Filipino priest in Papua New Guinea assault now safe, says bishop

A Filipino Vincentian priest who became a victim of assault in Papua New Guinea last month is now safe.

“Thank God he is already out of danger and back in his parish in Wapipi, Trobriand Islands, for the Holy Week,” said Bishop Rolando Santos of Alotau in an interview with Radio Veritas 846 on April 6.

The prelate said Father Manny Lapaz of the Congregation of the Mission is now in good health.

The priest, who is from Cebu in the central Philippines, is currently the superior of the Vincentian community in Alotau.

The Filipino priest was among those seriously hurt when 15 men forcibly entered the residence where 11 priests and a deacon were staying in Alotau town on March 19.

Bishop Santos earlier said at least seven of his priests were injured in the attack.

“The rascals intended to kill him but one of them intervened and saved Father Manny,” said the bishop in the radio interview. “No report yet of any arrests made by the police,” he added.

The attackers, known as the Tommy Bakers’ gang, fled with laptops, mobile phones, cash, and other valuables.

They also carted away a new outboard engine and solar panels that the priests use in remote mission areas.

Bishop Santos said Caritas in Papua New Guinea is helping the local church to recover what was stolen.

“The peace and order situation here in Alotau and Milne Bay Province has deteriorated sharply over the last four years,” he said.

“The local police are outnumbered and outgunned by the rascals,” added the bishop who hails from Malabon City in Metro Manila.

He has been the bishop of Alotau in Papua New Guinea for since 2011 when he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI.

“We are very much saddened and we decry the violence and loss of property,” said Bishop Santos as he appealed for dialogue to restore peace and order in the area.

“Differences should be settled peacefully and due respect given to the rights and dignity of every person,” he said.

Reports said a series of violent incidents has occurred in the area targeting police and firefighters.

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