Stay faithful, Davao archbishop tells flock after Duterte rant

Paterno Esmaquel II
Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles calls for 'a peaceful and charitable spirit' after their long-time mayor, President Rodrigo Duterte, called God stupid

FRIENDS FOR YEARS. Then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte apologizes to Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles on December 4, 2015, after Duterte cursed Pope Francis in a campaign speech. File photo from the Facebook page of Christopher 'Bong' Go

MANILA, Philippines – Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles urged his flock to “remain steadfast” in the Catholic faith after President Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of Davao City for two decades, said God is stupid. 

“Let us remain steadfast in this faith, the faith that gives us joy and peace of heart, the faith that is grounded in total trust in God through Jesus, who always abides with us,” Valles said Thursday, June 28, in a message to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Davao.

Valles originally wrote his message in Cebuano, but Rappler received the official English translation from his office on Saturday, June 30. 

While Valles also heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), he did not issue this message as CBCP president. 

In contrast to various Christian groups, the CBCP as a body remains silent on the issue.

The secretariat of the Archdiocese of Davao said that this message “is primarily intended for the Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese of Davao.” 

The Archdiocese of Davao covers Davao City and the islands of Samal and Talicud in Davao del Norte. The archdiocese has a population of 1.5 million Catholics.

‘Maintain a peaceful, charitable spirit’

Valles, like Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, did not criticize Duterte in his message on Thursday.

He also did not directly refer to Duterte’s quote saying God is stupid, as he only said “we have heard of some pronouncements and commentaries regarding our faith in God, in the Catholic Church, and our teachings from the Bible.” 

“I believe that these pronouncements and commentaries have caused us uneasiness, worries, sadness, and confusion. And for some, even anger,” Valles said. 

Valles then advised his flock “to maintain a peaceful and charitable spirit in our hearts in the midst of these events.” He said, “If we keep this peace and charity in our hearts, we would be able to love and respect others.”

He also said that “these events give us a great opportunity to revisit our Catholic faith.” 

In an interview in June 2016, Valles said he engages Duterte like a “friend-sinner” who “would journey together” with the long-time mayor.

Valles enjoys close ties with Duterte, his friend for years.

The Davao archbishop baptized Duterte’s grandson, Stonefish Duterte Carpio, on March 16, 2017. He also led the opening prayer at Duterte’s presidential inauguration on June 30, 2016.

It was also Valles who “lectured and admonished” Duterte about Christian values after Duterte cursed Pope Francis during the presidential campaign. 

Read the full text of Valles’ message below:

My dear brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church: Peace!

Recently, we have heard of some pronouncements and commentaries regarding our faith in God, in the Catholic Church, and our teachings from the Bible.

I believe that these pronouncements and commentaries have caused us uneasiness, worries, sadness and confusion. And for some, even anger.

Perhaps, you are asking what I would say about these events, as your father and shepherd here in the Archdiocese of Davao.

First of all, as faithful children of God, let us strive to maintain a peaceful and charitable spirit in our hearts in the midst of these events. Let us ask for these gifts from God in our prayers during these days. If we keep this peace and charity in our hearts, we would be able to love and respect others.

Secondly, these events give us a great opportunity to revisit our Catholic faith, the faith that we have held for so many years. For most of us, this faith has always been the faith of our forefathers. Let us look back and examine the living experiences of our faith in God in the Church – our faith in Jesus Christ our Savior.

Never forget how you, yourselves, experienced how beautiful, how precious, and how powerful this faith is! Never forget the countless moments in which you were touched, through this faith, by the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist that we celebrate, in your reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. You were inspired by the Word of

God as you listened to the preaching and explanation of your priests.

Never forget how you experienced the presence of God as you knelt before the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle of the Church. Never forget your experience of the Mysterious Presence of God, the God who is full of love and mercy towards us, in the other Sacraments, like the Sacrament of Holy Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of Confession.

Never forget those beautiful moments when the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, and the saints manifested their abiding presence and accorded you their constant assistance. This is our living faith in the Church, our faith in Jesus Christ, our God.

Brethren, for many years, this is our faith amidst the joys and the sufferings of this life. Love and cherish this faith. This is the faith that binds us as a Church, and urges us to serve and to love and to respect our fellowmen.

As St. Paul says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom 8: 38). 

Let us remain steadfast in this faith, the faith that gives us joy and peace of heart, the faith that is grounded in total trust in God through Jesus, who always abides with us.

With great trust in Christ Jesus,

+Romulo G. Valles, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao 

Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.