Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Vidal didn’t ask Aquino to step down

CEBU. In this file photo, Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal (seated) reads the National Transformation Council statement calling for President Benigno Aquino III to step down. Behind him are leaders of various archdioceses, including Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma (third from right). (Arni Aclao)

CEBU CITY -- Retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal clarified that the statement he read last Friday, calling on President Benigno Aquino III to step down, was not his personal stand but that of the National Transformation Council (NTC).

An official of the Archdiocese of Cebu also cautioned the NTC against misrepresentation, after they included Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma as one of the five bishops who supported calls for Aquino to step down.

Fr. Jojo de Aquino, who relayed Cardinal Vidal’s message, said that the statement the 84-year-old retired prelate read before reporters last Friday was not his personal message.

“It’s not the Cardinal’s message. It was the stand of the group (NTC),” De Aquino said.

De Aquino, Cardinal Vidal’s secretary, said that the morning before he read the statement, the retired archbishop gave him a glimpse of what he would read a few hours later.

De Aquino said he noticed that it was calling for the President’s resignation and immediately told Cardinal Vidal of his concern. He said that the retired archbishop immediately started making corrections on the statement.

But De Aquino said that Cardinal Vidal’s reading the statement last Friday was only meant to bring the NTC’s concern to light.

“They (NTC) often come to the house to tell Cardinal Vidal of their concerns. The cardinal was very accommodating to them,” De Aquino said.

It was only on the day after that that the cardinal realized the effect of his gesture, de Aquino said.

Cardinal Vidal was “saddened” by how the message was interpreted, as though he was the one who said it.

The cardinal thought that the NTC members and the bishops present were there for his post-birthday celebration. “Even during the mass, the tone of his homily was different and only tackled his 84th birthday,” de Aquino also said.

He reminded members of the NTC not to take advantage of Cardinal Vidal’s courtesy toward his guests.

In a separate interview, Msgr. Joseph Tan, Cebu Archdiocesan media liaison officer, also urged the NTC to avoid misrepresenting officials of the Church.

“I don’t like to use the word that they (Cardinal Vidal and Archbishop Palma) were used by NTC for their political ends because it’s too harsh. I just want to caution them to avoid misrepresentation or any semblance of it,” Tan said yesterday.

In an interview, Tan said that Archbishop Palma was surprised when he was included among the bishops who supported calls for President Aquino’s resignation.

“It came unannounced and unplanned as far as the Archbishop of Cebu was concerned. In his (Palma’s) mind, he was there to just grace the Cardinal’s post-birthday lunch,” Tan added.

Tan added that while the Church is aware of calls for the President to resign, it “believes in the capacity of its faithful to vote on their own conscience.”

Tan also apologized to the public for any confusion the Cardinal Vidal’s reading of the statement may have caused.

(The printout that the retired archbishop read was marked “Cardinal Vidal’s Address” on the first page.)

In his written statement, Palma said that he respects calls for the President to resign, but that the Church is in no position to make any political statements.

The archbishop also defended Cardinal Vidal, adding that the statement the prelate didn’t “categorically” say that he was supporting calls for the President’s resignation.

“In fact, his statement concluded with an appeal for all bishops and religious leaders of faith-based communities to pray to God for guidance and renewal of the nation,” Palma added.
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