MANILA — Bishop Socrates Villegas called on Filipinos to reflect on the meaning of Christmas, as he slammed the culture of killing that has plagued the country amid the government’s bloody war on illegal drugs.
In his pastoral message for Christmas Day, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that while Christmas is a feast of beauty "we are not blind and numb to the ugliness that has come upon us."
“We have Christmas but there is blood spilling on our streets and sidewalks. We have Christmas and we party but there are now more than 5,000 families mixing Christmas carols with their quiet tears because a loved one has been stricken down by a bullet,” Villegas said.
“Their noche buena is bland and tasteless because the bitter taste of death is too strong to forget. There are Christmas carols in the air but there is blood by the garbage dump and even inside jails. There is a Christmas parol by the window at home but the unresolved murder at home outshines our Christmas lights.”
Villegas has been outspoken against the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs, which has so far claimed about 6,000 lives. The majority of the killings has been carried out by suspected vigilantes.
The archbishop said the culture of killing is not what God had planned.
“This blood spilling is ugly because it is not the plan of God for His people. Murder is ugly. Extra judicial killing is ugly. Our land must flow with milk and honey (Ex.33:3) not with blood from violence and murder crying from the earth for justice (Gen.4:10),” he said.
He also lamented the surge in populism around the world, noting that people have tended to vote their leaders not based on “diligent prudent reflection” but anger.
“Anger has become so common and ordinary that the culture of revenge is slowly enchaining us. Anger pushes us to pursue the illusion that we must kill in order to defend life,” he said, adding that the Christmas season will knock down fears with Christ’s light of hope.
“Christmas looks into the eyes of our hatred and rage to melt that madness with tenderness and compassion. The light of Christmas shines on our country, now plagued by a culture of revenge, to heal all raging hearts with the balm of God’s kindness. This country cannot reach greatness under a blanket of fear and anger but under a mantle of hope and love.”
The CBCP president also called on Filipino Catholics to make Christmas a time to renew their “faith in God and in the greatness of the Filipino.”
“Do not let anger kill you. Do not let anger push you to nod in agreement with murder. Do not let fear intimidate you. There is no peace for the coward. There is no happiness for the lazy,” he said.
“For the beauty that Christmas restores to us, we thank the Lord. For the ugliness of anger and fright that we have brought to the world, we stand up in battle and bring hope to our brothers and sisters. For the hope that the country greatly needs, let us take the challenge. Let the rivers of hope flow. Let the lighthouses in the dark night shine out and guide. May we all be in that river! May we all be that lighthouse!”
Villegas' pastoral message will be read as homily in all Masses on Christmas Day.