A gunman was fatally shot by police after he forced his way into the residence of Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu on Tuesday morning and sought to speak to the absent bishop.
“We enjoin everyone to pray for the soul of the deceased even as we ask the public to refrain from forming any speculations relating to this incident pending investigation by the police,” Fr. Joseph Tan, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cebu, said July 10.
“Let us make use of this incident as an occasion to pray for peace and conversion of hearts,” he added.
The archbishop had been out of town in Manila for a plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and was traveling for a bishop’s ordination.
The suspected gunman, Jeffrey Ca√±edo, showed unusual behavior in his conversations with staff.
“He was asked if he needed anything or if he needed to see a priest but he seemed to be, his disposition was a bit suspicious. He was not coherent with his answers, he was talking about different things,” Fr. Tan said.
This behavior prompted them to call police, CBCP News reports.
When police tried to approach him, he was not cooperative. He drew a gun and fired at them, prompting police to return fire.
The man’s body was blessed by Auxiliary Bishop of Cebu Dennis Villarojo before it was brought to the morgue.
Fr. Tan told the news site Rappler that the archbishop is in contact with the deceased man’s father.
At the time of the incident, priests in charge of archdiocesan youth ministry were meeting at the archbishop’s residence.
“There is no known prior threat to the Archbishop of Cebu. We call for prayer that peace may be restored,” Fr. Tan added.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osme√±a told the Rappler that an attempt on the archbishop’s life is “out of character,” because he is known to take a low profile.
However, Palma has been an outspoken critic of the extrajudicial killings which have targeted drug dealers. The killings of alleged drug dealers involve police cooperation with vigilante groups and have the support of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials, critics of the killings say.
There is also a trend of violence against priests.
Three priests have been shot and killed since December 2017. Father Richmond Nilo was shot June 6 by two unidentified gunmen. They fired through a window of Nuestra Senora de la Nieve Chapel in Zaragoza in the northern Philippine Diocese of Cabanatuan as the priest was preparing to celebrate Sunday Mass.
Another priest survived a June 6 assassination attempt.
In June Philippine officials said they have received gun carry permit applications from nearly 250 religious workers, including 188 Catholic priests. It was unclear whether the increase in applications was related to the violence.
Some of the country’s bishops have raised concerns about a priest carrying a weapon.
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao said in an interview that being a priest in the country means being comfortable with the possibility of being murdered on the job.
“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,” said Valles.
Archbishop Rolando Tirona of Caceres suggested that worried priests learn some form of martial arts in lieu of carrying a firearm.