a Christian if there are massive human rights violations and you are just silent,” Australian Sister Patricia Fox, of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, said as was finally compelled to leave the Philippines on the evening of November 3, after the Bureau of Immigration refused to extend her missionary visa.
 
The 72-year-old apparently angered Duterte when she joined a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights abuses in the southern Philippines. The president accused her of joining partisan political activities.
 
She was arrested in April on charges of violating her missionary visa’s terms against joining political activities and in October, Philippine immigration officials refused to extend her temporary visitor’s visa and ordered her to leave the country by November 3.
 
Sister Fox challenged the country’s Church leaders to take a stand against injustice.
 
“Words are not enough,” she said, adding, “Where the oppressed are, Church people should be there.” 
 
She said they “should act, make noise” against human rights abuses in the Philippines.
 
“All sectors, the Church, everybody, need to now come out together and say this is what we want for our society, this is what we want for our world,” she said.
 
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, said the non-renewal of Sister Fox’s missionary visa was part of the government’s “bias against the Church” and the “people perceived to be against the policies” of the Duterte administration.
 
“This is not the end of your story, be strong,” the bishop said in his message to the nun. 
 
“We know that God works with us, that’s why there will be more surprises. Just keep on and be courageous,” he added.
 
In a statement, Church leaders in the Philippines said Sister Fox’s departure was a “blow to the missionary spirit of the Church.”
 
“The faith she proclaims is not detrimental to the life of Filipinos,” Father Jerome Secillano, executive director of the media affairs office  of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said.
 
“In fact, it is a source of hope and consolation to our suffering countrymen,” he added.
The ecumenical group, Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response, said Sister Fox would be missed by the many who have benefited from her ministry.
 
“Even Church people will feel her absence, or at least her distance, as we continue to work in poor communities,” the group’s statement read.
 
The group noted that Sister Fox, spent 27 years working in poor communities in the Philippines, “has inspired us to dare to live out the missionary imperative of immersing ourselves in the struggles of the poor and of journeying with them.”
 
Before her departure, Sister Fox spoke to a gathering of supporters and urged the Philippine president to “listen to the poor, not just the military.”
 
She said, “Listen to the urban poor, farmers, workers, indigenous people. Listen to them, and act on their behalf, not just the wealthy.” 
 
Upon her arrival in Melbourne, Australia, on November 4, Sister Fox said, “human rights abuses are just increasing” in the Philippines.
 
She described the administration of Duterte as “a reign of tyranny,” adding that “there has been a culture of impunity for a long time and it is getting worse.”
 
Duterte’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, insisted in a statement that Sister Fox’s “good deeds” in the country “cannot exempt her from the punishment imposed by law as a consequence of her wrongdoing.”
 
Panelo said, “Dura lex sed lex. The law may be harsh but it is the law and obedience thereto excuses no one from compliance therewith.” 
 
CathNews reported that, upon arriving in Melbourne, Sister Fox vowed to continue her work for some of the Philippines’s most vulnerable people, including its rural poor and she said she would like to see the Australian government applying more pressure on Duterte over human rights.
 
She also called for the Australian government to take action against Australian resource companies whose projects were displacing tribal people.
 
“There will come a time I will return (to the Philippines),” Sister Fox said, adding that she will always be a religious missionary while Duterte will only have three more years or less in office.

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