President Rodrigo Duterte broke bread with the Catholic Church yesterday on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, saying he was one with the Filipino faithful in observing the Catholic celebration.
In turn, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged Church leaders to observe prudence in dealing with Mr. Duterte’s rants against the Church and the prelates.
CBCP public affairs committee executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano urged Catholic clerics not to engage the President in a word war that might worsen the tense situation.
“What we need is to exercise prudence in our words and actions,” Secillano said.
“If we continue to argue with him, it might not end,” he added.
In a statement released by Malacañang yesterday, Mr. Duterte enjoined all Filipinos to emulate the Virgin Mary’s qualities, especially during “times of challenges and uncertainties.”
“I join the entire Filipino Catholic Community in commemorating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Every year, our thoughts and hearts unite to celebrate the life of the Virgin Mary whose simplicity, kindness and humility we truly adore and admire,” the President said.
“Let us emulate Mary’s qualities as a humble and caring person and remain guided by her faithfulness as we strengthen our devotion and nurture our lives with unconditional love and good deeds that will benefit the Filipino people,” he added.
Mr. Duterte also described Mary as the “epitome of faith” and “source of inspiration” for every Filipino.
He likewise called on Filipinos to mirror Mary’s selflessness by thinking less of one’s self and being more of service to others to be worthy contributors to nation building.
The Chief Executive’s message came a couple of days after calling the Catholic Church the “most hypocritical of all institutions” and claiming that almost 90 percent of priests are homosexuals. He also told Filipinos to “stay with God, but do not be fooled by religion.”
But yesterday Mr. Duterte acknowledged the traits of the Virgin Mary which include “simplicity, kindness and humility.”
It was in December 2017 when the President formally signed into law Republic Act 10966 declaring 8 December of every year as a special nonworking holiday in the country in commemoration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Striking a balance
The CBCP official’s comments also came after the President’s latest rant to “kill useless bishops.”
Acknowledging that Mr. Duterte is a popular leader, Secillano said it is important to strike a balance in dealing with differences.
“We’re also striking a balance because it’s difficult to keep on going back and forth over an issue,” he said.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, however, said Mr. Duterte was just employing “hyperbole” in his statements.