Archbishop Charles Brown, papal nuncio to the Philippines, met with some widows and orphans of victims of the government’s “drug war” in Manila on Friday.
The archbishop said he was “deeply moved” hearing the stories and expressed the pope’s closeness to them.
“I am deeply sorry for everything that you have to go through,” Archbishop Brown said after hearing the testimonies of eight individuals who are undergoing therapy offered by the St. Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center.
“I assure you that Pope Francis is close to you. In fact I would be going to see Pope Francis in October and I promise you I will tell him about this experience in person,” he said.
The center was established by the Society of Divine Word (SVD) congregation in the city’s Tayuman district in 2015 to provide services for the homeless.
In 2016, Father Flavie Villanueva, SVD, founded the “Paghilom” program to reach out to those who lost loved ones due to killings under the government’s bloody “war on drugs.”
The program offers support to the bereaved families in five aspects: food, psycho-spiritual intervention, legal assistance, educational assistance, and livelihood assistance.
Archbishop Brown lauded the initiative, “which is really a true gift from God for many families who are suffering the effects of this terrible violence.”
The nuncio’s visit to Kalinga Center was to grace the facility’s 6th anniversary celebration of its establishment, where he also listened to testimonies of some street dwellers.
According to him, such initiative is something that is “close to the heart” of Pope Francis.
“He wants us to take care of the marginalized and the people who are in the periphery, people who are poor and overlooked,” Archbishop Brown added.
Reflecting on the theme of the fifth centenary celebration of Christianity in the country, he stressed “all of us are gifted, so all of us must give” especially to the poor.
“The poor are the sacramental image of who we are. We must love because we have been gifted to give,” he said.
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