Bishop: No to arming priests

By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi is rejecting the idea of arming the priests to protect themselves. The suggestion came following the shooting to death of three priests in 3 different parishes in the country. Bishop Baylon in a text message said a priest is a man of peace, and carrying arms contradicts that idea. “No, I don’t agree with the idea of priests arming themselves,”Baylon said. Baylon, in justifying his claim, said Jesus himself rebuked Peter when the latter drew his sword and struck one of those who came to arrest him. He said that a violent act, even if it is in self-defense, will never stop violence, as it will instead perpetuate it. Baylon in his message even shared a quote, “If you want peace, prepare for war – Si vis pacem para belleum.” Quoting John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” In Naga City, Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona said learning martial arts may be an alternative to guns for priests to protect themselves. “Priests cannot be like Superman or Spiderman,” he said. “They should be able to protect themselves if the need arises,” he was quoted as saying. Other priests and men of the clergy in Albay support the Bishop Baylon’s view. Father Rex Arjona, Executive Director of the Social Action Center (SAC) of the Diocese of Legazpi when asked to comment on reports that priests in Laguna are secretly acquiring firearms for protection against would-be assassins following the cold-blooded killings of three clergymen and the frustrated murder of a fourth one, said “this issue is no longer new,” citing a law passed during former Pres. Benigno Aquino’s administration allowing judges, government prosecutors, media as well as priest to own and bear firearms for protection.” He said, “Personally I still believe in a gunless society, let’s leave it to the police and the military for them to carry guns as they are mandated to maintain peace and order.” Father Ricardo Barquez, a parish priest, said “my personal take on the issue is I am not in favor of arming priests for reason of self-defense or mitigating attacks versus them; we will just be giving all the reason to target us – Papaluwason nanlaban. Maski su daing armas paplantaran n asana ki armas para mag appear nanlaban.” Father Jose Victor Lobrigo volunteered: “Such idea is contrary to what we preach.” On the other hand, Fr. Manuel Camu stressed that “holiness and prayers are the armor of a priest.” As this developed, bells in all Catholic churches in Albay would continue to toll every night and would hold a series of Holy Mass and the setting up of the “Holy Hours” where the Holy Sacrament would be displayed for viewing as a show of support to the Reparatory Day launched by the Lingayen-Dagupan clergy. Baylon said the preparatory acts lined up by the diocese would include the reading of the Pastoral Letter of Bishop Soc Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan on Sunday masses. Bishop Villegas’ pastoral letter was translated into the Bicol dialect and read in all 47 churches in the province. Baylon said, “The clergy of Legazpi will join the Lingayen-Dagupan clergy in their reparatory acts by way of masses, holy hours and the ringing of bells.” Baylon said, “except that we will ring our church bells at 9:00 p.m. instead of 6:00 p.m. as we used to and encourage our people to the Prayer at 9:00 again.” Father Rex Arjona in a phone interview said that priests during the mass on Monday would be wearing a penitential violet-colored vestment or “sotana.” He said at four major masses would be held on Monday in churches in major town and cities while two masses would be held in minor parishes in towns and villages.