Church leaders hit ‘culture of indifference’ among Filipino Catholics

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Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles (middle), president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, is joined by Caloocan Bishop Pablo David and Pasig Bishop Mylo Vergara during Monday's press conference after their 117th plenary assembly. (Photo by Enrico S. Silverio/The Varsitarian)

THE CATHOLIC Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has lamented the culture of indifference among Filipino Catholics amid the tirades of President Rodrigo Duterte against the Catholic Church, his bloody drug war and the spate of clergy killings in the country, as they concluded their 117th plenary assembly.

In their pastoral exhortation released on Monday, the bishops scored Catholics who “see nothing wrong about the killings, who just laugh when our God is blasphemed and who take part in passing on fake news.”

“To those in this world who boast of their own wisdom, those who arrogantly regard themselves as wise in their own estimation and the Christian faith as nonsense, those who blaspheme our God as stupid, St. Paul’s words are to the point: ‘For the stupidity of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength,’” the CBCP said in its exhortation titled “Rejoice and be glad.”

The CBCP said drug addicts, whose death toll has reached thousands in the Duterte administration’s drug war, should be treated as sick people struggling with addiction.

“Do we not realize that for every drug suspect killed, there is a widowed wife and there are orphaned children left behind — who could hardly even afford a decent burial for their loved ones? Do we not care when poor people’s homes are searched without warrants, or when drug suspects are arrested without warrants, or detained without charges,” the statement read.

Quoting the early Christian writer Tertullian who said “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians,” the CBCP reminded Catholics that ridicule and persecution in history has only strengthened the Church.

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“What is new about priests being murdered for witnessing to Christ? What is new about modern prophets being silenced by the treacherous bullets of assassins? What is new about servant leaders who are maligned because they have carried out their duties as shepherds configured to the person of their Chief Shepherd?” the exhortation added.

Caloocan Bishop Pablo David, CBCP vice president, said the Church is an ally and not a political opponent of the government in pursuing the common good.

“We are not political opponents. We are partners. And I wish the government would really hire the Church as an institution, as partners in common endeavors for the common good,” David said in a press conference on Monday.

He said the Church’s social justice programs do not come from a “political perspective” and the institution has never condoned plans to overthrow the government.

“When we get involved in social justice, it’s never from a political perspective. If there are those among us that are joining a political party that is intended to overthrow the government, I can assure you that that is never condoned by the Church,” David added.

The prelate urged the government to take the Church’s initiatives in helping the marginalized “positively,” adding that the State should be the first institution that should be concerned about the poor.

“When a person like Sister Patricia Fox is helping out the poor farmers, it should be positive. Helping the poorest of poor should be welcomed and bringing the questions of the poor to the government because [it] should be the first institution to be concerned about the poor,” he said.

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The bishops called for a three-day period of fasting, prayer and almsgiving for those who “have blasphemed God’s Holy Name, those who slander and bear false witness, and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country,” from July 17 to 19.

The pastoral exhortation was released at the end of the 117th plenary assembly held from July 6 to 9 in Tagaytay and at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

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