CBCP on drug users: There’s hope for sinners

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – After calling for a stop to extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers and users, Roman Catholic bishops are reminding church workers and the faithful of the Gospel’s message of hope for sinners.

“While we vehemently protest the increase of summary killings, we must get our pastoral act together to minister to those in need of mercy and pastoral compassion as they dream of better lives after recovering from drug abuse,” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Socrates Villegas said in a message after a formation seminar on the pastoral care of drug users Friday at the Lay Formation Center here.

“The recent increase of vigilante killings related to the drug abuse problem brings us disconcerting pastoral grief and calls for concerted pastoral action,” Villegas, who is also Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop, said.

“Let us unite against drugs but let us offer an alternative to killing criminals,” he said in a message to priests, nuns and lay catechists who took part in the seminar.

In his message, he cited the need for a Gospel-inspired alternative to killing drug pushers and users.

Villegas said they are preparing a 10-session training workshop for facilitators for Narcotics Anonymous in selected parishes in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan.

He said they need Narcotics Anonymous ministers with genuine caring attitude for people and with sufficient communication and basic counseling skills.

He advised priests in his archdiocese to look for volunteers who can meet the requirements.

“This is an urgent pastoral concern. We cannot let people get killed and die,” he said. 

The message for the sinner, he stressed, should be hope and not death. “Our weapon is love not vengeance. The blood of the Lord is enough,” he pointed out.

The Salesian priests of Don Bosco Philippines-North Province, meanwhile, cited “justified apprehension” over the rising number of deaths even as they reaffirmed their support for an intensified campaign by the Duterte administration against illegal drugs.

“We are alarmed by the recent wave of extrajudicial killings that have taken place at the hands of police officers, and especially of vigilantes roaming our streets unchecked and un-apprehended,” they said in a statement.

“Such violent procedure in tackling the situation mentioned above has caused justified apprehension among the majority of our citizens who are against any form of drug trafficking but expect justice to be rendered according to law,” they added.

They said they agreed with the President’s perception that law enforcement agencies and the country’s justice system have failed to stop the spread of the use of illegal drugs, especially among the young. 

“We share his perception that many law enforcers and our present judicial systems have often failed to bring to justice the perpetrators of such heinous crimes which, in an ever-greater degree, have been victimizing millions of our young people and their families,” the Salesian priests said.

They also expressed appreciation for Duterte’s determination to tackle illegal drugs, now considered “a very serious problem in our country.”

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