Despite hostility, the Church must teach the truth of the Gospel with the courage of the martyrs, said the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan in the Philippines. In a Mass during the archdiocese's second-ever synod, Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the most important work of those assembled is to reach everyone with the Church's teachings.
"We must teach even if our voices get hoarse. We must teach even if they threaten us,” the archbishop said Sept. 2, according to CBCP News. “We must teach even if they kill us and if they kill us, our message will echo even more because the best way to teach is through martyrdom!”
Archbishop Villegas spoke at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Dagupan – an archdiocese particularly known to voice its opposition to the government’s extreme measures in its fight against drugs. Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, over 7,000 deaths have been related to the war on drugs, with more than 2,500 killings attributed to the Philippines’ police force, according to Human Rights Watch.
However, despite cultural opposition from the government or even on social media, God will triumph, the archbishop said. “In the lights and shadows of life, in the stormy and sunny days, in the persecutions we endure and the triumphs we bask in – the Lord speaks.”
He said during these times pastors must not be afraid to “fill the dark world with the light of Christ,” and he encouraged the crowd to live up to the challenge of Pope Francis – to meet people in “the peripheries” of society. “We dream not of [a] status quo Church but an ever vibrant Church that is excited, not afraid to plunge into the deep,” Archbishop Villegas said, noting Catholics must be willing to reach out to the people in the streets.
One of the Philippine’s fastest growing pastoral jurisdictions, the Lingayen-Dagupan archdiocese was founded in 1963, and this is its first synod since 1985. The gathering will discuss matters relevant to local parishes, but the archbishop said it will also be an opportunity to listen and serve.