Tensions Between Church and Government Surface For Pope Francis

MANILA — Pope Francis’ first full day in the Philippines was filled with the pageantry befitting a country in which more than 80 percent of the people identify themselves as Roman Catholics. But the tensions that have roiled relations between the church and the country’s leaders in recent years was also on display.

At a gathering with dignitaries on Friday, President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has battled local church leaders for much of his administration, complained that they had been overly critical of him and silent about his predecessor’s suspected corruption. And in his own remarks, the pope indirectly weighed in on the side of the clergy on an issue that has caused tensions with the government: the enactment of a law to provide free contraception for women.

President Benigno S. Aquino III

In some of his strongest statements of church teachings against artificial contraception, Francis exhorted people who had come to see him to “be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death.” He added, “What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation!”

Crowds lined the streets to greet Pope Francis in Manila on Friday. The pope is on a five-day visit to the Philippines.CreditPaul Barker/Reuters

Vatican anaysts interpreted another of the pope’s remarks — “Beware of the new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family” — as one of his strongest arguments yet in support of the church’s traditional stance against gay marriage. He also warned of attempts to “redefine the very institution of marriage.”

Although Francis has made similar remarks opposing gay marriage, his comments Friday, on such an international stage, will probably reassure Catholic traditionalists who were perturbed by his oft-cited remark about gay priests in which he said, “Who am I to judge?”

Mr. Aquino’s comments focused in part on the church’s close relations with his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who supported the clergy’s efforts to block the contraception bill. Mr. Aquino’s government has aggressively investigated Mrs. Arroyo, who was arrested in 2011 and charged with election fraud; she was later indicted on suspicion of misusing more than $8 million in government lottery proceeds. Many officials of her administration have also been implicated in corruption scandals.

“There was a true test of faith when many members of the church, once advocates for the poor, the marginalized, and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration’s abuses, which we are still trying to rectify to this very day,” Mr. Aquino said at the presidential palace as Pope Francis looked on somberly. “In these attempts at correcting the wrongs of the past, one would think that the church would be our natural ally.”

Poor and Homeless children caged prior to Francis Visit to ‘clean up streets.’

He continued, “In contrast to their previous silence, some members of the clergy now seem to think that the way to be true to the faith means finding something to criticize, even to the extent that one prelate admonished me to do something about my hair, as if it were a mortal sin.”

A huge crowd gathered Friday in Manila to welcome Pope Francis, among them a boy holding a doll dressed as the pope. A Sunday Mass to be led by Francis is expected to draw eight million people. The pope’s visit ends Monday.CreditGiuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Aquino was referring to a remark made in 2012 by an archbishop, Ramon Arguelles, who said that the balding president “should wear a wig.”

In his remarks, Mr. Aquino also praised past Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines who were instrumental in the overthrow of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and he called Francis a “unifying and revitalizing voice” in the church.

Critics of Mr. Aquino reacted swiftly to his negative comments, with some saying that they were inappropriate for a visit intended to welcome the pope.

“Aquino used the event to discuss his issues with the church,” said Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bayan, a left-leaning organization. “Unable to rise above his own concerns, he turned the event into a gripe session even as he conveniently omitted the exclusion and inequality pervading the country under his watch.”

People in Tacloban, which was battered by Typhoon Haiyan, watched television coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Manila. CreditDamir Sagolj/Reuters

In a statement delivered before Mr. Aquino made his comments, Francis spoke out against the corruption that has dogged the Philippines for decades, urging an audience of senior political leaders “to reject every form of corruption, which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child.”

“It is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” he added.

Mr. Aquino has made anticorruption efforts a hallmark of his presidency, but his administration has been hit by multiple accusations of graft in the last year.

Pope Francis Luis Antonio Tagle

The pope is on a five-day visit to the Philippines, the country with Asia’s largest Catholic population. He has been welcomed with great enthusiasm, with thousands lining streets to catch a glimpse of him as he passes by.

On Saturday, the pope arrived in Leyte, the island in the central Philippines that was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. On Sunday, he is to celebrate a public Mass in Manila that government officials say could draw more than five million people.

 Source:  NY TIMES

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Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils – 1 Timothy 4:1 (KJV).

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction – 2 Peter 2:1 (KJV).

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry – 2 Timothy 4:3-5 (KJV).

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: -2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 (KJV).


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