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Philippines

Church vows to mark Christianity's arrival without Duterte

There is nothing special about 'subjugation' of the country by Spanish colonizers, Philippine president says

 Mark Saludes, Manila

Mark Saludes, Manila

Updated: September 09, 2019 07:14 AM GMT
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Church vows to mark Christianity's arrival without Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reiterates his pronouncement that he will not support the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country in 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Office)

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Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines have vowed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity there with or without the support of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The president said he will not back the celebration because the Catholic faith was used by the Spanish colonizers and missionaries as an instrument to subjugate the Filipino people.

"They came to this country as imperialists. We were not Spanish and they subjugated us for 300 years. That’s painful for me," said Duterte in a speech on Sept. 6.

Catholic bishops, however, said that with or without the president's support the celebrations would be held.

Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose said Duterte will only "deprive himself of the graces, which we will receive during the celebration."

He said the president would also miss an opportunity to unite the people whom he vowed to serve.

"One may or not celebrate or attend, yet we continue to be grateful to God for His 500 years of graces and guidance," said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga.

He said the celebration will be a way "to remember and look back" to events that made the country a "new evangelizer of the Catholic faith to the whole world."

Duterte, who repeatedly berates Catholic Church leaders, was reiterating comments made in June, where he said he was not keen on celebrating the anniversary in 2021.

Spain brought Christianity to the Philippines in 1521 with the arrival of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu.

The archipelago, named after King Philip II, became a colony of Spain until 1898.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogonsaid that Duterte only showed that he is "ignorant of the significance" of Magellan in the history of the world.

"It is not only the coming of Christianity that we celebrate but the great significance of Magellan’s voyage that proves Galileo’s theory [and that of the ancient Greeks] that the world is round," he said.

The bishop said Duterte "should be given a lecture on the history of the world and of our country."

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan said what Filipinos will celebrate in 2021 is "not colonialism but the Christian faith" that early Filipinos "welcomed as a gift, albeit from people who were not necessarily motivated by the purest of motives."

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