THE PRESIDENT of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday voiced out his dismay over a television network’s for-sale papal visit shirts that had misrepresented the Pope’s statements.

In a Facebook post this morning, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said one of the shirts, which states, “No Race. No Religion,” were “misleading” and “erroneous.”

The shirt, which went on sale on the ABS-CBN online store last week, read, in full: “No Race. No Religion. I Embrace Diversity.”

“While the words [on] the shirt attempt to convey the openness of the Holy Father, the [phrase] ‘No Race, No Religion’ are definitely misleading and quite frankly erroneous,” Villegas said.

Villegas pointed out that the Pope heads “an organized religion with a vast membership throughout the world.”

“He has never said and taught that religion and race do not matter, because they most certainly do. It is what selfish, uncharitable and judgemental people do with religion and race that is a problem,” Villegas added.

ABS-CBN spokesperson Ramon Osorio later said the network was pulling out the commemorative shirts from their online and retail partner stores, but claimed there was “no intent to deceive or mislead the public.”

“ABS-CBN assures the public that there was no intent to deceive or mislead the public through the commemorative shirts that carry statements inspired by Pope Francis’ message of love, openness, and humility,” Osorio said in a press statement.

Aside from the “no race, no religion” shirts, the television network has also produced shirts stating, “Ganito ako. Ganyan ka. Who am I to judge?” These were not pulled out.

Catholic netizens and groups such as Youth For Life said the “Who am I to judge” shirt also misrepresented the Pope’s statements about homosexuality and should likewise be pulled out.

The famous rhetorical question came out of an airborne press conference on July 29, 2013 following the World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil. Pope Francis addressed a question about the so-called “gay lobby” in the Vatican said to be protecting erring clergymen, and about the appointment of a monsignor with a history of sexual indiscretions to oversee the cleanup of the Vatican bank.

In response, Pope Francis distinguished clearly between “sin” and “crime,” and reiterated the classic Church teaching of loving the sinner but hating the sin.

He said: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”

“I see that many times in the Church … people search for ‘sins from youth,’ for example, and then publish them. They are not crimes, right? Crimes are something different: the abuse of minors is a crime … But if a person, whether it be a lay person, a priest or a religious sister, commits a sin and then converts, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives,” he said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Francis pointed out, teaches that homosexuals should be respected and not marginalized. “The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another,” he said.

Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, chairman of the Papal Visit Committee on Information and Media Relations, urged Filipinos to be more responsible in patronizing merchandise related to the papal visit.

Vergara said anyone could sell merchandise in preparation for Pope Francis’ visit, but these should be used for proclaiming the Gospel.

“Nag-iingat lang tayo na baka magamit sa maling paraan. It should be used to evangelize and proclaim the Good News. Let’s make sure that the message presented should not be taken out of context,” Vergara said during a press briefing held this afternoon. Angeli Cantillana and Gena Myrtle Terre


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