Archbishop Villegas: Amid terror, dare to be merciful

MANILA, Philippines – "Brothers and sisters, I dare you. Dare to be merciful. Do not be afraid to be merciful."

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas posed this challenge to Catholics on Tuesday, January 17, as he addressed around 4,000 delegates to the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy hosted by the Philippines.

"We need mercy, and yet we are afraid to show mercy. Instead of mercy, there is terror. Instead of mercy, there is anger. Instead of mercy, there is death penalty. Instead of mercy, there is revenge," Villegas said in his homily.

The archbishop, also president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), continued: "Why? Because we're afraid to look at mercy in the eyes, and we are afraid that mercy will challenge us to be merciful, and we are not ready."

Villegas made these remarks at a time of merciless killings in the Philippines, with more than 6,200 people having died in the war on drugs waged by the Philippine government in 6 months.

At the same time, the Duterte administration is backing a death penalty bill that critics fear is being railroaded in Congress. 

In his homily, Villegas added: "Brothers and sisters, the mercy of God challenges us to wait. Do not be afraid to wait because love is patient, and love always waits. Do not be afraid to wait even if it takes forever."

'Best-kept secret is mercy'

"Do not be afraid to keep quiet, to be still and to allow the Lord to speak to you. Do not be afraid of tenderness. Do not be afraid to be soft because only the strong can be merciful. Do not be afraid of being opposed," he also said.

Villegas said: "Do not be afraid of the gospel of mercy, which is the gospel of contradiction. It will be opposed by a world that knows only death. It will be opposed by a world that knows only revenge. It will be opposed by a society that knows only anger. But stand up nevertheless and show to everybody that our best keep secret, and no longer a secret to peace, is mercy."

Earlier on Tuesday, other leading Catholic leaders also spoke at WACOM about different issues involving mercy. One of the topics discussed was the recent killings in the Philippines.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, for instance, said that the attitude of Filipinos toward drug-related killings shows that many of them do not practice their Christian faith. 

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo also addressed the recent killings, saying that Catholics should speak out against these.

Hosted by the Philippines from January 16 to 20, WACOM is an international gathering of devotees of the Divine Mercy, held every 3 years. 

From Manila on Tuesday, up to 6,000 delegates will travel to Batangas, Bulacan, and Bataan for other activities prepared by the host country. –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at