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Philippine nuncio rejects arming of priests


The Vatican's ambassador to the Philippines has frowned upon suggestions that priests assigned in areas of conflict on the island of Mindanao should be armed.

"Arming our priests is a crazy idea," the Most Rev. Antonio Franco, the papal nuncio, told the Inquirer newspaper on Friday.

Franco said arming the clergy would only aggravate the problem.

The proposal arose after clergy members noted that kidnap groups were not sparing them anymore. Many of them have declared their intentions to acquire firearms after the Catholic bishops in Mindanao called on all priests, especially those assigned in areas of conflict, to resist any abduction attempts -- at all costs.

Some priests have interpreted the call as tantamount to ordering them to arm and defend themselves from kidnappers.

During the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference held in Malaybalay City in October, some priests started to entertain the idea of buying firearms for themselves.

"It is understandable why the papal nuncio has lambasted the idea of arming the priests because it is not sanctioned by the Church," said Fr Danilo Fuentes of the Social Action Centre of the Diocese of Mati.

"Priests who have armed themselves are doing so on their own because they find it necessary to defend themselves against kidnap attempts," Fuentes said.

He said firearms were necessary for those assigned in troubled areas like Basilan, Sulu or Zamboanga.

Some have even joined shooting clubs to improve their shooting skills , Benebaye said.

However, Franco said this should not be the case, stressing that firearms represented violence. Meanwhile clergy in the UK are to be given martial-arts training because they are too vulnerable to attack. The white-collar union MSF is to begin self-defence classes for its 1500 clergy members based on taekwondo early next year.

"It is a sad fact of modern life that members of the clergy will come into contact with individuals who are likely to resort to violence," siad Rev Bill Ward, head of the MSF's clergy section. "Most clergy receive no training at all in dealing with violent people so we are making a start with our own self-defence classes and hope that the Church of England will follow suit."

SOURCE
Philippine Inquirer/Ananova


18-Dec-01