By William Casis
FilAm Star Correspondent
Sen. Leila de Lima expressed jubilation over a “beautiful rosary” sent to her by Pope Francis.
In a handwritten letter she sent ahead of her birthday last August, De Lima requested Pope Francis for prayers for herself and the Filipino people, especially for the thousands of victims of extra-judicial killings in the country.
“I cannot thank Pope Francis enough for his thoughtfulness. I’m deeply, deeply touched by the Pope’s gesture,” said de Lima who has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodian Center over drug charges.
De Lima has been accused of collecting drug money from convicted drug lords detained at the New Bilibid Prison to bankroll her senatorial run during the last May 2016 elections.
“This gift will constantly remind me that, despite the political persecution I am experiencing right now at the hands of a vengeful President, I should keep the faith and fight tirelessly for the welfare of the Filipino people,” she said.
The PNP Chaplain visited De Lima and handed to her the rosary from Pope Francis, and a message, which was coursed through the Papal Nuncio.
“According to the Chaplain, Pope Francis was able to read my letter and (I was) assured that he is praying for me,” said De Lima.
In her letter to Pope Francis, she asked the Pontiff to offer a prayer for her and her beloved countrymen who are suffering from abuses and injustices since Duterte launched his government’s all-out war on drugs.
The Senator from Bicol also asked for the Pope’s blessing to give her strength in relentlessly standing up against the state-led abuses.
Since her arrest and detention, De Lima said she has become more prayerful with the guidance of her spiritual advisers. She reads the Bible daily and attends Sunday masses with family and friends within the detention facility.
The third Pontiff to grace the Philippines, Pope Francis last visited the country in January 2015 as part of his effort to see the victims of Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda, which devastated the country in 2013.
The full text of De Lima’s message to Pope Francis in English, dated 15 August 2017, reads:
Dear Papa Francesco,
I am Leila de Lima, a senator from the Philippines and a political prisoner who has been incarcerated for the past 173 days, by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The international community has been appalled by the brazen violation of human rights since Duterte waged his war on drugs.
This August 27, I will turn 58 years old. Life’s journey has had its ups and downs but I never imagined that my birthday would be spent inside a jail.
Papa Francesco, if I may be granted one wish, I hope that you will say a prayer for me and the Filipino people.
Please bless me so I can have the strength to continue the fight against the injustice that is happening not only to me but to thousands of Filipinos who are victims of extra-judicial killing.
I do not know when I will regain my freedom. Only Faith sustains me through this nightmare.
Please include me and the Philippines in your prayers.
God bless you Papa.
My heartfelt thanks,
(Signed) Leila M. de Lima