The president questioned the story of Genesis and called God "stupid". Bishops and priests have been repeatedly insulted for criticising some government policies. "Pray for him with compassion", said Mgr Socrates Villegas. “Disagreeing is never a license to insult,” noted Bishop of Kalookan.
Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The new commission set up by the Filipino government to engage in dialogue with the Catholic Church and other religious denominations is a "welcome development", said Mgr Romulo G. Valles, archbishop of Davao and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). "Dialogue,” he added, “is to listen to one another” and “is always good”.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the formation of a three-person committee that includes Roque himself, Foreign Affairs undersecretary Ernesto Abella and EDSA People Power Commission member Pastor “Boy” Saycon.
The purpose of the committee is to engage in dialogue with the country’s Catholic bishops to reduce tensions between the Church and president.
This follows the latest in a long series of attacks by Duterte against the Catholic Church, Christianity and God himself. On Sunday, the president questioned the story of Genesis and called God "stupid" for allowing temptation to corrupt his creation.
The next day, he clarified that he was not talking about his God and was instead insulting the God of his critics. “Mine has a lot of common sense,” the president said.
On several occasions, Duterte has publicly attacked the Catholic Church using a violent and often vulgar language. Since his election, bishops and priests have criticised some of his government’s policies, like his bloody war on drugs and the imposition of martial law in Mindanao.
However, Duterte’s latest remarks have outraged many Filipinos, earning him accusations of blasphemy.
The Philippines is the Asian nation with the largest number of Christians, about 90% of the population. Out of almost 105 million people, 83.6 million are in communion with Rome. Another 10 million are Protestant and about 820,000 belong to other Christian denominations.
The Catholic Church has tried to avoid the war of words with Duterte.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan and former CBCP president, has called on the faithful to pray for the president.
“Pray for him with compassion. We pray for his healing and for God’s forgiveness on him,” Villegas said in a statement addressed to the young people of the archdiocese.
“Disagreeing is never a license to insult,” said CBCP Vice President Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan.
“How can he be the president for all Filipinos when he does not respect the Catholic faithful?” asked Mgr David. “The majority of his supporters are Catholic, aren’t they? We hope he will respect Catholics even if he does not agree with the Catholic faith”.