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.
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.”
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.
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)