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CBCP urges clergy to offer masses vs death penalty

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The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged priests to offer masses for senators for God to touch their conscience and oppose the reimposition of the death penalty.

“Let us pray fervently for the legislators of our country as they prepare to vote on death penalty in the Philippine Senate,” said CBCP President Socrates Villegas in a pastoral statement issued on Sunday, to be read as homily on Third Sunday of Lent in all dioceses.

“Let us offer all our Masses for them, asking our Crucified Lord who offered his whole life, body and blood, for the salvation of sinners, to touch their consciences and lead them to abolish capital punishment once and for all,” he added.

Villegas has reiterated the Church’s stand against the reimposition of the capital punishment, which has been approved by members of the House of Representatives earlier this month.

“Dear sisters and brothers in Christ—let us not allow our wells to be poisoned by bitter water; let us uphold the sanctity of life and make a stand against death penalty,” he stressed.

Likewise, he noted that, “even with the best of intentions, capital punishment has never been proven effective as a deterrent to crime.”

“Obviously it is easier to eliminate criminals than to get rid of the root causes of criminality in society. Capital punishment and a flawed legal system are always a lethal mix,” the Catholic prelate said.

“And since in any human society there is never a guarantee of a flawless legal system, there is always the great likelihood that those without capital will get the punishment more quickly because it is they who cannot afford a good lawyer and a guarantee of due process,” he added.

On the other hand, the Lingayen-Dagupan prelate reminded the lawmakers who approved the passage of House Bill No. 4727, which seeks to revive the death penalty on March 7, a day before Ash Wednesday, which signifies the start of the Lenten Season for Roman Catholics, that their votes contradicts their faith.

“It was Ash Wednesday when members of the lower house, on the second reading of the death penalty bill, outvoted by voice-voting the nays with their ayes,” he emphasized.

“Ironically, they were captured on television shouting in favor of death with their foreheads marked with crosses made of ashes. Could they have forgotten what that cross meant? Could they have missed out the contradiction between their vote and the crosses on their foreheads, which were supposed to serve as a loud statement of faith in the God who, for love of us, chose to give up his life for our salvation, rather than see us perish?” Villegas added.

The CBCP head also asked those who are using the Bible to defend their stand on the controversial measure.

“To the people who use the Bible to defend death penalty, need we point out how many other crimes against humanity have been justified, using the same Bible? We humbly enjoin them to interpret the Scriptures properly, to read them as a progressive revelation of God’s will to humankind, with its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, God’s definitive Word to the world,” he said.

Villegas added, “He came “not to abolish the law but to bring it to fulfillment”. Jesus was never an advocate of any form of “legal killing. He defended the adulterous woman against those who demanded her blood and challenged those who were without sin among them to be the first to cast a stone on her.”

The death penalty bill was passed on third and final reading at the lower house after a total of 217 congressmen have voted in favor of the measure, while 54 voted against it and one abstained. (PNA)