MANILA - Detained Senator Leila De Lima on Sunday thanked Pope Francis for sending her a rosary.
During a Mass at the police Custodial Center where De Lima is jailed for drug-related charges, the senator said she wrote to the Pontiff ahead of her birthday in August, asking for prayers for herself and the victims of extra-judicial killings in the country.
Pope Francis, in turn, sent her a rosary through the Papal Nuncio. The Philippine National Police (PNP) Chaplain handed her the gift last Friday, De Lima said.
"I cannot thank Pope Francis enough for his thoughtfulness. I’m deeply, deeply touched by the Pope’s gesture," De Lima was quoted as saying in a statement from her office.
"This gift will constantly remind me that, despite the political persecution I am experiencing right now at the hands of a vengeful President, I should keep the faith and fight tirelessly for the welfare of the Filipino people."
She also described the rosary as "beautiful", but gave no other details.
The 58-year-old De Lima is accused of accepting drug money from prisoners when she was justice secretary from 2010 and 2015. She is not entitled to bail and, if found guilty, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
She has denied the allegations, claiming she had been locked up to stop her from criticizing the administration's war on drugs that has seen thousands of suspected criminals killed.
Malacañang has denied that the opposition senator was subjected to political persecution.
The full text of De Lima's letter to Pope Francis reads:
Dear Papa Francesco,
I am Leila de Lima, a senator from the Philippines and a political prisoner who has been incarcerated for the past 173 days, by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The international community has been appalled by the brazen violation of human rights since Duterte waged his war on drugs.
This August 27, I will turn 58 years old. Life's journey has had its ups and downs, but I never imagined that my birthday would be spent inside a jail.
Papa Francesco, if I may be granted one wish, I hope that you will say a prayer for me and the Filipino people.
Please bless me so I can have the strength to continue the fight against the injustice that is happening not only to me, but to thousands of Filipinos who are victims of extra judicial killing.
I do not know when I will regain my freedom. Only Faith sustains me through this nightmare.
Please include me and the Philippines in your prayers.
God bless you Papa.
My heartfelt thanks,
Leila M. de Lima