Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Vatican cautioned Philippine bishops on partisan politics

Manila, Jul. 12 (CWNews.com) - The Catholic bishops of the Philippines reportedly backed off plans to call for the resignation of the country's president after receiving a stern admonition from Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news).

At the conclusion of a 3-day meeting in Manila, the Filipino bishops have issued a statement calling for a peaceful resolution of the country's latest political crisis. But the bishops' statement stopped short of endorsing calls for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The bishops' statement had been heavily anticipated in the Philippines, where Catholics account for 85 percent of the population, and Church leaders have exercised considerable influence during recent political upheavals-- most notably with the "People Power" uprising that forced the resignation of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

President Arroyo has faced mounting pressure for her resignation, as charges of election fraud have given new impetus to complaints about her corruption and economic mismanagement by the government under her leadership. On Friday, as the nation awaited the bishops' statement, former President Corazon Aquino joined 10 members of the current presidential cabinet in calling upon Arroyo to step down.

Because Aquino is close to the Catholic hierarchy, many observers saw her public stance as an indication that the bishops would also call for Arroyo's resignation, perhaps providing the final push that forced her to relinquish her office.

But the statement released by the bishops' conference contained no such call. "We do not demand her resignation," the bishops said. They added, however: "Yet neither do we encourage her simply to dismiss such a call."

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