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Pope Francis tells Dureza he will bless Duterte

/ 08:30 PM January 18, 2017
Pope Francis shakes hands with chief government peace negotiator Jesus Dureza on Jan. 18, 2017, at the Vatican in Rome, Italy.  Dureza handed to the Pontiff a letter of respect and thanks from President Duterte. (Photo from the Facebook page of Mr. Dureza)

Pope Francis shakes hands with chief government peace negotiator Jesus Dureza on Jan. 18, 2017, at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Dureza handed to the Pontiff a letter of respect and thanks from President Duterte. (Photo from the Facebook page of Mr. Dureza)

MANILA — Pope Francis has given a blessing for President Duterte, peace adviser Jesus Dureza said on Wednesday.

Dureza met the Pope at the Vatican, and he asked the Pontiff to bless the Philippines.

Pope Francis replied: “I will also bless your President,” according to Dureza.

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The Pope also received Mr. Duterte’s letter on Wednesday, handed to him by Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay.

President Duterte personally wrote to Pope Francis to thank him for his visit to the Philippines and assured the Catholic Church leader of his “highest esteem and respect.”

Dureza, who is in Rome for the peace talks with communist rebels, announced earlier on Wednesday that they would meet Pope Francis at the Vatican and hand him the letter of respect and thanks from President Duterte.

In his letter to the Pope, Mr. Duterte said Filipinos deeply valued his trip to the Philippines in January 2015, and the country has always held its relationship with the Vatican in high regard.

“Our countrymen remember your Holiness’ apostolic visit in 2015 with deep appreciation, knowing that it was made with the most sincere regard for the welfare of the Churh’s flock,” the President said.

“The Philippines values its special relations with the Holy See and regards with gratitude your Holiness’ gracious stewardship of the Catholic Church,” he added.

He reiterated his respect for the Catholic Church leader.

Pope Francis welcomes chief government peace negotiator Jesus Dureza at the Vatican on Jan. 18, 2017.  Dureza delivered President Duterte's letter of  thanks and respect to the Pontiff, who visited the Philippines in Januaryf 2015 to express solidarity with the victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda. (Photo from the Facebook page of Mr. Dureza)

Pope Francis welcomes chief government peace negotiator Jesus Dureza at the Vatican on Jan. 18, 2017. Dureza delivered President Duterte’s letter of thanks and respect to the Pontiff, who visited the Philippines in January 2015 to express solidarity with the victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda. (Photo from the Facebook page of Mr. Dureza)

“Please accept, your Holiness, the assurances of my highest esteem and respect,” he said.

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But as news of his letter to Pope Francis spread, Mr. Duterte on Wednesday, slammed the Catholic priests in the Philippines for criticizing the extrajudicial killings that had marked his war on drugs.

In a speech in Cabanatuan City, he said illegal drug users have tended to fight it out with law enforcers.

“That’s why some priests should use shabu, so that they would understand that,” he added, seemingly in jest.

He also said some of the priests even had two to three wives like him.

Mr. Duterte also chided the priests for their “hypocrisy” and “pretension” and suggested to the audience to read the book Altar of Secrets exposing the goings on in the Catholic Church in the country.

“You read the book, you will find all the sleazy,” he said.

The Church, he said, had also tried to suppress the showing of a film about the homosexuality of priests.

“When you expose the frailties of your faithful, you are free to shout on the pulpit, but if it’s your own, you’re exempted. What is that?” he said.

In a Facebook post before his meeting with the Pope, Dureza had hoped to meet Pope Francis during the “bacciamano” or kissing of the hand event held during Wednesdays at the Vatican, “and possibly hand to his Holiness a personal letter of President Duterte thanking Him for the Phil. papal visit last year.”

Mr. Duterte, who has a penchant for using expletives, came under fire when he cursed at Pope Francis because of the traffic congestion caused by road closures for his 2015 visit to the Philippines.

At that time, Mr. Duterte was still a candidate for President.

He subsequently apologized, but also said he had cursed at the government’s incompetence, not at Pope Francis.

He had even planned to visit the Vatican to personally convey his regrets to the Pontiff, but changed his mind and sent a letter saying sorry instead. He received a “positive response” to his letter, he had said.  SFM

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