Australian nun Patricia Fox, regional superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion congregation, chats with tribal children during a gathering in Manila on April 30. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
Church groups in the Philippines have launched a "support network" for Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox who has been ordered to leave the country by the government.
The group, "Solidarity with the Poor Network", aims to unite faith-based organizations to protest against the Philippine government's decision to expel the nun.
At least 300 people from various sectors attended the April 30 launching of the network, convened by Carmelite priest Rico Ponce.
Father Ponce said the gathering was "an affirmation of the rightness" of Sister Fox's missionary work for the poor.
The priest appealed to the public to support the nun and defend her "freedom to exercise Christian convictions, obligations, and duties to the Filipino people."
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Catholics need not be silent over events that affect the lives of the poor.
"Everything is interconnected," said the prelate.
The social action arm of the country's Catholic bishops also issued a statement to "stand in solidarity not only with Sister Fox, but with the human rights community as a whole."
"We will not be intimidated by the suppressive measures of the government to curb freedom of expression and to harass the church," said Father Edwin Gariguez, head of Caritas Philippines.
Earlier, Catholic bishops' conference president Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to revoke the expulsion order on Sister Fox.
"Let the nun continue serving Filipinos," said the prelate.
On April 16, the Philippines' immigration bureau arrested and detained Sister Fox, who is regional superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion congregation, over alleged involvement in "illegal political activities."
The Australian nun was released on April 17 pending further investigation.
On April 25, the immigration bureau revoked Sister Fox's missionary visa and ordered her to leave the country within 30 days.
In a statement, the nun's newly formed support network said the cancellation of the missionary visa violates Sister Fox's "right to due process."
"It is an apparent legal harassment against a religious person who seeks to give flesh and blood to the church mission for the least, the last, and the lost," read the group's statement.
Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan said the list of alleged violations committed by Sister Fox "is not a list of sins but rather a list of achievements."
"A prophet must stand up, speak out," said Sister Mananzan, who is known for being a vocal advocate for human rights.