Prelate reacts after Duterte questions preps for 500th anniversary of arrival of Christianity in PH

President Rodrigo Duterte guests on the show ‘Give Us This Day’ hosted by Kingdom of Jesus Christ founder and lead pastor, Apollo Quiboloy, at the Sonshine Media Network International Studio in Davao City on June 7, 2019. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte is free to skip celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021 if he doesn’t want to attend, the bishop of Sorsogon said on Sunday.

“We do not need the opinion of Duterte! We will celebrate it without him!” said Bishop Arturo Bastes in a text message sent to reporters.

Bastes was reacting to the Duterte’s latest tirades against the Catholic Church, made during the President’s s guesting on the television show of preacher Apollo Quiboloy on Saturday.

Duterte told Quiboloy, a major campaign donor, that there was nothing to celebrate because the Church subjugated the Filipino people, particularly Muslims.

Christianity is not a good religion, he said, pointing the Catholic Church’s supposed “focus on reverence” and the persecution of witchcraft during the Spanish Inquisition.

“Five hundred years of Christianity ngayon tanong sila — pari, hindi lahat (now they ask — the priests, not all). Anong plano? Wala akong plano (What are the plans? I don’t have plans). Why should I celebrate the coming of imperialism to my country?” Duterte told Quiboloy.

“They brought religion, fine. But you didn’t have to subjugate my country and made my — and made my fellow brothers and sisters under the yoke of imperialism for four hundred years. Kaya ‘yan, kita mo (That’s why, you see). They’re being treated as basura (trash).

Duterte also said he viewed Rizal as a “god” and would rather revere him than the saints, because “Rizal stood against the Roman Catholic Church. He died for our country, he was shot.”

‘Free to express his opinion’

Two other bishops said Duterte was free to express his opinions, and others are welcome to celebrate with the Church as it prepares for the 2021 festivities.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga however said “Those 500 years are God’s graces.”

“Christianity is God’s gift to us. It is His blessing and we are blessed. And we have to be grateful to God. We have to appreciate the sacrifices and services of those early missionaries who planted the seed of the Gospel to us. It is our nature to be always grateful, may utang na loob tayo,” he said in a text message.

“Our Catholic Church does not impose, and respects our free will. Anyone is welcome to celebrate with us. And we have to celebrate God’s protection and provisions for those 500 years and [we are] imploring [Him] to guide us and bless us throughout the coming years,” Santos said.

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said Duterte “has his own right to express himself.”

“Our faith is beyond what people say and how they react. Our hearts are focused on God,” he said. (Felipe F. Salvosa II)