Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates “Soc” Villegas appealed on the faithful including priests and nuns not to succumb to fear and hopelessness as he encouraged them to continue “teaching” despite the hostility of the present government to the Catholic Church.
The fervent and timely call was made by Villegas during the opening of the second synod of the archdiocese held during the mass at St. John the Evangelist Metropolitan Cathedral last Saturday.
Villegas who is also the incumbent president of the influential Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had previously earned the ire of presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte after the former accused President Rodrigo Duterte of “singlehandedly defacing the memory of the 1986 EDSA revolution.”
Villegas, a former aide and student of the late Cardinal Sin, is known for being outspoken on pressing social issues like the attempt to reimpose the death penalty, the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani and extrajudicial killings and human rights violations under the Duterte administration.
“We must teach even if they kill us and if they kill us, our message will echo even more because the best way to teach is through martyrdom,” Villegas said during the homily of the said event.
Villegas said during the homily of the said event.
“We must teach even if our voices get hoarse. We must teach even if they threaten us, even if the trolls are unrelenting,”
The last phrase was obviously a swipe at the hordes of social media trolls who are supporting the president and his policies including the drug war. The Catholic Church was and still is a constant recipient of profanities from the president and his coterie of internet paid hacks after the church led by the CBCP criticized the drug war as bloody, unnecessary and anti-poor.
But despite the attacks led no less by the president himself and his fanatical supporters, Villegas asked the people not to be afraid.
“The challenge is not inside this cathedral but in the streets and sidewalks, our seas and rivers, in our factories and markets, in our stores and munisipios. Our mission is to fill the dark world with the light of Christ,”
the CBCP head said.
It has been said that in these dark and trying times when Philippine society is on the verge of losing both its morality and humanity, we need another Cardinal Sin to inspire us, to enlighten us and to lead us.
Is Bishop Soc Villegas ready to rise up to the challenge? Does he have Cardinal Sin’s moral integrity and bravery to make a principled stand in the midst of the darkness and madness?