Bishops have become ‘martyrs’ in social media—Villegas
Catholic bishops in the country have become “martyrs” in social media and easy target of trolls amid their continued criticisms of certain government policies, said Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
In his Easter message that alluded to rabid online supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte, Villegas slammed social media trolls who propagate fake news, and lamented that churchmen have become “punching bag of public officials to the glee of own parishioners.”
“In the Philippines, we are Catholics. We do not kill bishops and priests in the Philippines. We bash bishops. We allow our idols to curse the Pope. We make fake news about one another. We remain safely anonymous in hidden Facebook and Twitter accounts. We earn our living by working as social media trolls. This is better than drugs and stealing, isn’t it?” Villegas said in his message, delivered at St. John Cathedral in Dagupan.
“We bishops have become martyrs in social media. We are killed a thousand times; our trolls are in the thousands. When we speak they want us muted. When we oppose they want us maimed. When we stand for life, they want us dead. What has happened to us?” he added.
Villegas, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said he was worried that Filipinos had become “uncaring for one another” and “proud to be critical without rhyme or reason.”
“We walk not forward but backwards becoming day by day an angry society. I thank God that my parents did not live long enough to see these days when their bishop son is ridiculed and rebuked and his priests are ignored and suspected. Churchmen are called the worst hypocrites and if my mother heard such, I am sure she would cry in pain,” he said.
“The Church is ridiculed and her churchmen are rebuked. Christ’s teachings are relentlessly challenged. Human life is cheaper than a gun. God’s mercy is disdained and scorned,” Villegas added.
Amid what he called clear signs of persecution, Villegas urged priests to stand for Church morals and teachings on the dignity of life and family.
“If this should happen: Stand up and take courage. Go to jail for the sake of the Gospel. Be ready to be killed for the sake of our faith. The Church will not die when Christ’s believers are killed. The Catholic faith will bloom, grow and glow. What we cannot do in life as Catholics, we will be able to do when they kill us and make us martyrs. First they will kill our name. Then they will destroy our beliefs. Then they will kill our body. But no one can stop our hearts from beating only for God,” he said.
“Do not let evil intimidate you. Do not let their threats silence the priests and bishops. This is not the time for cowards. This is the ripe season for martyrs. This is a moment of glory,” the archbishop added.
Philippine Catholic church leaders have voiced out strong opposition to some of the Duterte administration’s policies, including the brutal war on drugs and moves to revive death penalty in the country. JE/rga
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