PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is willing to hold a dialogue with the Catholic Church, Malacañang said yesterday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said despite Duterte’s tirades against Catholic priests, the President is not closing the door on mending ties with the Church leaders.
“Kung dayalogo ay talaga naman pong bukas ang Presidente, bukas ang Palasyo lalung-lalo na po ngayon na ang Secretary-General (sic) ng CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) ay taga-Davao din. Sa tingin ko po iyan iyong isang advantage na kababayan ni Presidente ang tumatayong representante ngayon ng CBCP,” said Roque in a press briefing, referring to CBCP President and Archbishop of Davao Romulo Valles.
“He has his own views that are contrary to the views of the Catholic Church. But that is the right to exercise religion or not to have any religion,” the Palace official said.
“So for me, that is just normal in exercising democracy. But in terms of a possible dialogue (with the Catholic Church), the President is open, the Palace is open (to it),” he added.
Roque made the statement a day after the President launched another strongly worded tirade against the Catholic Church and its priests, even after Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas called on him to stop the “verbal persecution” of priests.
Villegas, former head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said Duterte’s tirades against the Church may have unintentionally encouraged more attacks against priests.
Three priests have been shot dead in the last six months.
The recent attacks against priests have prompted proposals to arm the clergy, but no less than the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines opposed the idea.
Earlier, Duterte hit back at Villegas, saying the Catholic leaders were pretending to be “saints” while depicting the government, the police and the military as “evil.”
The President also turned the tables on the Catholic priests, who he said are “crazy” and “no better” than him when it comes to having illicit affairs with women.
Asked whether Duterte plans to ease criticisms of the Catholic Church, Roque said: “That’s a personal stance of the President.”
“But in terms of the killing of the priests, the President will never encourage anyone to kill the priests. He never said that,” the spokesperson added.
For now, Roque said the Palace would look for ways to find a room for dialogue with the Catholic Church leaders.
But he expressed confidence that the possible talks with the priests would be smooth, since the new head of the CBCP, Archbishop Romulo Valles, hails from Duterte’s hometown Davao City.