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Protesters told: Respect Edsa shrine, please

DAGUPAN City, Pangasinan, Aug. 31, 2015 – The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Sunday, Aug. 30, has appealed to members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to show respect to the Edsa shrine even as they hold a rally near the church building.

“Respect holy sites. The Edsa shrine is a Catholic center of worship. It is a church. There is a Catholic priest assigned to it. We ask that all respect the sacred character of the Edsa shrine,” said the prelate.

From 1989, Villegas was rector of the shrine known officially as the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace before becoming chief pastor of the Diocese of Balanga, Bataan in 2004, and later of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, Pangasinan in 2009.

Desecration

Filipino Catholics expressed fear online that the Marian shrine would be subject to desecration in the event the rally goes out of control.

The INC has been staging a protest since Friday, Aug. 28, first in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) compound in P. Faura St., Ermita, Manila, and now in the area between Edsa-Shaw Blvd and Edsa-Ortigas, Mandaluyong City, to decry what they consider to be the “unfair” handling by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima of “illegal detention”complaints lodged against some of their ministers.

They insist De Lima should be minding what are allegedly more important cases like the one involving the SAF 44, instead of putting her nose in “purely internal concerns of the INC.”

Ceaseless praying

Meanwhile, in the same document, Villegas invites Catholics to “pray without ceasing” for a peaceful and just resolution of the present dispute in a manner both pleasing to God and in keeping with democratic convictions guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution.

“If we turn to the Lord in sincere prayer, then, we are firm in the faith that all wounds shall be healed,” he shares.

The CBCP President also asks the faithful to “be charitable at all time and in all circumstances,” refraining from making inflammatory statements.

Be kind, respectful

He notes, “No Catholic should fan the flames of dissension by rumor-mongering and by inflammatory statements. Let all be kind in disposition, respectful in speech and prudent in action.”

For the sake of enlightenment, Villegas goes on to request Catholic lawyers, jurists, and law professors to contribute to the ongoing discourse in a constructive manner without condemnation.

“We seek to be enlightened on what the fundamental law of the land provides, the boundaries of the freedom of religion and the rights and the prerogatives of State,” he explains.

Opportunism hit

The prelate also warns against opportunism, stressing no politician should gain political ground by abetting dissension and by fostering disregard for the Constitution and the law.

According to him, it is not morally correct for any political party gain an advantage by controlling a religious sect known to propose to its members a chosen set of candidates.

Unless proven offensive against moral precepts,Villegas stresses everyone must abide by the law as a Christian duty. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)

Pray for our INC brothers and sisters, bishops urge faithful

Bishop Antonio Tobias (CBCPNews)

PASIG CITY, August 30, 2015–Amid the public outcry over street protests that worsened vehicular traffic congestion in Metro Manila, Bishops Antonio Tobias and Deogracias Iñiguez called on the Catholic faithful to pray for the members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias emphasize the need to pray for INC members, who, he stressed, are fellow citizens of the country.

“We have to pray for them so that they are able to get over their on crisis right now,” Tobias told the CBCP News after the funeral Mass for the late Bishop Emeritus Francisco San Diego Saturday.

To recall, INC members have trouped to the Department of Justice (DOJ) office along Padre Faura Street in Manila last Thursday to assail what they claim as “religious persecution.” The group also held a vigil along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue last Friday, effectively paralyzing traffic flow along the major thoroughfare.

The INC rallies stemmed from DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima’s decision to look into the illegal detention case filed by expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. against INC leaders. The protesters protested against the government’s move, citing the Constitutional guarantee on the separation of the Church and the State.

Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez said “we are certainly praying for them. We are sad to see that they are disunited.”

But while separation of Church and State is meritorious, Iñiguez said there are exemptions under the law.

“We should consider that because they are also citizens, whatever takes place in their organization as a community, has an effect on others. The State, on that effect, has the right to interfere,” he pointed out.

Iñiguez advised INC leaders to examine the cause of disunity in their Church.

“This event, which seems to indicate that they are disunited, is something for them to look into and examine. For the sake of their religion, they should work towards unity and not disunity,” the prelate added.

Outside of Metro Manila, INC has been allowed to mobilize in busy portions of Cebu City and Davao City this Sunday. The INC has permits to stage rallies in Manila until September 4, and in Mandaluyong until today, August 30. (CBCP News)