Thomasian Jesuit on priest killings: Forgive, but don’t remain silent

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Fr. Albert Alejo, S.J. leads the Eucharistic celebration last June 21 at the National Shrine of the Divine Child in Mandaluyong for slain priests. Photo by Enrico Miguel S. Silverio/The Varsitarian

UST alumnus and Jesuit priest Fr. Albert Alejo urged Filipino clerics to forgive the masterminds of the recent killings of Fr. Richmond Nilo and Fr. Mark Ventura, but not cower in silence.

“We can be ready to forgive. Don’t tell us to be silent. Don’t tell us not to shout, resist and stop preaching what is right. Don’t tell us to dilute the Gospel,” Alejo said in his homily during the Eucharistic celebration organized by De La Salle Philippines and other groups on June 21 at the National Shrine of the Divine Child in Mandaluyong.

Echoing Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ statement that “Not even our sins can stop us from preaching the Gospel,” Alejo said imperfections should not hinder a priest from speaking out and fulfilling his vocation.

“Kapag pari ang pinatay, hindi na siya makakapangaral, makakapagbendisyon, makakapagsasabing, ‘pinapatawad na ang iyong mga kasalanan.’ Walang perpektong pari. Nagkakasala na nga kami tatahimik pa kami? Nakakahiya po sa Diyos ang pagtahimik dahil sa pagkakasala,” he said.

Alejo also warned against the desensitization of Filipinos to violence by reducing cases of deaths to numbers.

“Kapag maraming namamatay, ‘yung bawat isang tao, nagiging numero na lang. ‘Yan ang malaking ilusyon, kasinungalingan. ‘Yung 100 na tao, tatlong numero na lang. Binubura natin ang lahat. Nagpapadaya tayo dito,” he said.

The Philippine National Police has recorded at least 23,327 cases of homicide under investigation sincd July 1, 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte took office.

Jose Luis Martin Gascon, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, decried the apparent support given by many government officials to Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs.

“Malungkot [na] anumang gawin namin para matigil ang pagpapatay na nagaganap [ay] nakikita naman nating hinahayaan ng mga pinuno ng ating bansa. Mahalaga ang karapatan. [K]aya importante na gawin natin ang lahat na mapanagot ang lahat ng salarin,” he told the Varsitarian in an interview.

Fr. Richmond Nilo, parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, was the third priest to be slain in six months. He was shot on June 10 by unidentified gunmen before celebrating Mass at the Nuestra Señora de la Nieve Chapel in Brgy. Mayamot in Zaragoza.

Thomasian priest Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura was killed by armed men riding a motorcycle just after celebrating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan, last April 29.

Retired Thomasian priest Fr. Marcelito Paez, a land reform activist, was killed by motorcycle-riding suspects last December 2017 in Santo Domingo, Nueva Ecija.

In a strongly worded statement last June 12, Villegas, former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the murders of priests will not “muzzle the voice of truth.”

“They are killings our flock. They are killing us shepherds. They are killing our faith. They are cursing our Church. They are killing God again as they did in Calvary. [T]hey want to bury us priests. But they forget that we priests are seeds. When you bury us, we will grow more and flourish. You cannot stop the Gospel from growing. You cannot stop God from being God. You cannot muzzle the voice of truth,” he said.

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