HomeNewsFilipino Catholics urged to listen to pastors on divorce issue

Filipino Catholics urged to listen to pastors on divorce issue

A top Vatican official encouraged Filipino Catholics to discern and listen to the guidance of the Catholic Church on the issue of the proposed divorce law in the Philippines.

“We, as the Holy See, would obviously encourage Filipino Catholics, particularly their political leaders, to listen to their pastors and to try and offer whatever is the best approach to this,” said Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States and International Organization. 

The prelate, who is in the country for a five-day that will run until July 5, made the statement during a press briefing with the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary on Tuesday.

Archbishop Gallagher reiterated the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage but advised that “it is essentially a matter for the bishops.”

The Vatican official clarified that there have been no communications between Rome and the local Catholic Church, “certainly no diplomatic overtures to the department or to the government.”

“And as at the pastoral level, the question is within the competence of the bishops’ conference of the Philippines and the individual bishops,” he added. 

Archbishop Gallagher expressed interest in getting “some feedback from [the bishops] on this issue, which I will obviously be attentive to.”

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“And secondly, they are meeting in a plenary assembly in – also in the coming days, and I would presume, because it is an important issue, that they will be discussing that,” he said. 

“So we will look forward to hearing from the bishops on this in a matter which is principally of their concern,” he added. 

The Philippines is one of only two countries in the world without legal divorce; the other is Vatican City. 

The Philippine Congress approved the divorce bill on the third and final reading during the plenary session on May 23, 2024, with 126 lawmakers voting in favor of the proposed measure, 109 against, and 20 abstaining.

Women’s rights activists and divorce advocates welcomed the move, but they are concerned that the bill will stall in the Senate, where a similar bill was defeated in March 2018. 

The major opposition to the bill comes from the country’s Catholic Church and other Christian denominations.

Church leaders maintain that the state must “strengthen marriage, not break it.” They argue that a divorce law will only create more problems because couples with marital disputes will not exhaust every possible way to resolve them.

Meanwhile, women’s rights groups assert that the necessity and urgency of this legislation cannot be overstated. The current lack of legal recourse under the Family Code leaves countless women in harmful and life-threatening situations. 

Advocates argue that divorce offers a critical escape route, providing legal means to sever ties with abusive partners and enabling victims to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity.

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