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Another priest slaying rocks Philippine Church

Father Richmond Villaflor Nil, gunned down as he was about to celebrate Mass, was fourth priest shot in last six months

Another priest slaying rocks Philippine Church

Father Richmond Villaflor Nilo of Cabanatuan Diocese was shot on June 10 while about to celebrate Mass. (Photo from Father Nilo's Facebook page)

Jose Torres Jr., Manila
Philippines

June 11, 2018

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Another name was added to a growing Philippine Church casualty list on June 10 when a priest was shot dead as he was about to celebrate Mass in the northern province of Nueva Ecija.

Father Richmond Villaflor Nilo of Cabanatuan Diocese was gunned down inside the Nuestra Senora dela Nieve chapel in Zaragoza town.

Police said the priest was shot while he was putting on his alb to start the Mass. At least three shots were fired through the chapel's window. 

Father Nilo became the fourth Catholic priest to be shot in the Philippines in the last six months and the second within a week.

On June 6, Father Rey Urmeneta of Saint Michael the Archangel parish in Calamba City survived an attack by two gunmen.

On April 29, a lone gunman shot dead Father Mark Ventura, parish priest of Gattaran town in the northern Philippines, after he finished celebrating Sunday Mass.

On Dec. 4, 2017, Father Marcelito Paez was shot and killed in the town of Jaen, also in Nueva Ecija province.

"No priest, and no human being for that matter, deserves to be killed with utter brutality, disrespect and impunity," said Bishop Sofronio Bancud of Cabanatuan in a statement.

The prelate said "to kill a priest for whatever motive or cause, is not only unchristian and inhuman, it is also un-Filipino."

Father Nilo was parish priest of Saint Vincent Ferrer parish in Zaragoza town and financial administrator of the diocese at the time of his death.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms and deeply mourn the brutal murder ... and the escalating violence and culture of impunity … even against helpless clergymen," read Bishop Bancud's statement.

The prelate called on Catholics to pray for the soul of Father Nilo and "for peace, healing and security of our communities," and for the clergy and religious especially in Cabanatuan.

The bishop demanded a "thorough and impartial investigation and a swift resolution."

The country's Catholic bishops expressed alarm at the number of priest killed in recent months.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the bishops' conference, said he was "deeply sad and bothered" by the attacks on members of the clergy.

"I would really appeal, really appeal to our authorities especially the police to do their best to investigate and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice," said the prelate.

He said proper investigations could be "the very least among the things that we can do."

"We can do a number of things but ... it is very important to restore our confidence that justice will be done," said Archbishop Valles.

Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao said the killings would not stop church people from speaking the truth and proclaiming the Gospel.

In a statement released June 11, human rights group Karapatan condemned the attacks on the Catholic priests, a journalist, and a prosecutor "as clear signs of a thriving climate of impunity in the Philippines."

On June 7, Dennis Denora, publisher of community press Trends and Times, was shot and left for dead in the southern city of Panabo in Davao del Norte province. 

On June 4, prosecutor Madonna Joy Tanyag, who was pregnant, was stabbed to death in Quezon City. 

Karapatan spokeswoman Cristina Palabay said: "There is great doubt that authorities will get to the bottom of these recent murders [and attacks]" amid drug-related killings.

"The government refuses to look at its own culpability, which is made worse by its corrupt, brutal and mercenary state forces," said Palabay.

Father Richmond Villaflor Nilo of the Diocese of Cabanatuan was shot by an unidentified gunman about 5 p.m. on June 10 while about to celebrate Mass.

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