“Priests are supposed to be men of peace, not of war,” said Malolos Bulacan Bishop Jose Oliveros in an article on the Union of Catholic Asian News.
The bishops were reluctant to take advantage of a law President Benigno Aquino III signed allowing individuals in professions of imminent danger to own firearms. Aside from priests, other professions listed under the new law include media workers, members of the integrated bar council, certified public accountants and physicians.
“Our Lord said, he who lives by the sword will die by the sword. We should not counter violence with violence,” Oliveros added.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa also noted that contrary to what the new law may state, priests are not and should not be afraid of danger.
“If the general public, especially the poor, are exposed to dangers, we cannot be less,” he said.
Instead Arguelles said priests carry “non-destructive” weapons such as the “weapon of forgiveness, mercy, goodness and love.”
“These weapons never hurt. All other weapons destroy,” he added.
The UCAN report noted that in Mindanao alone, at least 13 priests had been killed since 1970. Only one case has been resolved so far.
The report added that priests working in Mindanao areas considered flashpoints – such as Sulu and Basilan – are usually escorted by at least two soldiers.
On some occasions, bishops are even escorted by several soldiers, backed by armored personnel carriers.
“A number of priests have been known to carry guns illicitly,” the UCAN report added. — Patricia Denise Chiu/DVM, GMA News