Members of the clergy and the religious should not carry firearms, “even if there are threats” to their lives, said several of the Philippines’ Catholic Church leaders.
“I’m not a canon lawyer, but there’s a provision that disallows us to carry firearms even if there are threats,” said Archbishop Jose Cabantan of Cagayan de Oro in the southern part of the country.
The prelate made the comment on Church-run Radio Veritas 846 following the government announcement this week that it is extending the validity of licenses to carry firearms and the registration of firearms up to 10 years.
Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz, also in the southern region of Mindanao, said he does not agree with priests carrying guns. “Firearms are symbols of violence, not peace,” he said.
In 2018, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines reiterated its opposition to arming priests, saying that it is eminently fitting for priests who act “in the person of Christ” to follow His example.
Archbishop Romulo Valles, former president of the Conference, said that a priest’s actions and attitude should conform as closely as possible to Christ’s and should be a witness to the Gospel.
“A priest is a person who is configured to Christ,” said Archbishop Valles. “And therefore, with this configuration of a priest to Christ, it is simply not appropriate, to say the least, for a priest to carry firearms to protect himself.”
He also said the killing of priests in the past are not enough reason for clergymen to arm themselves, even in self-defense.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier signed Republic Act No. 11766, which amends two provisions of Republic Act No. 10591, extending the validity of the licenses to carry firearms from two years up to five to 10 years and the registration of the firearm from the previous four years up to five to 10 years.
Under the new law, all licenses to posses a firearm, regardless of type or classification, shall be renewed every five years or 10 years, at the option of the licensee, unless sooner revoked or suspended.
Incumbent and former elected officials and active and retired military and law enforcement personnel are now exempted from the requirement of a threat assessment certificate in applying for a permit to carry firearms outside of residence or place of business.
Priests, ministers, rabbi, imams have been on the list of those exempted together with members of the Philippine Bar, certified public accountants, cashiers, bank tellers, physicians, nurses, engineers, and businessmen who, by nature of their business or undertaking are exposed to high risk of being targets of criminal elements.