MANILA, Philippines – Amid the threats on the life of Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, the Catholic faithful under his diocese held a prayer vigil to show their solidarity with him Friday, March 1.
The activity was included in the regular first Friday mass at the San Roque Cathedral in Caloocan City, but more fittingly, it was also the eve of Bishop David’s 60th birthday.
It was David’s flock under the Diocese of Caloocan which called for the prayer vigil for the peace and security of bishops, priests, lay faithful, and the country.
They wanted to show that they too, shared the courage of their bishop.
“Hindi siya natatakot kaya hindi rin kami matatakot. Sasamahan namin siya,” Jessie Joy Estorba, the cathedral’s youth ministry coordinator told Rappler. (He is not afraid, so we too will not be afraid. We will be with him.)
The vigil comes after David, one of the most outspoken critics of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, confirmed that he has received threats from unknown senders telling him that he is next in line for execution. (READ: Duterte said kill the bishops – and his word became flesh)
Estorba said that aside from praying for their prelate, they will also mirror his courage and will not be intimidated by threats as they continue their responsibilities for the good of the Church.
“Si bishop, ang aming number one youth minister, ay naka-focus sa kaniyang trabaho dito kaya kami ay tuloy lang din sa paggawa ng aming trabaho at sasamahan namin siya sa aming mga dasal,” she said. (Bishop David, our number one youth minister, focuses on his work that’s why we are also continuing our duties. We will be with him in prayers.)
In 2017, David was quoted as saying, “Well, siguro kung takot ako para sa aking buhay, hindi na lang ako naging pari o nag-obispo (Well, if I fear for my life, I shouldn’t have been a priest or bishop).”
Aurora Santiago, the president of Council of the Laity of the diocese, also stood up for David, whom she referred to as a “great blessing” for the country.
According to Santiago, the prelate, who turned 60 on Saturday, March 2, was glad that the food distribution to street children and those living in the peripheries would push through. For security reasons, most of David’s scheduled birthday events were cancelled.
“Tuloy ang pagpapakain sa mga bata sa aming MASID (Mga Anak Sila ng Diyos) area ng ating simbahan – ang lugar na itinuring naming halfway house ng mga batang lansangan,” she said. (The distribution of food to kids at our MASID (They are children of God) area of the church – the halfway house of street children.)
‘Prayer is what we need’
Officials of the Diocese of Caloocan urged the faithful to join them in praying for the safety of their bishop.
“Kami bilang mga pari, kayo bilang mga layko na sama-samang sumasampalataya at sumasamba sa Diyos ang nagiging lakas namin. Kaya hinihingi namin ang inyong pagdarasal,” Fr Jay de Leon said. (We, as priests, and you, as lay faithfuls who are united in praising God serve as the source of our strength. That’s why we also ask you to pray for us.)
The threats received by David came after Duterte publicly said that bishops should be “killed” for doing nothing but criticize his administration. The President’s statement alarmed critics, as these can embolden his supporters or other enemies of the Catholic Church to attack the members of the clergy. (READ: After priest killings, Duterte again threatens Church leaders)
“Ipagdasal natin ang kaligtasan ni Bishop Ambo David at alam naman natin na napakabait niya. Marami siyang mga naitutulong. Marami siyang mga projects na kailangang ipagpatuloy,” said Santiago. (Let us pray for the safety of Bishop Ambo David. We know that he is a good man. He has helped a lot. And he has a lot of projects which should be continued.)
David, who refers to the area around his diocese as a “killing field,” has initiated Task Force Salubong, a rehabilitation program for drug surrenderees.
A priest’s mission
In his homily during the first Friday Mass, De Leon defined the role of the clergy as being responsible to their flock. “Bilang mga pinagkatiwalaan ng Panginoon, kailangan ay huwag abandunahin ng mga pari ang ipinagkatiwala sa kanila ng Diyos,” he said. (As priests, we need to be true to our promise of not abandoning those entrusted to us by God.)
The war on drugs has claimed thousands of lives and this was the reason why David stands firmly against it.
“Ayaw namin ng illegal drugs dahil ‘yun ay talagang masama. Ang nais lang namin ay ‘yung mga mahuhuli sana bigyan ng due process of law… Bigyan ng pagkakataon na maka-recover at makabalik sa ating lipunan,” Santiago said. (We do not like illegal drugs because that’s really bad. What we are saying is that those who get arrested must be given the due process of law… Let us give them the chance to recover and become part of the society again.)
“Huwag tayong matakot na tumayo sa ating pananampalataya, ipaglaban natin ito at lalo nating paigtingin ang ating pagmamahal sa ating Panginoon,” shared De Leon. (Let us not be afraid to stand for our faith. Let us fight for it and let us cultivate our love for the Lord.) – Rappler.com
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