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'Solidarity Mass' held for accused Philippine clergy

Church reiterates support for those targeted with sedition and other charges by the authorities

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

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'Solidarity Mass' held for accused Philippine clergy

Kalookan Diocese in the Philippine capital holds a "solidarity Mass" on Aug. 15 to show support for members of the clergy who have been accused of sedition. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

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A Catholic diocese in Manila held a "solidarity Mass" on Aug. 15 for clergy members accused of sedition by the government.

It was the second Mass held in response to a letter from the bishops’ conference chief, calling for two Masses this month to support them.

The Mass in Kalookan Diocese was also held to mark the Feast of the Assumption a day before the celebration of the Feast of San Roque, the diocese’s patron saint.

The prelate of Kalookan, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, is among four Catholic bishops accused of sedition by authorities for allegedly participating in a plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.

Earlier this week, Bishop David expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis for the "inspiration" to set up mission stations in the diocese's poor communities.

In his message to the pontiff ahead of the Feast of San Roque, the prelate said the pope has "given us so much inspiration ... because his challenge to go out to the peripheries of society has been the main thrust of our pastoral priorities in the diocese."

He also thanked Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, papal nuncio to the Philippines, for saying that "the more important plague that is afflicting society is the plague of indifference."

"That was really a very important challenge that you posed to all of us," Bishop David told the papal nuncio.

Bishop David's outspoken stand for the rights of the poor, especially the families of victims of drug-related killings, has earned him the ire of Duterte.

Early this year, the prelate received death threats for his pronouncements against the president's "war against drugs" that has killed more than 20,000 people since 2016, according to rights groups.

Philippine church leaders have called on Catholics to pray for their pastors who face imprisonment if found guilty of sedition and several other charges leveled against them.

The Philippine National Police has filed charges of inciting sedition, cyber libel, libel and obstruction of justice against the four Catholic bishops, three priests, a religious brother, the country's vice president and 35 members of the opposition.

The charges stem from the release of a video that went viral on several social media platforms early this year that linked Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference, had issued a letter titled "Solidarity in Prayer" to ask that Masses be celebrated on Aug. 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, and Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, to support the accused.

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