By Robin Gomes
Catholics joined rallies in large numbers in major cities in the Philippines on Saturday to protest against “threats to life” in the country. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila led the faithful and clergy in an early morning “Walk for Life” around the capital’s main park, urging them to counter “materialism and pragmatism” by seeing every life as “a gift from God”.
Among the issues raised during the marches were drug-related killings, persecution of Christians, a proposal in Congress to legalize divorce, and changes to the constitution.
Relatives of those who died in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless ongoing "war against drugs" joined the candle-lit procession in Manila in which an estimated 2,000 people took part. Rights groups say that close to 12,000 suspected drug users and peddlers have been killed in the campaign.
Life - gift from God
Concluding the rally with a Mass at the Quirino Grandstand, at the end of the rally, Cardinal Tagle urged Catholics to value life, even of their enemies, and society's so-called outcasts. "Let us bring back the belief that the lives of other people, even of our enemies, are a gift from God," he said. “When we start thinking of other people's lives in terms of their usefulness to us, it becomes so easy for us to just do away and discard life," he warned.
Simultaneous marches were held in the cities of Tarlac, San Pablo, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro.
Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, in the central Philippines, led an estimated 5,000 Catholics in a "Walk for Life with Mary". He said Catholics support the government's war against drugs but "question the manner it is done because of questionable motives and circumstances." Stating that God is the sole owner of life, he urged the faithful to “protect life from womb to tomb."
The Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Philippine bishops' conference released a pastoral statement opposing proposals to legalize divorce. The statement reminded the country's legislators to protect the constitution that recognizes marriage "as an inviolable social institution" that must be protected by the state.