Duterte writes letter to Pope Francis
President Duterte has written a letter to Pope Francis, thanking him for visiting the Philippines in 2015 and assuring the Pontiff of his “highest esteem and respect.”
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza was hoping to personally deliver it to the leader of the Catholic Church.
Dureza, who is in Rome for the latest round of peace talks with communist rebels, disclosed on Wednesday in a Facebook post that he had been tasked to hand-carry a “personal letter” of the President to the Pontiff.
In the letter, Mr. Duterte said Filipinos deeply valued the Pope’s trip to the Philippines.
“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 Church’s flock,” the President said, adding:
“The Philippines values its special relations with the Holy See and regards with gratitude your Holiness’ gracious stewardship of the Catholic Church.”
Reiterating his respect for the Catholic Church leader, Mr. Duterte said: “Please accept, your Holiness, the assurances of my highest esteem and respect.”
Dureza hoped to meet Pope Francis during the baciamano—the traditional kissing of the Pope’s hand being held every Wednesday at the Vatican—“and possibly hand to his Holiness a personal letter of President Duterte thanking Him for the Philippine papal visit last year.”
Mr. Duterte, who has a penchant for using expletives in his speeches, came under fire when he cursed at Pope Francis because of the traffic congestion caused by road closures during the papal visit in January 2015. At the time, Mr. Duterte was still a presidential candidate.
He subsequently apologized, explaining that what he had cursed at was not the Pope, but the government’s incompetence.
But as news of his letter to Pope Francis spread on Wednesday, Mr. Duterte also slammed Catholic priests in the country for criticizing the extrajudicial killings that had soiled his war on drugs.
The President, in a speech at the 20th anniversary of the founding of Premiere Medical Center in Cabanatuan City, said drugs addicts had the tendency to shoot it out with law enforcers. “That’s why some priests should use shabu, so that they would understand that,” he added, seemingly in jest.