Manila: Catholic priests have voiced their reaction against a new law that has allowed them to arm themselves against attackers, adding it is contrary to their belief that peace not violence is needed in this world, a Catholic website said.

“Priests are supposed to be men of peace, not of war. Our Lord said: ‘he who lives by the sword will die by the sword. We should not counter violence with violence.” Bishop Jose Oliveros of suburban Malolos said in a statement posted by the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“Priests have weapons that are not destructive: weapon of forgiveness, mercy, goodness and love. These weapons never hurt. All other weapons destroy,” Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa in southern Philippines also said in a statement at the CBCP.

“We priests are not afraid of dangers. If the general public, especially the poor, are exposed to dangers, we cannot be less,” Archbishop Lipa said.

“Priests must be non-violent. We get our protection from the holy angels — not weapons,” Bishop Arturo Baste of Sorsogon, southern Luzon explained.

“Our security is more on what we do, how we interact and live with people,” insisted Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of suburban Quezon City’s Cubao district.

The CBCP has called for gun ban, adding that only authorities and men in uniform such as police and military men should carry firearms in public.

The new law, called Republic Act 10591, has allowed people “under actual threat or in imminent danger due to the nature of their profession, occupation or business” to carry firearms out of their houses.

They included accountants, accredited journalists, cashiers, bank tellers, businessmen, cashiers, engineers, imams, lawyers, ministers, nurses, physicians, priests, and rabbis.

Only members and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcement agencies can lawfully acquire and possess high-powered weapons, the new law said.

Under the new law, those seeking to buy firearms must undergo drug and psychological tests; should not have a criminal record or pending court cases; should have proof of income, valid tax return, clearances from city or municipal police offices, and gun safety seminar administered by the police or a registered or authorized gun club.

Gun owners were also told to renew gun licences every two years or suffer the confiscation of their weapons.

The new law will be used as a campaign against loose firearms, explained presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte, but did not give details.

The police will be checking on potential sources of unlicensed weapons, she added.

High rate of criminality has prompted many Filipinos to seek protection with guns. Black market of weapons has also thrived.

Government agencies have been campaigning annually against use of guns to greet the New Year. Two children died by stray bullets at the end of 2012.

About 1.2 million guns were registered in 2012; but 600,000 loose firearms are in circulation, police said.