Bishops, Cabinet men hold talks to explore areas of collaboration
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines had an initial dialogue with some members of the Cabinet to explore possible areas of collaboration between the government and the Church.
CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas declined to name the government officials who met with the bishops.
“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.
A source said the dialogue took place last Friday, with the meeting including former Interior secretary Ismael Sueno and Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.
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.
He added: “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.
The Catholic Church, he said, is worried that Catholic beliefs and the Filipino culture are slowly being changed.
“We should not consider killing normal, adultery is not normal, swearing is not normal, blasphemy is not normal,” Villegas said.
The CBCP president stressed that the Church is not against President Duterte, but 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.
He added: “Can you still be a good Catholic and support this president? Certainly, yes.”
The Church is open to collaborating with the government in working for the poor, empowering Mindanao, seeking peace and fighting corruption.
“We should support him on peace-making, alleviating situation of the poor, and everything that is for the benefit of people the Church will go for it,” Villegas said.
He admitted that he was surprised to hear that some of the officials have agreed 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.
The Cabinet members initially conducted the dialogue on their own as they had sympathy for the Catholic Church.
“They are good Catholics. They are concerned that their service in the government and their membership in the Church are at odds, and they don’t want to see that situation,” Villegas said.
The officials also assured the bishops that they are staying in the government as they see great possibilities for the country and that Duterte’s heart is in the right place for the poor.
Further dialogues may include other government officials, as Villegas expressed hope that the President will take part in the dialogues one day.
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