The bishops said drug addicts were 'sick brethren in need of healing, deserving of new life not death'

The Catholic bishops of the Philippines have reiterated their horror at the targeted killing of drug dealers across the country, saying all attacks on human life “cry to heaven for divine justice”.

Their message came after a former Filipino militiaman testified at a televised senate inquiry that he had heard Rodrigo Duterte directly order killings of criminals and opponents during his time as mayor of Davao.

Edgar Matobato said that he himself had carried out about 50 deadly assaults as an assassin but about 1,000 were thought to be carried out in total.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the bishops’ conference, said in a message released this week on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows: “Human dignity must always be protected, and the nobility of every human person continues to shine despite the scars of the crime and sin.”

The archbishop said: “Drug addicts are sick brethren in need of healing … deserving of new life, not death. They are patients begging for recovery … They may have behaved as scum and rubbish, but the saving of love of Jesus Christ is first and foremost for them. No man or woman is ever so unworthy of God’s love.”

The archbishop went on to say that drug dealers deserve a second chance: “Dead in their addictions, ‘living dead’ in the eyes of an unforgiving world, we bid our addicted brethren to rise up and live again”.

The statement continues: “St Teresa of Calcutta aptly puts it: ‘If we can accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?’”

The statement concluded: “If peace begins in the heart, so does violence and sin. We are all responsible for the quagmire we are in. If we turn to the Lord, he will heal our land. May our grief be turned to repentance and our repentant sorrow be turned into joy. May darkness of confusion be overcome by His light and may our cold indifference be cured by a new fire of Pentecost. May our repentance turn our paths from death into life!”

Human rights groups have long accused Duterte of being involved in death squads, which he has denied.

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Jan 20 2016 cover