MANILA - Pope Francis's representative to the Philippines Archbishop Charles John Brown has promised to the widows and orphans of drug war victims that he will make sure to inform the pontiff of their struggles.
The apostolic nuncio visited the St. Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center in Manila on Friday.
According to CBCP News, Brown heard testimonies from eight individuals about how they lost loved ones amid the government's bloody crackdown against illegal drugs.
"I am deeply sorry for everything that you have to go through," the archbishop said as he listened to the plight of widows and orphans, including their struggles and pain.
"I assure you that Pope Francis is close to you. In fact, I would be going to see Pope Francis in October and I promise you I will tell him about this experience in person."
Established by the Society of Divine Word (SVD) in 2015, the center aims to provide basic services for the homeless.
In 2016, SVD missionary Fr. Flavie Villanueva established the "Paghilom" program to address the plight of those who lost family members due to the drug war.
It includes food provision, psycho-spiritual intervention, legal assistance, educational assistance, and livelihood assistance.
The nuncio's visit coincided with the 6th anniversary celebration of the center's establishment.
Brown said the initiative is something that is "close to the heart" of Pope Francis, whose pontificate has been defined by the emphasis with the "peripheries."
"He wants us to take care of the marginalized and the people who are in the periphery, people who are poor and overlooked," the archbishop said.
"The poor are the sacramental image of who we are. We must love because we have been gifted to give."
The apostolic nuncio also listened to the testimonies of some street dwellers.
He expressed gratitude for the work of Program Paghilom that is shepherding the widows and orphans seeking healing and justice.
According to government data, from the time President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016 until the end of April this year, security forces killed 6,117 drug dealers in sting operations.
Since then, members of Filipino Catholic hierarchy have denounced the killings.
Responding to the bishops' statements, Duterte has sent a flurry of verbal attacks against the prelates and the Catholic Church, calling it the most hypocritical institution.