DETAINED Sen. Leila de Lima on Saturday asked Manila Archbishop Luis Cardinal Tagle why he “fell silent” on the killings of three priests within six months.
Among the priests who were recently gunned down by unidentified assailants who fled on motorcycles include Fr. Richmond Nilo on June 10, 2018, Fr. Mark Ventura on April 28, 2018 and Fr. Marcelito Paez on December 4, 2017.
Fr. Rey Urmenta, a former Philippine National Police chaplain, was severely wounded but survived an ambush in Calamba City, Laguna, on June 6.
Church leaders, according to de Lima, should take immediate action and exert concerted efforts in condemning the spate of killings of priests.
“Where are the words of wisdom from the highest ranking official (Tagle) of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines?” she said.
The senator added that the Church “could not have chosen the worst time to become silent and passive.”
She said, “Why is the Church so silent that it seems they have turned their backs, not just [on]their mission, their people, but also [on]their own—the priests who have died protecting and guiding their flock?”
“For a predominantly Catholic country, there seems to be a growing sentiment among the people I have spoken to that the Roman Catholic Church is slowly allowing itself to fall into irrelevancy,” de Lima added.
“Save for a few bishops, priests and nuns, where are the Church leaders who ought to be the first to stand [up]and give an answer?” she said.
“Why are they silent in the face of those who speak maliciously of God, and the call for good behavior?” the senator added.
She noted that in other denominations, “when they deem their ranks and their beliefs are under attack, the leadership makes their voices heard, and defends their Church, their own, their followers and, most important, their faith.”
“But these days, it seems that the Church, as an organization, has fallen silent,” the opposition senator said.
She wondered why Tagle has no “words that defend against blasphemous words that take the name of God for granted?”
“Words that defend those who defend the faith and its people. Words that are not just meant to guide the Filipino people toward a stronger faith, and away from morally ruinous mentalities and actions, but to condemn recent events that seem to make religious leaders fair game for killing sprees,” de Lima said.
“Our people are dying. Priests who defend the people are dying. The President, instead of promising to bring justice to those who are slaughtering his people, is vilifying the victims,” she added.
De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center since February 24, 2017 on drug charges.