Philippine church leaders are 'social media martyrs'
Head of bishops' conference decries internet troll attacks on churchmen
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
A leading Catholic bishop in the Philippines said the country's church leaders have become "martyrs in social media" every time they comment on issues involving politics.
"We are killed a thousand times; our trolls are in the thousands," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the bishops' conference.
Internet "trolls" are fake social media accounts that sow discord online or attack people posting inflammatory messages.
"When we speak they want us muted. When we oppose they want us maimed. When we stand for life, they want us dead," said the prelate in his Easter message.
Archbishop Villegas said bishops and priests are always confronted with trolls when they speak about social issues that are critical of the government.
"Churchmen are called the worst hypocrites and if my mother heard such, I am sure she would cry in pain," said the prelate.
He lamented that parishioners "seek the security of silence with no one willing to defend Christ’s anointed ones."
The archbishop said the Catholic Church is "under persecution."
"The signs are clear. The teachings of God on life and family are under attack," he said.
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