Bishops oppose arming priests
Turn the other cheek just like what Jesus did.
The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) made this stand amid proposals to arm priests in the wake of recent attacks on clergymen that have left three of them dead and one injured.
Priests are supposed to be men of peace, not violence, said Archbishop Romulo Valles, CBCP president, who “strongly” opposes the arming of priests.
“We are men of God, men of the Church and it is part of our ministry to face dangers, to face deaths if one may say it that way. But we would do it just what Jesus did,” Valles said in a post on CBCPNews, the official news site of the CBCP.
In a statement on Saturday, the Philippine National Police spokesperson noted the CBCP opposition to the idea but said all Filipinos, including priests, had the right to legally own guns.
Like every citizen, any priest may apply for a license to own a firearm or for a permit to a carry a firearm outside of his residence, said Senior Supt. Benigno Durana.
Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Florencio, apostolic administrator of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, said he could think of several scenarios in which arming priests could have negative consequences.
“It will create more chaos, it will not solve anything,” Florencio said in the same CBCPNews post.
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP public affairs committee, said in a statement that the Church was clear on the matter—priests are not supposed to be armed.
“It is inappropriate and unbecoming. Priests are preachers of the Word and not gun-toting law enforcers. They are peacemakers and not enablers of violence,” Secillano said.
“But what if priests decide to arm themselves, especially in view of the killings of their kind? This is an exception rather than the rule. The Church does not approve of it,” he added.
Priests who carry guns, Secillano said, would have to respect the decision of their bishops on whether to sanction them.
“Priests are not directly under the jurisdiction of the CBCP. They belong to a diocese, which is a juridically independent territory headed by a bishop. The bishop, in his wise and prudent judgment, is juridically responsible what to do with his priests,” he said.
Suffering part of calling
Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said he was also against arming priests.
“I will not allow it in my diocese. Sacrifices and sufferings are part and parcel of being priests. It is our calling, that is, to carry the cross and even to be crucified on the cross,” Santos said.
He stressed that Jesus was the Lord and Master. “He calls us priests and we choose to follow Him. And we commit ourselves to Him and follow Him. We should never be afraid because He is with us.”
Fr. Richmond Nilo, 44, was shot and killed inside a chapel in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija province, on June 10 while he was preparing to say Mass.
The attack occurred four days after Fr. Rey Urmeneta, 64, a former police chaplain, was shot and wounded in Calamba City, Laguna province.
In April, 37-year-old Fr. Mark Ventura, known for his antimining advocacy, was gunned down after celebrating Mass in Cagayan province.
In December last year, 72-year-old Fr. Marcelito Paez was shot dead in Jaen town, Nueva Ecija, after facilitating the release of a political prisoner. —REPORTS FROM TINA G. SANTOS AND JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE
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