By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — A bishop called on clergymen to follow Christ’s example of praying for sinners especially those who ridicule the church and blaspheme God last Monday the start of a week-long retreat of the Northern Luzon clergy here in the city.
“In the past two years, we have been maligned and insulted, starting with Pope Francis, then the Catholic church then the priests and bishops then finally our God. But we are no strangers to ridicule and persecution,” said Bishop Valentin Dimoc of the Lagawe (Ifugao) -Bontoc (Mountain Province) Vicariate who led Mass at the Baguio Cathedral.
Secured by fully armed policemen, the Cathedral was packed by priests and bishops of various diocese who also began a three-day fast.
Dimoc did not name President Duterte, who publicly cursed Pope Francis for causing Manila traffic shortly after he filed his candidacy for president, and who recently called God “stupid.”
But the bishop said atonement should remind priests of “repentance and sorrow for sins; forgiveness and reparation.” The clergy’s “common and difficult situation” today should remind them to fulfill what prophet Isaiah preached in the Bible, Dimoc said. “Remove from my sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and keep in line the abusers. Give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow,” he said.
The July 9 pastoral exhortation issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines urged the faithful to make July 16 a day of prayer and penance by “invoking 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.”
Dimoc said that the spiritual retreat was the way for priests to “return to God, to be one with Him and become more effective witnesses of the faith,” in order for them to endure whatever challenges they faced.
“The fuel of ridicule is our sin and the fire of insult is extinguished by our repentance and holyness,” the bishop said.
Dimoc also encouraged the clergymen to stand fast and resist efforts to reinterpret the Bible, saying priests will need to defend a Faith that may sometimes “divide even families.”
Dimoc said: “We maybe fearful whenever we encounter division because of our witnessing. But let us have confidence in the Lord and in the power of his spirit, that we may find strength and be firm in our witnessing. We have to be one with the Lord through this spiritual retreat and bond of priesthood.”
The retreat will run until July 20. # nordis.net