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Philippine church leaders dismiss Duterte's threats

Bishops instead urge Catholics to pray for healing forgiveness and peace in the country

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Updated: May 25, 2016 09:54 AM GMT
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Philippine church leaders dismiss Duterte's threats

Bishops in the Philippines have ignored the latest vulgar language and threats by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to expose the "sins of churchmen." (Photo by Mark Saludes)

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Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines dismissed threats made by the country's incoming president, Rodrigo Duterte, that he will divulge the "sins of churchmen" before he takes office on June 30.

Early this week, the president-elect accused the Catholic Church of hypocrisy, saying the bishops who urged the faithful not to campaign for him had been asking favors from the government.

Instead of answering Duterte' allegations, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the bishops' conference, urged Catholics to pray for healing, forgiveness, and peace in the country.

"The Filipino people come to you Lord for healing of all our conflicts, give us genuine peace," read a prayer released by the bishops on May 24.

"Forgive us for the times we become hindrances to peace," added the prayer, which was recited by Archbishop Villegas and 47 other bishops during the ordination of Father Enrique Macaraeg as Bishop of Tarlac.

There was no mention of Duterte who earlier this week said Catholic Church leaders should not hold themselves morally superior because their "hypocritical institution" has a long history of wrongdoing.


Doors are always open

The Archdiocese of Davao, where Duterte ruled for 20 years, issued a statement saying that it respects the views and statements of the mayor.

"The Archdiocese of Davao respects and listens with humility to the views and statements of our incoming president ... about the church, including those that may be difficult to accept and things that may be contrary to our teachings," read a statement signed by Msgr. Paul Cuison, archdiocesan spokesman. 

"We join him in prayer asking for divine wisdom and enlightenment as he begins his journey as the new leader of this beloved land," said Msgr. Cuison.

"Even during the pre-election period, we have always maintained a peaceful relationship with him and our doors are always open to him," he added.

He said the church in Davao is one with the people in acknowledging all the good things that the mayor has done especially for the poor and marginalized. 


'Sons of bitches'

In an interview in the local Tagalog language over the weekend, Duterte called the country's bishops "sons of bitches" who have been asking favors from the government while the poor could not even afford to eat and buy medicine.

"You sons of bitches, aren't you ashamed? You ask so many favors, even from me," said Duterte, who drew the wrath of Catholic bishops last year for cursing Pope Francis.

The president-elect drew flak after using offensive language to criticize the pontiff for causing a traffic jam in Metro Manila during his visit to the Philippines in January 2015.

"You know the most hypocritical institution? The Catholic Church," Duterte told a news conference.

Duterte claimed that the May 9 presidential election was a "referendum between me and the Catholic Church."

The president-elect said some bishops crossed the line when they campaigned against him. 

Duterte had harsh words for retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan, who challenged the former Davao mayor to provide evidence so that the church can do something about the alleged wrongdoings.

"Do not fool the people ... Do not f*** with me, Cruz," said Duterte in a media interview.

The prelate, a vocal critic of the government, laughed off Duterte's comment. "I won't," was Archbishop Cruz's answer to Duterte when asked to comment on the incoming president's outburst.

"I am no one to tell him what is right or wrong," said the prelate. "My intention was just to tell the truth and to distinguish between right and wrong. But to offend him, no no, that intention is too cheap."

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