Bishops mourn, remember Aquino for 'deep dedication to democracy'
This December 2012 photo shows then President Benigno Aquino III with Vice President Jejomar Binay in a Mass at the San Fernando de Dilao parish in Paco, Manila.
Facebook/Noynoy Aquino

Bishops mourn, remember Aquino for 'deep dedication to democracy'

(Philstar.com) - June 25, 2021 - 4:49pm

MANILA, Philippines — Catholic bishops in the Philippines joined the nation in mourning former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who, like the country's former leaders, had rough patches too in their relationship with the church while in office. 

Aquino died in his sleep on Thursday at the age of 61 from renal disease secondary to diabetes, according to his family.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has since said they will remember him "for his deep dedication to democracy, good governance, and the dignity of the human person."

As president, Aquino wrestled with the church's influence in the predominantly Catholic nation in 2012 when he pushed for the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health bill.

The church opposed the measure for state-funded distribution of birth control pills and contraceptives in contrast to its teachings.

It went as far as Bishop Nereo Odchimar, head of the CBCP at the time, suggesting that Aquino may face excommunication over his stance on the measure. 

Aquino eventually signed it into law by end of that year. In 2014, the Supreme Court declared it as constitutional, but struck down some provisions.

"We are grateful for the mutual respect that existed between his administration and the Catholic Church in the Philippines," said incumbent CBCP President and Davao Archbishop Romullo Valles, "rooted in our unwavering faith in the Triune God, and our shared commitment to build a just, humane society, especially for those who are in need."

Bishops thanked Aquino too for his administration's role in significant church events in the Philippines under his term — the sainthood of Pedro Calungsod, the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City, and the hosting of Pope Francis' apostolic visit. 

Francis' visit marked the fourth time a pope visited the country. Aquino spoke before him and the Filipino clergy in Malacañang of how the church, "once advocates for the poor, the marginalized, and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration's abuses."

In his installation Mass as Manila archbishop, Jose Cardinal Advincula urged the congregation to pray for Aquino. 

"Let us entrust him to the mercy of our loving Father," Advincula said, "and let us now pray for the eternal respose of his soul."

Aquino's remains will be laid to rest at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque on June 26.

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