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Bishop vows to fight 'persecution of Christian beliefs'

Philippine issues rallying cry against 'attacks on principles of Christianity'

Bishop vows to fight 'persecution of Christian beliefs'

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Philippine bishops' conference. (Photo by Angie de Silva)


Joe Torres, Manila

April 6, 2017

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A leading bishop in the Philippines said the Catholic Church would continue to fight the "persecution of Christian beliefs" against all odds.

"Christians are used to persecution," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the bishops' conference.

He said that although Christians are not persecuted in the Philippines "we have started to persecute Christian beliefs."

"The principles of Christianity are being questioned and attacked," said the prelate who has been vocal in his pronouncements against drug-related killings in the country.

Archbishop Villegas said persecution happens when the principles of Christianity are attacked.

Human rights groups have reported that close to 8,000 suspected drug users and dealers have been killing in the government's nine-month war against narcotics.

Catholic and Protestant leaders in the Philippines have also opposed a move by the government to revive the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

Archbishop Villegas said church leaders have to deal with the challenges using different approaches, including prayer.

"We know that [opposing anti-life issues] is God's work," said the prelate. "It is not just our work," he added.

Without naming names, the church leader said he also prays for "those who make the mission of the church more difficult."

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly attacked Catholic Church leaders, saying that Catholicism will be "will become passe in the next 30 years" because of alleged abuses of priests and bishops.

Archbishop Villegas, however, said that in the end "it is not us who will change their minds, it is the grace of God."

The prelate said church leaders have been "exploring avenues of collaboration" with the Philippine government. 

"We have heard it, it has become a cliche, we cannot see eye to eye but we can work hand in hand," he said.

"We don't like to close doors. There will always be disagreements but we think and we believe that there are more reasons to agree on and to collaborate on," said Archbishop Villegas.

In November last year, the prelate said the Catholic Church in the Philippines was experiencing various forms of "religious persecution."

He cited bashing in social media "where truth is made to appear as a lie and a lie appears to be true" as a form of persecution.

The prelate said the church is being attacked for being a moral compass of society. He said its leaders and Catholics "should not stop speaking the truth and about what is moral."

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