Catholics in the northern Philippines are throwing their support for Archbishop Socrates Villegas and other accused church people accused of conspiring to overthrow President Rodrigo Duterte. At least 36 other people were also charged for allegedly orchestrating a series of online videos alleging that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade.
About 3,000 people in Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese took to the streets on July 31 to show their support for their archbishop. On Aug. 1, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila issued a call to the clergy and Catholics in Manila to offer Masses and prayers on Aug. 4 for those suffering because of “persecution and false accusations.”
In a personal statement read by Monsignor Manuel Bravo, Archbishop Villegas thanked Catholics in his archdiocese for their love and prayers. “Your love is so powerful,” he said. “The good Lord knows I am innocent of the crime they charge me with,” Archbishop Villegas said.
“A Christian is a missionary who, urged forward by the Holy Spirit, lives his or her Baptism as yeast in society, spreading the message of Jesus.” This is the heart of a brief video message that Pope Francis sent to the participants a 3-day National Missionary Congress, organized by Indonesia’s Catholic Church.
Speaking in Italian, the Pope exhorts the Congress participants to reflect well on the theme. “When we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit, who is a treasure; we receive the message of Jesus, the Gospel within us,” the Pope says in the video message that was projected during the opening ceremony.
The Pope draws attention to the two words of the theme, “Baptized and Sent”. “When you have a beautiful thing and are enthusiastic about it,” he says, “you feel the impetus to share it and give it to others.” “Baptized and Sent”, he says, are the two things that must be the leitmotif of the Congress.
Teresa Liu, now 86 and living in Sydney, was imprisoned in Guangzhou from 1957 to 1977 by the Chinese communist government. She was never given a trial and spent some of her sentence in solitary confinement — at one point for a period of seven months. Denied access to the sacraments and the Bible throughout her incarceration, Liu kept her faith alive by praying secretly in her cell. Her crime was being a member of a Catholic lay organization, the Legion of Mary, which was considered an “anti-revolutionary” group by the Chinese leaders.
“I could say the rosary only after I lie down in bed, secretly,” she told Catholic News Service. “I felt very close to God at that time because in my heart I said, ‘Jesus, now I have nothing but you. Don’t let me leave you.’”
Following her release, Liu immigrated to Australia in 1980 with her husband, John Bosco Liu, who had been imprisoned for 22 years. Now a devout and active parishioner at St. Michael Parish in Hurstville, in southern Sydney, Liu has spent decades catechizing Chinese migrants.