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New Philippine bishop ready to face threats

MANILA (UCAN):  Bishop Fidelis Layog, the new auxiliary bishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, the northern Philippines, expressed his readiness to face threats after recent attacks against Church leaders in the country on May 8.
“Being threatened and attacked has always been the experience of the Catholic Church from the very beginning,” Bishop Layog said as he called on members of the clergy not to fear for their lives.
“The Church has faced persecutions in the past and even up to this time. Let us not fear, knowing that we are never alone. God is with us. God will prevail,” he proclaimed.
Several members of the clergy, who have been outspoken about human rights abuses in the Philippines, say they have received death threats in recent months.
Among them are Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, the diocese where most drug-related killings have occurred, and Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, a critic of the administration of the president, Rodrigo Duterte.
Authorities have offered to provide security for the bishops and members of the clergy, but this was declined.
In 2018, gunmen killed three Catholic priests. Father Mark Ventura was killed in the town of Gattaran in Cagayan province on April 29, four months after Father Marcelito Paez was killed in Nueva Ecija province. In June, Father Richmond Nilo was shot dead in the city of Cabanatuan.
However, Bishop Layog said the foundation of the Church “has been tested for a long time now and up to the present,” adding, “We must accept and face these challenges because it builds a stronger Church and a deeper faith. It leads us to a deeper relationship with God.” 
He said it is time for Church people “to show how strong we are in faith and how strong the foundation of our Church is.”
The 50-year-old Bishop Layog is the 30th bishop appointed by Pope Francis for the Philippines since 2013.
An estimated 2,000 people attended his ordination at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Dagupan City, Pangasinan.
In his homily, Archbishop Villegas reminded the new bishop that the episcopacy is not meant for enjoyment. “Use your powers only with love, for love,” he said.
On March 18, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Layog as auxiliary to Archbishop Villegas with the growing number of Catholics in the archdiocese. He previously served at Our Lady of Purification Parish in Binmaley, Pangasinan.
Bishop Layog studied philosophy at Mary Help of Christians College Seminary and theology at the Immaculate Conception School of Theology in Vigan City.
After his priestly ordination in 1996, he spent the first four years of his ministry as prefect of discipline at the Mary Help of Christians High School Seminary in Dagupan City.
In 2003, he obtained a degree in biblical theology from the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Rome.

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