Let’s pray for Duterte’s healing, bishops urge
Two Catholic bishops have called on the faithful to pray for President Rodrigo Duterte’s “healing” following his “stupid God” rant, but one prelate suggested that Catholics also rebuke his “errors” on the Christian faith.
The President, notorious for having cursed Pope Francis and world leaders, sounded unapologetic on Monday night, but he formed a three-man team to dialogue with the Church and other religious organizations.
As the furor over the President’s remark grew louder among the clergy and Catholics, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas exhorted the faithful to “choose to love” the President and even “pray for him with compassion.”
“We pray for his healing and for God’s forgiveness on him,” he said on Tuesday in an open letter posted on the archdiocese website and addressed to the youth. “But we must rebuke his errors about our Christian faith.”
“He is a person in authority and some of you might get confused when you hear him,” said Villegas, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
“To pray for him is not enough. We must serve you the truth as we pray for him,” he added.
Sunday Mass appeal
Bishop Alberto Uy of the Diocese of Tagbilaran in Bohol province appealed to parishioners “to pray for healing so that the President’s heart could be healed.”
“We need to be hopeful. We continue to respect our President. And we pray for him,” Uy said during Sunday Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in Garcia Hernandez town. “We pray for healing.”
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) also called on evangelical Christians to keep praying for the President and his administration to be able “to lead our nation with the knowledge, wisdom and righteousness that come from God.”
In a televised speech in Davao City on Friday, the President took aim at the biblical story of man’s creation, and asked why God created Adam and Eve only to allow them to fall from grace.
“Who is this stupid God? You created something perfect and then you think of an event that would destroy the quality of your work,” the 73-year-old leader said. “How can you rationalize that God? How can you believe him?”
Despite the outrage, the President defended his remark when he addressed village officials in Cagayan de Oro City on Monday night.
‘My God is perfect’
“Your God is not my God because your God is stupid. Mine has a lot of common sense,” he said. “If I choose not to believe in any God, what’s the fucking thing about it? It’s a freedom to choose one.”
At another point, the President said: “I did not say that God is stupid; listen to the records,” he said. “I said your God is a stupid God, my God is perfect.”
Even so, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday that he had been tasked by the President to initiate a dialogue with the CBCP, PCEC and other religious groups.
“The theme will be how to lessen the rift between the government and the Church,” said Roque, who will constitute the panel together with Foreign Undersecretary Ernesto Abella and Council for Philippine Affairs secretary general Pastor Boy Saycon.
The CBCP president, Archbishop Romulo Valles, welcomed the move. “To dialogue, to listen to one another, is always good.”
The President has excoriated the Church over reports of abuses by priests in response to the latter’s criticism of the administration’s bloody war on drugs.
While others were conciliatory, more Church leaders have come out to denounce what some called “blasphemous” remarks.
“How can he be President for all Filipinos if he does not have the respect for the Catholic faithful?”’ Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, CBCP vice president, said in a Facebook post.
“Most of his supporters are Catholics, right? Catholics will respect him even if he does not agree with the Catholic faith. But disagreement is not a license to insult,” David added.
The PCEC national director, Noel Pantoja, also condemned the remarks, saying it was “completely inappropriate for the President to derisively curse at the God of the Christian faith, who is deeply worshipped not only by a majority of Filipinos but also by a vast number of people from all over the world.”
But Pantoja also appealed to Rodrigo Duterte “to instead lead in fostering respect toward different religious beliefs.”
Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo defended Mr. Duterte anew, saying he and many other Catholics were not offended by his remarks.
“Maybe to you it’s insulting . . . I was not insulted as a Catholic. Many Catholics have not been insulted by that,” he said over ANC. —With reports from Gabriel Cardinoza, Leo Udtohan, Divina Suson, Jigger Jerusalem, Christine O. Avendaño, Julie Aurelio and AP
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