Panelo says Duterte not alluded to by Pope Francis' statement against critics

Panelo says Duterte not alluded to by Pope Francis' statement against critics

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - February 21, 2019 - 7:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang was not offended by Pope Francis' statement that people who constantly criticize the Catholic Church are "friends, cousins and relatives of the devil.”

Speaking to pilgrims last Wednesday, the pope claimed accusations against the Church came from the devil if they were made "without love." 

The pope, the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, made the remark on the eve of a landmark summit about clergy sex abuse in the Vatican. More than 100 bishops and Vatican officials are attending the summit, which will tackle bishops' responsibility to protect their flocks.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who claimed to have been molested by a priest when he was a high school student, has been at odds with Catholic bishops who oppose his brutal war on illegal drugs. The drug war has claimed more than 5,000 lives.

In a series of profanity-laced tirades, Duterte claimed the Church could not lecture him about morality because of sexual abuses involving the clergy. 

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo expressed the belief that Pope Francis was not alluding to Duterte when he made the remark. He also claimed that Duterte was not offended by the pontiff's statement. 

"He (pope) may not even know the president," Panelo said in a press briefing Thursday. 

"The president's reputation is being assaulted but he just lets it pass. That's okay" he added.  

Just 'hyperbole'

Panelo said the pope's statement about the devil may just be "hyperbole." 

"If I will agree with that then the pope will be referring to himself also because he is also a critic. I think it's just hyperbole," the presidential spokesman said. 

Panelo noted that Pope Francis also criticized members of the Church who were engaged in what he perceived to be immorality.

"When he address those members of the Church who could not be celibate to leave the Church, he is a critic. But it does not mean also that when you criticize you are evil. You’re just expressing concern and opposition to certain irregular behavior," he said. 

Last Wednesday, Duterte said the summit called by the pope would prove that he was right all along about the abuses of Catholic clergymen. 

"Was I wrong all along? I told you so," the president said during the signing of two laws in Malacañan.

"Right after we were abused and the pope now is calling for a summit to address this particular problem because four out of five, according to Rome, of priests are gay," he added. 

The Vatican did not issue such a statement. 

Duterte has claimed he and his batchmates at the Ateneo de Davao University High School were abused by a priest named Mark Falvey.

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