Pope Francis concerned over security threats in PH

By Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

Pope Francis admits he is concerned about reports of alleged threats to his security during his visit to the Philippines.

In a press conference on board Sri Lankan Airlines flight ALK4111 that brought him from Colombo to Manila, the pontiff said he has asked for updates from the Vatican security personnel accompanying him on this two-country apostolic voyage.

Traveling with the pope are two officials of the Pontifical Swiss Guards, his personal security group, and four members of the Gendarmerie Corps, the police force of the Vatican City State.

Some months back, fundamentalists belonging to the Islamic State aired threats against the Pope, although Philippine authorities insist there is no verifiable information that the pontiff will be in danger.

Speaking in Italian, the pope said the best way to deal with such threats is to stay meek and humble.

And in his trademark self-deprecating humor, Francis said he has prayed to the Lord and asked him that “if anything should happen to me, don’t make it so bad because I’m not good at facing pain.”

The pope said he is looking forward to seeing as many Filipinos as he can, but also acknowledged it would not be possible to see everyone.

His message to those who are unable to see him, much less participate in “personal encounters” with him: “I am thinking of you.”

The pope said his thoughts go especially to the poor, the exploited, those suffering from social or spiritual injustice, as well as overseas Filipino workers who are far from family and country.

In Sri Lanka, which was torn apart by decades of civil war between Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic groups, one of the Pope’s recurring themes is forgiveness and reconciliation, but also truth and justice.

Asked if he would support the creation of a truth commission in countries that suffered from internal conflict, Francis said he supported the creation of such in Argentina where he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

However, he said he could not say if it would apply to other countries because he doesn’t know their respective situations.

The pope also shared his thoughts on other issues that can be summed up in the following themes:

  1. Religious freedom is a fundamental right; however, religion should not be used to commit violence or wage wars;
  2. Freedom of expression is also a fundamental right; but it should not be used to mock, insult, or provoke especially other religions;
  3. Rather than focus on their differences, various faiths and religions would do better to focus on what they agree on for the common good.
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