Talk with the archbishop

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013


THE Catholic Church will not use the pulpit to campaign in the May elections but will encourage laymen’s initiatives to support candidates whose advocacies are consistent with the position of the Church on certain issues such as divorce, same-sex marriage and reproductive health.

In a free-wheeling discussion on Frankahay Ta! (101.9 News FM) yesterday morning, Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma also revealed that President Noynoy Aquino called him shortly after the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which he heads, issued the pastoral statement, “Proclaim the Message, In Season and Out of Season” on Jan. 28.

The President invited the bishops to a dialogue which could take place in the first week of next month, he said. Asked if he took the President’s gesture as reaching out to the bishops, Palma replied in the affirmative, noting that it was Aquino who called him. The bishops will be frank with the President on issues of social concern, he promised.

In the same interview, Palma denied that the pastoral statement was issued in retaliation to the passage into law of the Reproductive Health bill that they had vehemently opposed. The document contains a message of compassion, not hatred, he emphasized.

The statement, one of two that the CBCP simultaneously released, mentioned the country’s “long litany of storms” that included the “promotion of a culture of death and promiscuity,” the “continuing corruption and abuse of power,” the “widening practice of political dynasties,” the “issues raised to the Comelec on automated election concerns” and the “inability and unwillingness of those in power to take the road of social justice.”

On the RH law, the CBCP denounced not only its passage but also what it called “the political and financial pressures imposed on lawmakers, and the imperialism exercised by secularistic international organizations in the legislative process.”

The bishops likewise insinuated that corruption continues to exist up to the present and condemned the “non-prosecution” of the alleged perpetrators. They called on Aquino to “pursue allegations and signs of corruption of power holders not only of the past but also of the present, even of friends and party mates.”

Palma explained that in raising these concerns, the bishops were merely relaying the sentiments of the people whose voices may not be heard if they spoke on their own. That (speaking out for the flock) is part of their pastoral duties, he said.

It was also in the fulfillment of a pastoral duty that he visited Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia twice at the her Capitol office where she had holed herself up after having been served with a suspension order from Malacañang, Palma said.

“I could sense that she wanted to see me but since she couldn’t get out of the Capitol, I took it upon myself to visit her,” he said. Palma still refuses to reveal what he and Garcia talked about during those visits. “I promised to her that it will be confidential and I intend to keep that promise. It’s up to the governor if she wishes to talk about it.”

In fact, Garcia had revealed to the media that Palma had asked her to stay in her office. This was confirmed by another source who said that at that time, the suspended governor was vacillating between staying put and going home because she did not want to deprive her people, who were keeping vigil at the Capitol, of the chance to spend Christmas with their families.

Palma marked only last month his second anniversary as head of the archdiocese of Cebu. Asked if he had at any time found any reason to regret his Cebu assignment, he said, no. Emphatically.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 07, 2013.

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