Manila (Agenzia Fides) - Strong condemnation for "the increase of violence and the culture of impunity in the country against the helpless clergy": this is how the Bishops of the Philippines stigmatized the killing of Fr. Richmond Nilo, 44, who died on 10 June as he was preparing to celebrate evening mass in the chapel of "Nuestra Senora de las Nieve", in the village of Mayamot, part of the Diocese of Cabanatuan, in the North of the Philippines. "No priest and no human being must be killed with such brutality, lack of respect and impunity. Every priest, even with his human frailties, is a gift from God to his Church and ambassador of Christ", underlined, expressing sorrow and condemnation, Bishop Sofronio Bancud, who guides the faithful of Cabanatuan, in a statement sent to Fides. "Killing a priest is not only non-Christian and inhumane, it is also anti-Filipino", which is a serious act against the nation, he said.
Fr. Nilo, parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer in Nueva Ecija, in the north of the archipelago, was killed by two armed assassins inside the chapel of the village of Mayamot in the city of Zaragosa. "We demand justice, a thorough and impartial investigation of the case and its rapid resolution", says a statement from the diocese.
Many have raised their voices in the Filipino Church: The Bishop of Cubao, Honesto Ongtioco, said that "the killing of priests in the country will not stop the Church in telling the truth and proclaiming the Gospel".
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, at the head of the diocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, invited the faithful to observe a special "Day of reparation", with masses, processions and prayer vigils, on 18 June, to pray for the victims and for the conversion of the guilty, peacefully expressing the rejection of all forms of violence. The Archbishop invited the people of God, especially the laity to "work for social and political change, according to the values of the social doctrine of the Church". "We ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit on our rulers, so that respect for life and human dignity is restored", said Mgr. Villegas.
Fr Nilo, recalled Archbishop Romulo Valles, President of the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines, is the third priest to be killed in six months. The other two priests are: Fr. Mark Ventura, 37, killed on April 29 in the province of Cagayan; and Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, killed on 5 December 2017 in Jaen twon, Nueva Ecija province. The police have announced that they have formed a special investigative "task force" to shed light on the murder of the priests. The Filipino Church has rejected the proposal to equip priests, ecclesiastical personnel and pastoral agents with weapons for legitimate defense. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 13/6/2018)