Updated: June 28, 2016 10:23 AM GMT
Manila's gay community hold their annual Pride March, on June 25. (ucanews.com photo by Vincent Go)
Philippine Catholic leaders said there would be no change in church teaching on same-sex relations despite recent comments by Pope Francis urging Catholics to seek forgiveness for the way they treat gay people.
Speaking to reporters while returning to Rome from Armenia, Pope Francis on June 26 said the church should ask forgiveness for the way it has treated gay people.
The pontiff said the church teaches that gay people "should not be discriminated against."
"It has to be emphasized that the pope's apology is not in any way related to the doctrine of the church on homosexuality," said Father Jerome Secillano of the Philippine bishops' conference's public affairs office.
Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose, said the Catholic Church in the Philippines has nothing to apologize to the country's gay community for. "We accept them here," he said.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered" and calls them "contrary to the natural law." It adds, however, that gay people "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity."
'Catholic Church loves and serves all'
In a pastoral letter in 2015, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines stressed that sexual attraction toward a person of the same sex was not a sin.
The bishops, however, said homosexual acts were "gravely disordered and considered 'sins gravely contrary to chastity.'"
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro said the Catholic Church respects the human dignity and human rights of every person "regardless of race, creed, income class or sexual orientation."
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga also said, "Our Catholic Church loves and serves all. Our church accepts [gay people] as human persons."
Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan, a leading rights activist in the Philippines, told ucanews.com that what Pope Francis meant was that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people "have the same dignity as everyone else."
"People should be sorry for not recognizing this dignity, treating them as perverts, making them the butt of jokes," said Sister Mananzan.
Manila's gay community conducts their annual Pride March on June 25. (ucanews.com photo by Vincent Go)
Need for an apology
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos agreed with Sister Mananzan, saying there are times that "we, as a church, are guilty of discriminating people, the LGBT community included."
"We know we sometimes fail, hence the need to also ask forgiveness from God and from each other," he said, adding that only through forgiveness can healing take place and "reconciliation is made possible."
Bishop Alminaza stressed that Pope Francis did not only call for an apology to gay people but also to "groups of persons who have been hurt by Christians who do not live up to the Gospel."
"There will always be good and bad Christians in the church," said the bishop.
Pope Francis on June 26 said the church "not only should apologize ... to a gay person whom it offended but it must also apologize to the poor as well, to the women who have been exploited, to children who have been exploited by [being forced to] work."
"It must apologize for having blessed so many weapons," said the pontiff.
Putting the pope's statement in context
Father Manuel Catral of Tuguegarao Archdiocese said the pope's statement on same-sex relationships should be put into context.
"In the Year of Mercy, the question should be how to implement a pastoral approach on issues of discrimination," he said.
Father Emmanuel Montes of Iba Diocese said "a much deeper … dialogue should follow the apology of the church."
"I think the pope's comments are not directly about the doctrine of homosexuality, but about basic recognition of human dignity that once offended, one must humbly ask for forgiveness," said Redemptorist Father Rico John Bilangel.
He said there are many gay and lesbian people who are living a life of charity and service for the church and for society but are judged because of their sexual orientation.
"Wouldn't it be necessary to ask forgiveness from them?" said the priest.
Additional reporting by Mark Saludes
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