AMID the continuous bashing it is getting from President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, not a whimper has been heard from the Catholic Church for quite sometime. But not anymore.
On Sunday, in a pastoral letter entitled “Understanding Silence,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas explained that silence, amid the noise of violence and terror, should not always be interpreted as the fear of cowards.
According to Villegas, there is always a time for everything, as with silence and speech.
“There is nobility in silence like the silence of the lambs brought to slaughter in the temple to atone for sins.” he added. “Silence indeed is the language of God and only those who speak silence will be able to grasp Him.”
Villegas did not name names, but he was obviously alluding to Duterte, who has incessantly lambasted the men of the cloth, at every opportune time since the campaign period until now that he is already President-elect.
Villegas said that “mine is the silence of Jesus before the arrogance of [Pontius] Pilate.”
“….Mine is the silence of the vigilant waiting for destiny to unfold. Mine is the silence of respect for those who consider us their enemies but whose good we truly pray for and whose happiness we want to see unfold,” he said.
“There is virtue in silence. There is virtue in speech. Wisdom is knowing when it is time for silence and when is the timing for speech,” Villegas added.”
“You can understand my speech if you speak the language of silence. You can understand my silence if you know how to love like Him who was born one silent night,” he further said.
The feud between the Church and Duterte started during the campaign period when the incoming President cursed Pope Francis for causing traffic during his visit to Manila in January last year.
Duterte, among others, had also claimed that he and several of his classmates were sexually abused by a priest when they were studying at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University.
Duterte also threatened to reveal the names of Catholic bishops who have become fathers to include the names and addresses of their children.
The CBCP, through Villegas, responded that “vulgarity is corruption” and lamented that people become “beastly and barbaric” when they still find it funny, alluding to Duterte without naming him.
“When a revered and loved and admired man like Pope Francis is cursed by a political candidate and the audience laugh, I can only bow my head and grieve in great shame. My countrymen has gone to the dregs,” Villegas said.
A month before the May 9 election, Villegas, in an obvious reference to Duterte, also called on the faithful to be very careful in choosing their candidates to ensure that the next President and leaders of the country are truly excellent role models for the youth and to be the prime example for all public servants.
Villegas called on Catholics not to vote for an atheist or for someone who makes fun of the name of God, or for one who vows to wipe out religion from public life in reference to the First Commandment.
“The Catholic voter cannot and should not lend his support to any candidate whose ideology binds him or her to make of the Philippines a secular state that has no tolerance for religion in its public life. Ang tunay na makabayan ay maka-Diyos [Those who are truly nationalistic are also godly],” Villegas added.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL