Fr. Joel Jason speaks during the public veneration of St. John Paul II’s blood relic at the Manila Cathedral last May 19.

WITH THE recent killing of priests and persecution of the religious in the country, the Catholic faithful are being urged to emulate Pope St. John Paul II’s example as a man of dialogue, reconciliation and promoter of the dignity of life.

Thomasian seminarian Mark de la Peña, a devotee of St. John Paul II, said the persecution of the Philippine Church is an opportunity to reflect on how the Church can be a real witness to the people of God’s mercy and compassion.

He said the recent experiences of the Philippine Church were comparable to St. John Paul II’s life and victory over persecutions.

“Having experienced the invasion of the Nazis and the oppressive communist regime in Poland, St. John Paul II saw how human life has become cheap in the eyes of others,” he said in an interview with the Varsitarian.

In 1995, St. John Paul II released the papal encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” or “The Gospel of Life,” which rejected threats to the dignity of life such as murder, abortion, euthanasia and death penalty. St. John Paul II stressed that man possesses an inviolable dignity, being created in the image and likeness of God. 

During the Mass for Life that followed the second public veneration of St. John Paul II’s blood relic last May 19, Fr. Joel Jason, en expert on on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, said in his homily that the late pontiff taught the world how to die with dignity, and to turn hardships into redemptive suffering.

He echoed St. John Paul II’s call to defend life from conception to natural death, saying the faithful should uphold the dignity of life amid extrajudicial killings in the country.

“Marami siyang (St John Paul II) sakit [at] kapansanan, pero hindi niya tinatago ang kanyang paghihirap. He believed that the dignity of the human person is never diminished even at the moment of suffering,” he said.

Be a living witness of Christ

De la Peña said the assassination attempt on St. John Paull II on May 13, 1981, allowed the late pontiff to testify to the mercy of Christ. 

“He believed that he survived that attempt because God sees fit to make use of him. Moreover, as he had said always, ‘Nothing happens by chance, all is decided from on high,’” he said.

Stressing St. John Paul II’s belief in God’s will, de la Peña reminded the faithful that criticism and persecution are a God-given reminder to be faithful.

“She must pray for her persecutors and offer her sufferings as a worthy prayer to the Lord for the people. In that way, this seemingly bad scenario the Church is in will be positive. Lest we forget also, the Church has experienced worst persecutions before and she survived. This time she will survive again,” de la Peña said.

In a span of six months, three priests in the Philippines have been killed by armed men. Fr. Richmond Nilo was shot dead last June 10 before celebrating Mass in a chapel in Nueva Ecija. Thomasian priest Fr. Mark Ventura was killed by unidentified men last April 30 in Cagayan. Fr. Marcelito Paez was killed in Nueva Ecija last December 2017.


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