Have ‘courage’, Pope tells ‘killing field’ bishop

Have ‘courage’, Pope tells ‘killing field’ bishop

Pope Francis embraces Bishop Pablo Virgilio David during an ad limina visit at the Vatican May 20. VATICAN MEDIA

By Roy Lagarde

May 24, 2019

Manila, Philippines

Pope Francis encouraged Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan to face the challenges in his diocese with “courage”.

The pope met with the first of the three groups of bishops from the Philippines May 20 during the “ad limina” that prelates are required to make to the Vatican.

Seated around the pope, David and other bishops were allowed to address the pontiff freely without the aid of a microphone.

When David had his turn, he told the pope that he had no question and just wanted to ask for his prayers.

“I was surprised when he interrupted me in the middle of my sentence and said, ‘I want you to know that I know your situation; I know what you are going through. I am praying for you,’” David recalled.

“My eyes blurred with tears when he said that. I had to clear my throat to be able to go on speaking,” he said.

The Kalookan diocese is composed of the southern part of Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas covering some of the poorest communities in Metro Manila.

The bishop earlier said the cities in his diocese have been “turned into killing fields” in the government’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs trade that claimed thousands of lives.

A vocal critic of the drug war, David had earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte and accused him instead of involvement in illegal drugs.

In February, the prelate bared he has been receiving death threats.

On his way out after the audience with the pope, he said the pontiff held his arm and prayed over him.

“I want you to know I am with you as you face trials in your ministry in your diocese,” David quoted the pope as saying.

“Then he pulled me to himself to give me a warm paternal embrace, pressing his head against mine, and brushing his hand gently on my back as he whispered into my ears, ‘courage!’” he added.