Priests in the Philippines are applying for gun carry permits in record numbers after three of them were murdered during the last six months.
According a national news report last week, applications have been received from nearly 250 religious workers including 188 Catholic priests, Crux reported.
The priest who died most recently was shot inside a chapel in the north of the country as he was preparing to say mass. Fr Richmond Nilo was killed by two unidentified gunmen who fired through a window four times.
Before him, on April 29, Fr Mark Ventura, 37, a campaigner against unethical mining practices, was shot dead after celebrating mass in the province of Cagayan. Fr Marcelito Paez, 72, was shot dead on December 4, 2017 in Nueva Ecija province after helping secure the release of a political prisoner and dropping him off at his home.
However, Church authorities have expressed unease about the trend for priests to carry weapons. According to UCA news, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan said he was 'very disappointed', and that priests who wanted to carry weapons needed 'serious counselling'.
'We don't even have to dwell on the morality of it. It is unpriestly, to say the least,' he said.
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the bishops' conference, said: 'We are men of God, men of the church, and it is part of our ministry to face dangers, to face deaths if one may say that way.'