ucanews.com reporters, Manila
Updated: November 02, 2017 04:39 AM GMT
Seminarians carry an image of the Virgin Mary during a march to protest the spate of drug-related killings in the country in September. (Photo by Vincent Go)
Thousands of Filipino Catholics are expected to join a religious procession to call for "national healing" that will be held in a major thoroughfare in Manila on Nov. 5.
A statement from the Bishops Conference of the Philippines said the event will be a "prayerful gathering for the healing of the nation."
The country's bishops declared Nov. 5 as "Lord Heal Our Land Sunday" that is highlighted by the procession on Epifanio delos Santos Avenue, site of the 1986 "people power" revolution.
An image of the Our Lady of Fatima, which was brought by devotees during the revolt that toppled the 20-year rule of Ferdinand Marcos, will be carried in next week's procession.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the bishops' conference, said the activity is not meant to encourage attempts to destabilize the government.
"We ask the Lord for healing of our land, healing of our people so we can move forward in peace, in prosperity, for all," said the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan.
"Healing does not mean turning a blind eye but being conscious to what is happening in our societies and owning to our mistakes," added the prelate.
He said the "signs of the times" is calling Filipinos back to God's fold because "we turned our back to God."
"We have a stack of sins to repent for. We have a lot to change in our lives," he added.
Various church groups have already responded to the bishops' call.
Former human rights commissioner Loretta Ann Rosales expressed hope that the church-initiated activity will "remove fear from the hearts of the people" especially those affected by the killings.
"The church's call is 'stop the killing and start the healing,' our call is 'justice heals,'" Rosales told ucanews.com.
She said civic and religious groups will be going around the communities to organize people and "empower and educate them" of their rights.
In a statement, ecumenical group Rise Up said it "embraces the call so that those plagued by addiction must be given venues to redeem their lives and heal their illness."
The organization has been helping families of victims of drug-related killings, mostly in urban poor communities in the national capital.
The Promotion of Church People's Response it will join the activity to call on the government to "address poverty" and look into the "socio-economic aspect" of the drug problem.
In the Lower House of Congress, Congressman Luis Raymund Villafuerte, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, said church leaders should join in the government's efforts to fight illegal drugs.
"This is the least that the church can do for its wayward flock given the strong public support for the president's relentless war on drugs," said the legislator.
The presidential palace earlier called on dioceses to team up with local authorities in the government's drug rehabilitation programs.
Villafuerte said the "strong support" for the war against illegal drugs "shows that the public is aware that the country's drug problem is serious and that the president's tough campaign against it has generated positive results."
Human rights groups have recorded close to 12,000 incidents of drug related killings since Duterte declared an intensified war against narcotics. The Philippine National Police, however, reported that there were only 6,000 drug-related killings.