Catholics urged to seek peaceful resolution in rival church’s conflict
The leader of the Catholic Church called on the faithful to pray for the peaceful resolution of an ongoing crisis within the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).
“We would ask God that we hope that they (INC) would be able to overcome their current situation and resolve it without causing much negative effect on anyone’s lives,” said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
He said it is only right for the Catholic Church to respond to the INC leaders’ appeal for prayers.
“First, Ka Angel called for prayers. We should pray for whoever is asking for it regardless of condition, regardless of nationality, regardless of belief,” Villegas said.
Villegas was referring to the appeal of Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo who asked for prayers for their safety. He also asked INC members to join them in fighting corruption within their church.
Angel is the younger brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo who now leads the sect following the death of their father, Eraño or Ka Erdy, in 2009. Angel together with her mother, Cristina or Ka Tenny, and siblings Marco Eraño and Lolita were expelled from the church. Several ministers were also expelled for allegedly sowing discord and disharmony in the church.
The crisis within the third largest religious denomination in the country was exposed after a video showing Manalo and her mother, Cristina or Ka Tenny asking for help, saying their lives were in danger, was uploaded online on Wednesday. The next day, the INC issued a circular expelling them from the church. He then faced the media on Friday and accused unnamed leaders of the sect of corruption and of ordering the abduction of “belligerent” church officials.
Malacañang on Saturday justified the government’s move to investigate the ongoing “internal” conflict in the INC, saying the State needs to know if crimes have been committed or are still being committed.
“The State is only concerned with any possibility that a crime may have been committed, pero doon po sa mga ibang pinag-uusapan ay hindi na po kasali ang estado doon,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told government-run Radyo ng Bayan.
She said the religious group’s reported practice of “bloc voting” is not a factor in the ongoing investigation.
“Hindi po natin napag-uusapan ‘yon, in light of the recent incident,” Valte when asked Malacanang is concerned about the so-called bloc vote.
“I can say that since this happened, of course, we’re aware of it because it has been plastered all over the news. But, beyond that, medyo marami din pong ibang napapagtuunan ng pansin ang Pangulo,” she said.
The government, through the National Bureau of Investigation, is verifying allegations of harassment and abduction involving some ministers and members of the Iglesia ni Cristo.
The spokesman of the (INC) on Saturday said they are planning to file cases against the sect’s critics in court.
According to a Rappler report quoting Edwil Zabala, getting redress from the court is “one of the options” the church is considering.
Zabala said the INC leadership will decide on the steps to be taken on Monday when the sect marks its 101st anniversary.
“Sa Lunes, tuluy-tuloy sa mga darating pang mga araw, depende sa ipapasya ng pamamahala ng Iglesia ni Cristo, ay saka dadalhin doon sa pinakatamang paraan at pinakatamang lugar kung saan maaaring mapalitaw ‘yung katotohanan (On Monday and in the coming days, depending on the decision of the officials of the Iglesia ni Cristo, we will bring this to the most proper venue where we can bring out the truth),” Zabala said.
‘Tell the truth’
The former editor of the INC’s official publication on Friday posted a video on Facebook called on officials of the church to stop covering up for Glicerio Santos Jr., the INC auditor, whom he accused of corruption.
Isais Samson Jr., who claims he too was expelled from the INC, made the call specifically addressed to church spokesman Zabala.
Samson said he could not understand why long-time ministers, including the children of pioneer members of INC, would not openly talk about what they feel and what see within the embattled church.
“Alam ninyo na sa ating pag-uusap, kahit noon, kayo rin ang bumabanggit ng mga katiwalian na ginagawa ni Glicerio Santos Jr. (You all know even way back and you yourselves were mentioning the anomalies of Glicerio Santos Jr.),” Samson said in the video.
“Sana kung kayo ay magsasalita pa, maging spokesperson kayo ng Diyos. Hindi ng mga taong inyong ipinagtatangol (I hope the next time you speak up, you become the spokesperson for the Lord and not for the person you’re now defending).”
Samson moreover claimed that while INC general evangelist Bienvenido Santiago was holding a news conference on Thursday morning, he and other ministers have been abducted. He said he managed to flee his captors on Friday by “divine intervention”.
Expelled member speaks up
A former INC member in the United States claimed he was expelled from the church because of his critical stance.
According to an ABS-CBN News report, Gino Maningas, the INC’s former district officer in California could no longer take how the church was being run.
He claimed that he was interrogated for over three hours by INC officials in June and were forcing him to admit that he made critical remarks against the church.
Maningas said he was forced to sign a waiver.
He said some ministers of the church in the US were living lavish lifestyles.
“Witnessing this corruption, the funds are being used somewhere else,” he said.