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Despite issues, Church softens up on admin

Archbishop Socrates Villegas INQUIRER PHOTO/ ALEXIS CORPUZ

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ ALEXIS CORPUZ

The usually combative Catholic Church on Wednesday said it had met with some Cabinet members to explore possible areas of collaboration, despite differences stemming from President Duterte’s war on drugs and his prodeath penalty stance.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas declined to name the officials, but said they agreed on certain issues and to keep the lines of communication open.

“There are issues where we would differ in principle, but we should not allow such differences to prevent us from cooperating,” Villegas said in an interview over ANC’s Beyond Politics.

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A source said the dialogue took place last Friday, with former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia among those who attended.

Calling the dialogue “a breakthrough,” Villegas said there was a mutual request from both camps to “tone down” its criticisms of each other.

“You stop, we stop,” the prelate recalled telling the Cabinet officials. “We are afraid that if we keep quiet about the killings, the people will think that it is alright … Our children might grow up thinking killing is correct, or that there are some people exempted from the commandments.”

Villegas noted that there should be an element of goodwill not only from the side of the government, but from the bishops as well.

“You can’t tell us to stop talking when issues are so un-Christian and against our beliefs. If they stop the killings and the so-called disregard for human life, then you can trust that we will tone down our statements because we will see that goodwill,” he said.

“We should not consider killing normal, adultery is not normal, swearing is not normal, blasphemy is not normal,” Villegas said.

Villegas clarified that the Church was not against President Duterte per se, but was against issues of the government concerning the value of life and morality.

“We assured that we are not against the President, but we are for the success of the President. But the solutions should be within parameters of morality,” he said. “Can you still be a good Catholic and support this President? Certainly, yes.”

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The Church is open to collaborating with the government in working for the poor, empowering Mindanao, seeking peace and fighting corruption.

He admitted that he was surprised to hear that some of the officials “agree with the bishops on certain issues such as the spate of killings and the reinstatement of the death penalty.”

“But they are pleading with us to continue the dialogue, we said we are open to it,” he said.

President Duterte has been at loggerheads with the Church, whose leaders he had publicly accused as being “out of touch” with reality.

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TAGS: Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Catholic Church, Philippine news updates, President Duterte, Socrates Villegas
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