'We must teach the Gospel of Christ even if they kill us': Philippines archbishop speaks out against government

Archbishop Socrates VillegasWikimedia Commons

A Catholic archbishop in the Philippines has told clergy to continue preaching the Gospel even if they are threatened with death and 'the government is hostile'.

Socrates Villegas, the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan said in a homily at Dagupan Cathedral: 'We must teach even if our voices get hoarse. We must teach even if they threaten us.'

He continued: '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!'

Lingayen-Dagupan is one of the most vocal archdioceses against the government, whose ruthless drugs 'war' has claimed thousands of lives in the country.

The archbishop said the times call on pastors not to be afraid and to 'fill the dark world with the light of Christ'.

Villegas 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.'

The prelate, who has led the archdiocese since 2009, also stressed the need for the Church to reach out to what Pope Francis calls 'the peripheries'.

He said: 'We dream not of [a] status quo Church but an ever vibrant Church that is excited, not afraid to plunge into the deep.'

The comments came after a series of clashes between the Catholic Church and the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In March Catholic Bishops there said that they were 'overcome with grief' after the House of Representatives, the lower house in Congress, overwhelmingly voted in favour of reinstating capital punishment for serious drug offences.

According to the reports, more than 8,000 people have been killed by police and unknown suspects since Duterte took office last year, with many in incidents involving vigilantes.