MANILA, Philippines (ChurchMilitant.com) - The bishops of the Philippines are asking the faithful to pray and fast in reparation after the nation's president made blasphemous comments about the Catholic faith.
President Rodrigo Duterte called God "stupid" and a "son of a b***h" during speeches in June.
The bishops called for a day of prayer on July 16, as well as three days of fasting July 17–19. The intention of the prayer campaign, according to a statement, is to seek "God's mercy and justice on those who have blasphemed God's Holy Name, those who slander and bear false witness and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country."
The Philippines is the only Catholic-majority country in Asia. An independent survey taken in late June found that Duterte's popularity is now at its all-time low, partly as a consequence of his anti-Catholic comments.
When asked about his loss of popularity in polls, Duterte said, "I don't care, it does not interest me at all."
At the same time, representatives of the bishops' conference also met with Duterte for a dialogue on Monday — the same day the statement was issued. According to reports, Duterte said he would cease his verbal assaults on Catholicism.
A government spokesman said in a statement that the president "agreed to a moratorium on statements about the Church after the meeting."
Bishops and priests in the Philippines had long criticized Duterte's tough crackdown on alleged drug dealers —which often involves police killing them on sight — leading to thousands of deaths in clashes with police.
Some have said that Duterte's anti-God and anti-Catholic bias stems from being a victim of sex abuse as a young man at the hands of a Jesuit.
Duterte's meeting and agreement with the bishops is being described as a metaphorical "ceasefire."
There was also a dinner the night before, at which Duterte and several bishops were present.
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the bishops' conference in the Philippines, said of the discussions with Duterte, "The Church respects the political authority, especially of democratically elected government officials, as long as they do not contradict the basic spiritual and moral principles we hold dear, such as the sacredness of life, the integrity of creation and the inherent dignity of the human person."
The archbishop also claimed, "When we speak out on certain issues, it is always from the perspective of faith and morals, especially the principles of social justice, never within any political or ideological agenda in mind."
The president of the Philippines is apparently in favor of same-sex "marriage." A Washington Post piece from June 19 called Duterte an "unlikely ally" to the LGBT lobby, noting that he has sometimes expressed support for gay "marriage" — but not with the greatest consistency.