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Gift scandal 'has hurt Church'

Bishops' conference head says prelates ready to atone for 'errors'

Lourdes Abelardo and Ernie Reyes, Manila

July 11, 2011

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The Bishops’ Conference admitted today allegations that some bishops received gifts from a government agency has hurt the Church and Catholics. “We are sorry for the pain and sadness these events have brought upon you,” said conference president Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, in a statement at the end of a three-day plenary assembly of bishops in Manila. The prelate admitted the Church has been “deeply wounded” by the controversy that saw several bishops accept cash donations and sport utility vehicles from the Charity Sweepstakes Office. “We are saddened that many of you, especially the youth, the poor, our basic ecclesial communities, have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching,” Bishop Odchimar said. He said some Church members believe the bishops involved in the scandal are innocent, while others do not. He said the bishops accused of receiving the gifts have already expressed their readiness to do everything necessary to heal the wounds the controversy has created. “We assure you that the bishops concerned are ready to accept responsibility for their actions and to face the consequences if they are proven unlawful, anomalous and unconstitutional,” said Bishop Odchimar. He said the Church will be re-examining the manner in which it works with government agencies to help the poor to make sure pastoral sensibilities are respected and ethical standards are observed. The conference president said the actions of the bishops were done without malice. He, however, admitted that they failed to consider the fallout which the “gifts” could possibly bring.

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