MANILA, Dec. 25, 2016— Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan has denounced the spate of summary executions, in his traditional Christmas Day pastoral message.
In his seventh Christmas message as Pangasinan prelate, he highlighted how the “ugliness” of extrajudicial killings is destroying Christmas as a feast of “beauty”.
“We have Christmas but there is blood spilling on our streets and sidewalks,” Villegas lamented.
“This blood spilling is ugly because it is not the plan of God for His people. Murder is ugly. Extra judicial killing is ugly,” he said.
More than 6,100 bodies have piled up since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in July, having promised a brutal crackdown on the illegal drug trade in the country.
The archbishop said while many people are celebrating Christ’s birth, there are also thousands of families mixing Christmas carols with their “quiet tears because a loved one has been stricken down by a bullet.”
“Their noche buena is bland and tasteless because the bitter taste of death is too strong to forget,” said Villegas, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“There are Christmas carols in the air but there is blood by the garbage dump and even inside jails. There is a Christmas parol by the window at home but the unresolved murder at home outshines our Christmas lights,” he said.
The church leader has also warned that anger has become so common and ordinary, to the point that the culture of revenge “is slowly enchaining us.”
“Anger pushes us to pursue the illusion that we must kill in order to defend life,” he added in his message which was also read as homily by all parish priests in Pangasinan on Christmas Day.
He said that many people also start living fear not just for their lives but also from “calumny, malicious gossip and trumped up charges” that eventually allowing themselves to be silenced.
“We bury our heads in the sand and pretend that all is well. Christmas brings us pain not just joy,” Villegas said, as he called on his flock not to let the festive Christmas mood numb them to the spate of killings.
“Let not the Christmas feasting become like morphine to numb us and make us forget,” he said.
“Fear and anger are indeed strong human feelings but greater than anger and fear is hope. Christmas is not a story of anger and fear.”
“Fear and anger are indeed strong human feelings but greater than anger and fear is hope. Christmas is not a story of anger and fear. Anger and fear came from Herod not from Christ. Christ brings hope; Herod sows anger and fear. Christmas is Christ not Herod. Christmas is hope, hope stronger than fear and anger.”
“Do not let anger kill you. Do not let anger push you to nod in agreement with murder. Do not let fear intimidate you. There is no peace for the coward. There is no happiness for the lazy,” he said.
Archbishop Villegas’ message was also read as homily by all parish priests in Pangasinan on Christmas Day. (CBCPNews)