Vatican silences Philippine bishops

The refusal by the Catholic Bishops' Conference to join calls for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the result of an admonition by the Vatican, which told them to stop meddling in politics.

The International Herald Tribune reports that the Vatican's reprimand, which stopped the bishops from asking Arroyo to resign, was first reported by the Manila newsmagazine Newsbreak and was independently confirmed yesterday by several bishops, who declined to be named because of the secretive nature of their deliberations.

The office of the papal nuncio to the Philippines did not deny on Monday that the envoy, Antonio Franco, had conveyed the displeasure of Pope Benedict XVI in a speech delivered to the bishops on Saturday.

Reached for comment, the nuncio's office merely said that Franco had "shared some fraternal considerations with the bishops" at the weekend meeting. Franco declined to make other comments or to release copies of his speech, a member of his staff said.

After days of deliberations, the bishops issued a statement on Sunday calling for constitutional ways to resolve the political crisis that has beset the country for more than a month. The neutral position surprised many Filipinos, many of whom had expected the church to add its voice to the growing calls for Arroyo's resignation.

The Herald Tribune says the church here has long provided political guidance to a people whose political system has "not quite blossomed into a mature democracy". The church was instrumental in the uprisings that toppled two previous presidents. By declaring its neutrality this time, the church is perceived to have thrown Arroyo a lifeline that reduced the likelihood of her ouster.

She praised the bishops' position Monday, calling it a "collective voice of moderation and temperance at this time of national soul searching."

Vatican silences Philippine bishops (International Herald-Tribune 12/7/05)

Social Doctrine Could Aid Politicians, Says Cardinal (Zenit 10/7/05)
Catholic bishops reject call for Philippines president to step down (ABC Radio Australia 11/7/05)
Philippine Catholic bishops soften clamour for Arroyo to quit (Ecumenical News International 11/7/05)
Catholic bishops censure Philippine leader Arroyo, no call to resign (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo 10/7/05)
Catholic bishops censure Philippine leader Arroyo, no call to resign (Channel NewsAsia 10/7/05)
Catholic bishops decline to call on Arroyo to resign (International Herald-Tribune 11/7/05)
Philippine dissidents say Arroyo must step down (Associated Press/The Age 11/7/05)
Pakistani Bishops Push to End Anti-Blasphemy Law (Zenit 8/7/05)

12 Jul 2005