Saturday, March 11, 2017

PHILIPPINES - The Philippine Church is not "against Duterte"

There is a gap between President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and the Catholic Church in the Philippines. 

The faithful see the pronouncements of Duterte against the Church and against priests multiply while, on the other hand the bishops’ messages deplore the "reign of terror", as stated in the Pastoral Letter of the Bishops Conference, titled "The Lord does not enjoy the death of the wicked", read in all churches of the nation in February.

"I think the Church and Duterte confront each other for the same objective, justice and social peace, but the government intends to achieve it in ways which are considered unacceptable for the Church", notes to Fides James Anthony Perez, president of the Catholic Association "Filipinos for Life".

Amongst the key issues that divide the government and the Church there are: the anti-drug campaign, with the long trail of extrajudicial executions; the restoration of the death penalty; the lowering of the age for criminal responsibility to 9. 

"Duterte embodies the desire of ordinary people who want justice and security. The Church is not against these objectives, but reminds the people that prosperity and justice are achieved through the recognition of the sanctity of human life first of all, not by its negation", says Perez.

Duterte is emerging as a skilled communicator, thanks to short, effective, timely messages.
The government criticized the bishops' letter of last February calling it "outside the world" and observers define the relations between Church and government "cold" if not "hostile".

Fr. Jerome Secillano, spokesman for the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, told Fides: "The Church cannot agree on the direction taken by the Government to address some of the most critical issues our country is facing". 

According to Secillano, "Duterte’s administration thinks that the Church is against the president, but forget that the Bishops' Conference raised its voice against the abuses committed during Aquino’s administration and by other presidents in the past".

Secillano reiterates: "The Church in the Philippines has nothing personal against Duterte. The Church is simply critical of issues related to human rights, justice, respect for life, the rule of law, which it considers extremely important points. The Church has the issues affecting the welfare of the people and the common good of the nation at heart".

Duterte has spared no personal attacks against the Catholic hierarchy depicting priests as corrupt or advocates of sexual abuse, but "we are confident that people still harbor so much confidence in the Catholic Church", concluded the spokesman.

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