07/09/2013, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Filipino Church "to continue fight against Reproductive Health law"

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the newly elected president of the Bishops' Conference, explains the position of Filipino Catholics on the family planning law. Opposition is "an act of responsibility". Faithful gather in Manila for a "peaceful and festive prayer vigil".

Manila (AsiaNews) - As the Supreme Court in Manila vets the Reproductive Health law, the Filipino Catholic Church reiterates its opposition, holding a prayer vigil in capital. The justices will hear 6 interveners in support of the law as well as 15 against it. If no decision is reached today, the matter will be examined again on 26 July.

"It is our responsibility to protect the sacred nature of life," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, newly elected president of the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. "Catholics will continue to fight against this bill because it is their duty," he added; "a duty that entails the role of shepherd, not any behaviour that causes disturbances. We are not social troublemakers. We are conscience troublemakers."

Reproductive Health legislation has been discussed for almost 14 years. Since its first draft, it has undergone five changes. Congress has debated its merit for a year. Last December, it was finally approved.

Under the new law, clinical abortion is banned but couples are urged to have no more than two children. This plan has the support of big international NGOs, the UN and UNICEF, who see in a high birth rate one of the main causes of poverty.

The Filipino Church, backed by numerous Catholic associations active in the country, is in favour of natural family planning, which promotes a culture of responsibility and love based on natural values.

"The Church is not an NGO. The mission of the Church is truly spiritual. If we get involved in bills like the RH, which is now a law, it's because our spiritual mission mandates us to do that," said Mgr Villegas, who is set to take over the CBCP next December.

Before going to Supreme Court, lawyers and petitioners attended a Mass at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guia in Ermita, Manila, at 9 am.

"Our first support for the Supreme Court process will be a Mass and a prayer vigil," Villegas said. "Our first contribution is to show to the world that prayer has power to change" it.

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