Protecting our priests

Protecting our priests

Dateline: Los Angeles, California: In a span of 7 months, three priests were violently gunned down, dead on the spot. Rev. Fr. Tito Paez, a human rights advocate, was shot by the riding in tandem after he facilitated the release of a detained political prisoner. Rev. Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura, an advocate for environmental protection, and Rev. Fr. Richmond Nilo, a protector of rape victims and defender of the faith, were gunned down while inside the chapel, still wearing their religious vestments, and after presiding in the Mass and about to preside in another Mass.

It is very ironic that the brutal killing of these priests happened during the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons, the theme in the 6th of the 9 years Novena of the Philippine Catholic Church in commemoration of the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021.

The slaughter of the 3 priests, yes I consider it as slaughter, because they were killed shamelessly in front of many people. Worst, Fr. Richmond was brutally killed inside a Chapel, a place for religious worship. Under the Revised Penal Code, a crime committed inside a place of worship is an aggravating circumstance, that is, the penalty is increased a degree higher.

Whoever hired the killers of these 3 priests might be thinking that the best way to destroy a religion is to attack a priest, to kill a priest. According to St. John Marie Vianney, the patron saint of the priests: “The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home.” When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.”

In his talk before the seminarians, Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David was asked: “Can you please give a word of advice to seminarians who are losing heart and are feeling discouraged from pursuing their vocation because of the recent victims of killings, who are priests?” Bishop Ambo answered: If the death of Fr. Paez, Fr. Ventura and Fr. Richmond “causes you discouragement instead of inspiration, then I advise you to forget about the priesthood and just leave the seminary as soon as you can. The priesthood is not for cowards; it is not for the fainthearted. Jesus would probably say to you if you complain about times of persecution or adversity, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.”

The Bishop further stated: “Fr. Paez, Fr. Ventura and Fr. Nilo were not “victims”. Victims are those who have no choice about their fate; it was merely imposed on them. No, these priests made a choice; they opted to be “martyrs”, meaning witnesses, from the start. They chose this path, the road less traveled by. They responded freely to the invitation to choose the path of Jesus, knowing full well that it could cost their lives. This is what “martyrdom” is about. It is not about dying for a cause; it is about living out that cause, no matter if it could mean suffering and death. From the moment they chose the path of Christ, they already chose the path of suffering and death. So how can you call them “victims”?

Little did the killers know that killing a priest strengthens the faith in God of the faithful. The more reason that we pray to our Lord Almighty to fortify our priests, to reinforce the faithful to stand firm in their faith. To our clergy, we support you and we always pray for your safety, God’s protection and guidance. We, your flock, needs you.

Congratulations to the Diocese of Kalookan on its 15th Anniversary. On June 28, 2003, St. John Paul II issued the Papal Bull disjoining from the Archdiocese of Manila the Kalookan City-South and the Municipalities of Malabon and Navotas (now cities), establishing the new Diocese of Kalookan. The Papal Bull established the Parish Church of San Roque in Kalookan and elevated it to a Cathedral Church.
On August 22, 2003, Bishop Deogracias S. Iňiguez, Jr., D.D. was installed as the First Bishop of Kalookan. When Bishop Iňiguez retired in 2013, Pope Benedict appointed Bishop Francis de Leon of Antipolo as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese. On October 14, 2015, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Pablo Virgilio David as the Bishop of Kalookan.
After 15 years of existence, the Diocese of Kalookan has created a parish out of the quasi parish of Birhen ng Lujan. Two quasi parish were created in Navotas – Sta. Clara of Assisi in Dagat-Dagatan and Sto. Niňo de Passion in Daanghari. As means of bringing the Church to the peripheries of society and provide the needs of the faithful, eight mission stations were established – Tangos, Delos Remedios and Pitong Gatang Mission Stations in Navotas; Letre, Catmon and Tinajeros Mission Stations in Malabon; Salmon and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Mission Stations in Caloocan. More quasi parish and mission stations will be opened in the next 5 years. Spiritual Renewal Center is now being constructed in Malabon. Task Force Salubong, a rehabilitation program for drug dependents, had already 4 batches of graduates who were removed from the PNP drug list. The Heart’s Home which takes care of street children. There is also program for the health and hospitalization insurance the clergy, retirement plan and continuing formation, recollection and retreat of the clergy.