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Bishops to Duterte: Church is forever

Catholic bishops on Tuesday stood up for the Church after President Rodrigo Duterte said that it would be gone in 25 years in the wake of sexual misconduct committed by members of the clergy.

Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, heads of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines' Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, said the Catholic Church has "endured everyone and everything."

"Her bishops, priests and religious sisters have experienced cruel persecutions, to the point of shedding their blood. Her followers have been martyred for Catholic faith. Yet our Church stands and survives," Santos told GMA News Online. 

"Our Church endured everyone and everything. And she lives more than 25 years. Our Church is forever, it is us who surely disappear. It is who will suffer death, not the Church," he added.

Duterte on Monday unleashed a fresh tirade against the Church, after Pope Francis led a conference in the Vatican on child abuse committed by members of the clergy.

"Saan ka nakakita ng ganoong relihiyon? Alam mo 'yung mga anak ninyo, kung bright 'yan, nasa college ngayon, nagbabasa... lalo na 'yan sa progressive na eskwelahan," Duterte said before barangay leaders in Pasay City.

"Itong Katoliko na ito will disappear in almost 25 years," he added.

Citing the Vatican conference on sexual abuse, he went on to say: "Ito pala ang Katoliko, 'pag inabot ng libog, madre. Kung mga bakla ang p— ina, mga bata. Who needs a religion like that?"

This was, however, not the first time Duterte said Catholicism would soon be obsolete. 

Caloocan Bishop Pablo David again posted his insights from March 2017, when the tough-talking President remarked during a speech that the religion would "become passé in the next 30 years."

David said several people many centuries ago had predicted the Church's demise but it continued to exist.

"Some have even tried to deliberately destroy the Catholic Church. Well, it appears that not even the sins and human weaknesses of her own members could destroy the Church, as long as we have the humility to admit such wrongdoings and do something to correct them, as Pope Francis is now asking us to do," David said on his Facebook page.

"Strangely, it is when she gets marginalized, persecuted, or treated like a minority that the Church becomes even more alive and effective," he added.

David said the Church remained in existence, "not because of us, or perhaps even in spite of us."

"Only the Holy Spirit keeps the Church, the Body of Christ, alive," David said.

Abuse in the PHL

Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP-Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, said that Church leadership in the Philippines is continuously working to cleanse it ranks of abusive priests.

Quoting Secillano, Church-run Veritas Radio said that the CBCP will ensure that measures to address clerical sexual abuse are put in place in accordance with the directive from Pope Francis.

"Yes, they are being addressed. Priests are investigated and some are sent to a facility for reformation, while others are either suspended or defrocked (laicized)," said Secillano.

During the summit at the Vatican last week, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle acknowledged that the Church left deep wounds when it ignored the sufferings of the victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Secillano clarified that Tagle was referring not only to the Philippines but to the entire Catholic Church.

The CBCP official also said that, "compared to other countries, child molestation is not that prevalent in the country."

Citing information from Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, Veritas said the CBCP's National Tribunal of Appeals has started looking into at least 14 cases of abuse.

Cruz also urged the faithful to pray that Catholic priests be endowed with strength to overcome all trials as servants of God. — NB/BM, GMA News