A year after drawing flak for cursing the leader of the Roman Catholic Church during a campaign rally, President Rodrigo Duterte personally wrote Pope Francis to thank him for visiting the country in 2015.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, in Rome for the third round of talks with communist rebels, said Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. handed the letter to the Pope during the “bacciamano” or kissing of the hand on Wednesday at the Vatican.
“Our countrymen remember your Holiness’ apostolic visit in 2015 with deep appreciation, knowing that it was made with the most sincere regard for the welfare of the Church’s flock,” Duterte said in his letter.
“The Philippines values its special relations with the Holy See and regards with gratitude your Holiness’ gracious stewardship of the Catholic faith,” he added.
In 2015, Duterte made headlines for cursing Pope Francis for the heavy traffic caused by the papal visit. He later wrote the Vatican to apologize.
Duterte however has repeatedly criticized the Catholic Church, calling it the “most hypocritical institution.”
In a speech during the 20th anniversary of the Premier Medical Center in Cabanatuan City, Duterte again criticized the Church, saying members of the clergy did not seem to grasp the gravity of the country’s drug menace.
The President said priests should perhaps take the illegal drug shabu so they would understand what goes on in the mind of a drug addict.
Police records show that over 2,000 people have been killed in legitimate police operations, while another 4,000 deaths are considered as “deaths under investigation,” the police term for vigilante killings. Only around 1,000 deaths under investigation are deemed drug-related, according to police.
An international religious conference hosted by Manila saw the clergy taking turns lambasting Duterte’s drug war and his planned re-imposition of the death penalty.
Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo decried the “split-level” Christianity that has prevented Filipinos from speaking out against the killings.
“They do not practice their faith,” the cardinal said during the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy on Tuesday at the University of Santo Tomas. “Our faith is one level and the other level is daily life. They do not jive,” he added. “One priest said we are saints on Sundays but devils the rest of the week.”
Quevedo said there was nothing wrong with the President’s war against illegal drugs, corruption and other forms of criminality as long as there is due process.
with WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL