by Xave Gregorio
Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV has asked Pope Francis to pray for the Philippines and poor Filipinos and handed him letters from religious leaders, including one asking for prayers for widows and orphans of the victims of the administration’s drug war.
Aquino met the Pope Wednesday (August 22) in a private audience at the sidelines of the ninth annual meeting of the International Catholic Legislators Network, where he handed letters from members of the Philippine clergy, such as former Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro of the Purple Cross Movement.
“One of the letters asked Pope Francis to pray that the violence in our country comes to an end and for the welfare of the widows and orphans left by the drug war,” Aquino said in an Instagram post.
In response, Francis smiled, took the letters and blessed the rosary Aquino was holding.
While the Catholic Church here has severely criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, Pope Francis has remained largely mum on the issue, except for his endorsement in 2017 of a drug rehabilitation program of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as “the way to go.”
In the same year, the Pope also reportedly blessed the Philippines and Duterte, who earlier made vulgar remarks about the traffic jam caused by the visit of the Catholic Church’s leader in the country.
Government estimates as of May say close to 4,300 drug personalities were killed in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, while human rights groups put the number up to 20,000.