An Irish priest has spoken about his concern and sadness over hundreds of priests applying for gun permits in his adopted country.
Fr Shay Cullen is one of Ireland’s best-known missionaries and has been living in the Philippines for several years.
There has recently been a sharp surge in violence against priests and three clergymen have been murdered.
A report in the Philippine National Police (PNP) says that the job of a priest is ‘inherently dangerous’. It adds that members of the clergy have the right to own and carry a firearm outside their residence as long as they have the required permits.
The PNP is a Catholic news agency and is supportive of priests. It has offered to help them with the process of applying for a license and is even willing to train them in using firearms.
This has led to an increase in priests and religious people applying for gun permits.
So far this year, officials in the Philippines have received gun permit applications from almost 250 religious workers, including 188 Catholic priests.
However, Fr Cullen, who runs the PREDA child abuse charity in the Philippines and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, is saddened by the developments.
He says he won’t be getting a gun and doesn’t believe that priests should be arming themselves.
Fr Cullen said: “I don’t have a gun and the bishops have warned the priests to get rid of them.
“It is unseemly for priests to be armed and ready to kill someone. We are under threat for our human rights’ advocacy, so I have to take precautions, but to carry a gun and shoot when attacked is not part of our vocation. I am standing for non-violence and peace-making dialogue and reason.”
Filipino church authorities have even said that priests should view the possibility of being murdered as a hazard of the job.
Archbishop Romulo Valles said : “We are men of God, men of the Church, and it is part of our ministry to face dangers, to face deaths if one may say that way.”
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling