Bishops urge All Souls' Day prayers for drug war victims

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As Filipinos remember their departed on All Souls' Day, the country's church leaders are calling on the faithful to also pray for those who fell victim in the government's all-out war against illegal drugs.

Father Jerome Secillano of the public affairs office of the bishops' conference said to pray for the dead on All Souls' Day is a "Christian obligation."

"More so, for those who died in violent circumstances," the priest added.

"We pray for the forgiveness of their sins, we pray for the repose of their souls, and we pray for their redemption," said Father Secillano in an interview.

Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, meanwhile, admitted that the church also "failed to foresee the magnitude of the drug menace."

"[We] humbly accept our share of shortcomings with regard to forming our consciousness and behavior in confronting social maladies," he said in a pastoral statement on Oct. 30

Archbishop Lagdameo said that while he affirms the "passion and the vision" of the government against illegal drugs, "we also unequivocally declare that as a church, we cannot accept in conscience extrajudicial killings."

"The inviolability and sacredness of human life, in all its aspects, must be upheld," wrote the prelate in his statement titled "Unleashing the Power of Love and Mercy."

Bishops urge All Souls' Day prayers for drug war victims

Members of an ecumenical church group light candles to remember victims of drug-related killings in the country.

(Photo by Vincent Go)

Killings attack on poor

Families affected by drug-related killings will, however, not be able to properly honor the memories of their slain loved ones this All Souls' Day.

"Many are afraid that they too will become targets while others do not have enough money to claim bodies from funeral homes," said Gloria Arellano, chairwoman of the urban poor group .

Most victims of summary executions come from urban poor communities in the Philippine capital. Hundreds of bodies were reported to be unclaimed in funeral homes in Metro Manila.

Arellano said the cost of burying the dead is also beyond the reach of most poor families. She said a proper wake and funeral can cost about US$1,000.

"Thousands of poor Filipinos will not be able to visit proper tombs of their loved ones this All Souls' Day," she said, adding that the killings "are a massive attack on urban poor communities."

Arellano's group has been vocal in opposing the government's "war against drugs."

She said the government's drug war was “not only punishing suspects but even their families."

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan earlier expressed "grief" at how Duterte's war against drugs has turned the Philippines into "killing fields".

"In our dream to wipe out drug addiction are we not becoming a 'killing fields' nation?" said the prelate in a statement in August.

Several Catholic parishes have announced that Masses will be offered churches around the country for victims of summary executions.

The Philippine National Police has reported 2,766 unexplained killings allegedly by vigilantes as of Oct 23.