By Leslie Ann Aquino
Kalookan Bishop Pablo David has been urged by Pope Francis to face the challenges in his diocese with “courage”.
David and other Filipino bishops recently met with the pontiff in Vatican for their “ad limina” visit.
It was on his way out after the audience with the pope, he said that the pontiff held his arm and prayed over him.
“I want you to know I am with you as you face trials in your ministry in your diocese,” CBCP News quoted David’s Facebook post where he recalled his encounter with the Holy Father.
“Then he pulled me to himself to give me a warm paternal embrace, pressing his head against mine, and brushing his hand gently on my back as he whispered into my ears, ‘Courage!’” he added.
The bishop earlier said the cities in his diocese have been “turned into killing fields” in the government’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs trade.
A vocal critic of the drug war, David had earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte who accused him of involvement in illegal drugs.
In February, the prelate bared he has been receiving death threats.
During their audience with the pontiff, the prelates were allowed to address the pontiff freely without the aid of the microphone.
When David had his turn, the bishop told the pope that he had no question and just wanted to ask for his prayers.
“I was surprised when he interrupted me in the middle of my sentence and said, ‘I want you to know that I know your situation; I know what you are going through. I am praying for you,’” David recalled.
“My eyes blurred with tears when he said that. I had to clear my throat to be able to go on speaking,” he said.
The Kalookan diocese is composed of the southern part of Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas covering some of the poorest communities in Metro Manila.