Prayer candles. Credit: Grey World via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Encounter and dialogue are the proper response to disagreements over morality, said the Catholic bishops of the Philippines, emphasizing in the wake of the Orlando shooting that hatred and violence have no place in the lives of Christians.

“Bearing in the depth of his or her soul the image of the Creator, no human person should ever be the object of disgust,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said June 13. “While we may have reasons to disagree with sexual preferences, or reprove certain forms of sexual activity, this can never justify hatred, let alone, murder of another human being.”

“No matter that we may disapprove of the actions, decisions and choices of others, there is absolutely no reason to reject the person, no justification for cruelty, no reason for making outcasts of them,” the bishops commented.

Early Sunday morning, a 29-year-old gunman opened fire at a gay Orlando nightclub and began taking hostages. He killed 49 people and injured 53 more before he himself was killed by SWAT officers responding to the scene.

The bishops voiced support and grief for the victims and their families.

“We, bishops of the Philippine Church, unite ourselves with those who mourn in prayer,” they said.

The Catholic Church’s ongoing Year of Mercy was another point of reflection for the bishops.

“The heartlessness with which so many were cut down in their youth or in the prime of life only makes clear how much the world needs mercy,” they said. “As important as it is to be right, it is far more important to be merciful!”

The bishops rejected all violence in society, whether it is comes from lawless groups, vigilantes, government or “the self-righteous.”

“Violence leaves only mourning, and loss, and bitterness in its wake,” the bishops said. “We cannot and should not accept a society that tolerates and perhaps even foments forms of violence, even if this should be in the name of restoring law and order.”

They suggested finding inspiration in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laeitita.”

In the wake of the attack, the bishops called for serious efforts on behalf of many people who are “still forced to the peripheries because the norms of ‘decent society’ forbid association with them.”

“Pope Francis sternly warns us that this cannot be Christian,” they said. “We must continue the dialogue and the conversation with them over the things about which we disagree, but this dialogue must always be an encounter of brothers and sisters, an encounter of friends in the Lord.”

The bishops urged school administrators and youth leaders to be vigilant about bullying, ostracism and harassment.

“We urge government to educate the nation in the ways of the respect for all life,” their message concluded. “We call on all Christians to show the world that our fidelity to Christ and our citizenship in his kingdom are of far more importance than whatever else may keep us in disagreement.”