In a television interview on Tuesday, April 4, CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said leaders of the Catholic Church recently met with some of the Cabinet officials to discuss possible areas of cooperation.
“We have made a breakthrough…We are exploring possibilities for collaboration such as working for the poor and empowering Mindanao,” Villegas told ANC. He however, refused to name the officials present in the meeting.
The CBCP has repeatedly condemned the supposed summary killings in relation to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, as well as the proposed reimposition of capital punishment in the country.
Duterte, for his part, constantly hit back at his critics. At one point, he described the Church as the “most hypocritical institution” in the country.
While admitting the Church and the government differ in some principles, Villegas stressed that differences should not hinder them from cooperating.
“There are issues where we differ in principle, but we should not allow such differences to prevent us from cooperating on the bigger issues where we can collaborate,” Villegas said.
He affirmed that the CBCP supports Duterte “on matters that are dear to the people,” citing peace making and alleviating poverty.
He also assured the “full cooperation” of the Church on “everything that will benefit the people,” clarifying that the Church is not against Duterte himself but rather, “with the issue of killings” related to some of his administration’s policies.
“We are not attacking the person of the president. We are not attacking the institution of the police. But we’re dealing with the issue of killings and, related to that, is the seeming acceptance of that culture, that killing becomes something normal, something ordinary,” Villegas explained.
He said the Church will maintain its stance against the killings: “You can’t tell us to stop talking when issues are so un-Christian and against our beliefs.”
“We are afraid that if we keep quiet about the killings, the people will think that it is alright,” Villegas added. “Our children might grow up thinking killing is correct, or that there are some people exempted from the commandments.”
Despite this, Villegas said that the two sides both agreed to “tone” down criticisms against each other.
Malacañang, for its part, welcomed the CBCP’s statement over the possible cooperation with the government.
In a statement on Thursday, April 6, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said CBCP’s openness in exploring avenues of collaboration with the Duterte administration is “a welcome change.”
“It is a good reminder that power struggles between church and state belong to a dim dark past, and in a world that has evolved by leaps and bounds, it is imperative that all work together to put food on every table, no matter what beliefs one holds in private,” Abella added.
He said Malacañang also “looks forward to [CBCP’s] help in treating drug dependents and restoring their mental, spiritual, and psycho-emotional health.”
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