Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte pledged to stop publicly lambasting the Catholic church and its beliefs, but demanded that Filipino bishops stop criticizing him.
Duterte demanded a stop to clerical criticism against his administration a day after meeting with Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, on Monday and agreeing to a “moratorium on statements about the church.”
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, announced the Filipino president’s demand shortly after the bishops conference issued a “pastoral exhortation” Monday in which Duterte was not directly named, but thoroughly rebuked. (RELATED: Duterte Declares He Will Resign If Someone Can Prove God’s Existence)
“Given there is separation of Church and state, (Church leaders) should not use the pulpit to criticize his administration,” Roque quoted Duterte as saying, according to Crux Now.
The bishops’ exhortation, written by Valles, called for three days of prayer and fasting to follow one day of prayer invoking “God’s mercy and justice” on Duterte. They also noted attacks on and murders of clergy in the Philippines, but said that the sufferings of the poor were greater under Duterte’s administration than theirs, especially with regard to drug offenders.
“Should we not rather look at them also as victims who are crying out for help? Are we to remain as bystanders when we hear of people being killed in cold blood by ruthless murderers who dispose of human lives like trash? Do we not realize that for every drug suspect killed, there is a widowed wife and there are orphaned children left behind – who could hardly even afford a decent burial for their loved ones? Do we not care when poor people’s homes are searched without warrants, or when drug suspects are arrested without warrants, or detained without charges?” the exhortation read, according to Crux.
The bishops also responded to Duterte’s complaint of the “creeping influence” of the Catholic church and allegations that the church seeks to overthrow or undermine Duterte’s administration.
“Nothing can be further from the truth. Our concern is never the establishment of any earthly kingdoms. Worldly kingdoms come and go. We work only for God’s kingdom which is beyond this world,” Valles wrote.
He also asserted that the church “respects the political authority, especially of democratically-elected government officials” so long as they do not oppose the basic principles of the Catholic church.
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