|Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte kneels in prayer during a Catholic wedding ceremony on Jan. 8. (Photo by Albert Alcain)|
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has previously told Filipinos not to believe in religions especially the Catholic Church, has declared January "National Bible Month."
"The state recognizes the religious nature of the Filipino people and the elevating influence of religion in human society," a Duterte proclamation signed on Jan. 5 said.
"It is fitting and proper, for the molding of the spiritual, moral and social fiber of our citizenry, that national attention be focused on the importance of reading and studying the Bible," it said.
The Philippine leader, who has branded the Catholic Church as the "most hypocritical institution," said history bears witness to the "profound impact of the Bible on the life of nations."
Catholic Church leaders welcomed the proclamation.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said it is "a very praiseworthy and inspiring gesture."
"We thank the president for giving due recognition to the religiosity of our people and the importance of the Holy Scriptures in the development of our people," Bishop Robert Mallari of San Jose, said.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said the proclamation is a "golden opportunity" for parishes "to work together" with local government units during the observance of the "Year of the Parish" in 2017.
In signing the order, Duterte said the Philippine Constitution mandates the national government to promote the ethical and spiritual values of the citizens and to help improve their morality.
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