Pope Vatican

Trust in Pope rises across PH religions, except INC

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
Trust in Pope rises across PH religions, except INC


Pope Francis breaks the record of the late John Paul II as the most popular pontiff in the Philippines, a Social Weather Stations survey shows

MANILA, Philippines – Catholics, Christians, and Muslims in the Philippines trust Pope Francis more after he visited Asia’s most predominantly Catholic country in January, polling firm Social Weather Stations (SWS) said. 

The Pope’s trust ratings fell dramatically, however, among members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) or Church of Christ, one of the Philippines’ largest and most politically influential religious groups.

In a report published Wednesday, April 8, the SWS said only INC members gave Francis a lower rating after his Philippine trip. It was a 31-point drop to +2 in March 2015 from the +33 that INC members gave Francis in December 2014. 

Registered with the Philippine government on July 27, 1914, the INC has boosted its membership by debunking the doctrines of the Catholic Church and stressing obedience to ministers in matters like electing the country’s leaders. (READ: The rise of INC: ‘Stricter religions grow stronger’

Courted by politicians during elections, the INC has grown to around 2.25 million members from a dozen followers of its first executive minister, Felix V Manalo, a former Catholic. (INFOGRAPHIC: What you should know about the Iglesia ni Cristo)

Like other religious groups, the INC rejects the Pope’s authority, while Catholics believe he represents Jesus Christ on earth. 

9 in 10 Catholics trust Francis

Chart courtesy of the Social Weather Stations

The SWS said Filipinos across different religious groups gave the Pope the following ratings during the survey period, March 20 to 23:

  • Catholics: +90 (excellent)
  • Other Christians: +67 (very good)
  • Muslims: +19 (moderate)
  • Iglesia ni Cristo: +2 (neutral)

Except for members of the INC, these ratings showed a higher trust in the Pope since the last SWS survey.

Filipinos in these religious groups gave Francis the following ratings in December 2014:

  • Catholics: +68 (very good)
  • Other Christians: +40 (good)
  • Muslims: -8 (neutral)
  • Iglesia ni Cristo: +33 (good)

The SWS conducted this survey by interviewing 1,200 Filipino adults face to face. The polling firm said the study was not commissioned, and was done on SWS’ initiative as a form of public service.

The survey was done more than two months after Francis visited the Philippines from January 15 to 19 – the first time a pope visited the country in 20 years. 

Many Filipinos said the Pope’s visit touched and even moved them to tears. The highlight of the trip was Francis’ meeting with Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and earthquake survivors in Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte. (WATCH: #ShowThePope: The Philippines that Francis saw

The Pope’s visit, which drew crowds of more than 6 million people, came 5 months after the INC marked its 100th anniversary in a new 55,000-seater structure in Bocaue, Bulacan. More than 2 million people reportedly attended the grand INC event.

Philippines’ most trusted pope

The SWS reported that after his trip to the Philippines, Francis also became the most trusted pope “in the history of SWS surveys.”

Francis posted an “all-time trust record” of +81 (excellent).

Chart courtesy of the Social Weather Stations

He broke the record of the late Pope John Paul II, who registered a rating of +72 (excellent) in April 1995, 3 months after he visited the Philippines. John Paul II, who led the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005, was the first pope surveyed by the SWS, which was established in 1985.

Filipinos have given popes the following trust ratings over the years, the SWS said:

Pope John Paul II:

  • December 1994: +65 (very good)
  • April 1995: +72 (excellent)
  • December 2003: +58 (very good)
  • March 2005: +62 (very good)

Pope Benedict XVI:

  • May 2005: +58 (very good)

Pope Francis:

  • September 2013: +59 (very good)
  • December 2014: +59 (very good)
  • March 2015: +81 (excellent)

Global statistics echo the SWS findings.

In December 2014, the US-based Pew Research Center said 88% of Filipinos give Francis a “favorable” rating. 

Only 41% of Asians in general, on the other hand, view Francis positively.

The Pope’s 3rd highest rating in the world also comes from Filipinos, the Pew Research Center also said. 

In the Philippines, around 8 out of 10 nationals belong to the Catholic Church. (READ: Philippines 4th largest home to Christians by 2050) – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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