“Stop it!”

Church workers in Philippines repeatedly threatened in recent weeks. President Rodrigo Duterte ied a stern warning to those who allegedly sent death threats to Catholic priests and bishops in his name.

"Stop it! Stop the threats, otherwise you will have to deal with me," the government news agency PNA quoted the president as saying on Monday. Duterte's statement, according to PNA, was in response to a message from Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

Sharp critic of President Duterte

"I have been informed that Bishop David and some priests have received death threats from someone claiming to be acting on behalf of the president's family," Cardinal Tagle wrote from Rome, where he had been attending the anti-abuse summit convened by Pope Francis.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, vice president of the bishops' conference, is one of the harshest church critics of Duterte's drug war and had been repeatedly slandered, insulted and threatened by the president in recent months.

"Priests should be allowed to marry"

In calling for the abolition of celibacy, Duterte also spoke out on the debate surrounding the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. "Priests should be allowed to marry. This is the only solution. Even the gays. Allows those to marry and same-sex marriage. I'm for it, to put an end to the problem," Philippine news portal PhilStar quoted the president as saying on Monday.

In the past, tensions have arisen between President Duterte and the Catholic Church in the Philippines.In recent months, President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly insulted and sharply attacked the bishops' conference as well as individual bishops who are critical of the government.

At the conclusion of their two-day assembly, the bishops asked the faithful for forgiveness "for the time it took us to find our common voice". He said they had taken their cue from Pope Francis, "who tells us that the best response in some cases is silence and prayer".

Like "sharp daggers to the soul"

Without mentioning Duterte by name, the bishops complained that the "cruel words" directed at church leaders "pierce like sharp daggers into the soul of the Catholic Church"; the "cycle of hatred" is destroying "the moral fabric of our country". Freedom of expression includes "no license to insult other people's beliefs". As shepherds, he said, it is the bishops' duty to protect their "flock, and especially when they are attacked by wolves (!) is under attack," the bishops emphasize – with exclamation marks in the text.

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