'Duterte letter to Pope a show of diplomacy amid tirades vs Church'

President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to write Pope Francis despite cursing the Pontiff during his 2015 papal visit was a “diplomatic action” amid Duterte’s constant tirades against the Catholic Church.

“He is being diplomatic,” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ Permanent Committee on Public Affairs.

Secillano added: “He wishes to assure the Pope that his tirades against priests and bishops in the country should not to be misconstrued as cutting off special relations with the Vatican.”

The CBCP official issued the statement in reaction to Duterte’s personal letter to Pope Francis sent on Wednesday.

In his one-page letter, the President assured the Pontiff of his “highest esteem and respect.”

The letter also noted how the country “values its special relations with the Holy See” and that the Philippines is grateful for Pope Francis’ stewardship of the Catholic faith.

READ: PH affirms ‘special relations’ with Vatican in Duterte letter to Pope

The personal communication came two years after Duterte cursed the Pontiff for causing massive traffic jams in Metro Manila during the Pope’s five-day visit in January 2015.

Duterte was then the mayor of Davao City and had not yet made known his intention to run for President in the May 2016 elections.

His relationship with the Catholic Church, particularly Filipino bishops and priests, is a strained one, as he constantly attacks the Church for being the “most hypocritical institution.”

Secillano noted that Duterte’s letter to the Pope is a guarantee of his esteem for the Pontiff and the Vatican despite the President’s “testy” relationship with the Church in the Philippines.

“The President guarantees that this won’t affect the esteem he has for the Pontiff and the diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the Vatican,” he added. CDG

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