Catholic bishops in the Philippines, concerned about an increase in violence and police reaction to crime, announced a day of prayer and penance on 16th July and three days of fasting, prayer and penance, from 17th to 19th July.
The bishops said they wanted to “invoke God’s mercy and justice on those who have blasphemed God’s holy name, those who slander and bear false witness, and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country.”
In a pastoral letter released on 9th July, the bishops discussed “the cost of witnessing to Christ” and “the sufferings of the poor” as part of the motivation for fasting, prayer and penance.
Among the sufferings they listed were “the cry of poor slum-dwellers being jailed for ‘loitering’…the sufferings of drug addicts who are labelled as nonhumans,” people “packed like sardines in extremely congested jails,” and “communities forced to leave their homes.”
The bishops also discussed the suffering that comes with being a Christian, saying that divisions, ridicule, persecution and even martyrdom have not been unknown throughout the Church’s history.
“What is new about priests being murdered for witnessing to Christ? What is new about modern prophets being silenced by the treacherous bullets of assassins?” the exhortation asked.
Picture: People walk past makeshift homes in early May at a shantytown outside Manila, Philippines. (CNS photo/Francis R. Malasig, EPA).