The Catholic Church is not that powerful to steer public opinion on political and judicial affairs especially with regard to investigations related to the pork barrel system, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said in a press conference on Saturday (August 2) in Sydney, Australia.
“Please do not think that the Catholic Church is that powerful. We issue statements but not everyone really trembles before our statements,” said the smiling Cardinal in response to a question raised by a Filipino-Australian journalist.
“It is always in the minds of the people that the church is all powerful but no, not really. We can exercise a bit of influence but we cannot always get the compliance of many people.”
There are an estimated 75million Catholics in the Philippines.
Cardinal Tagle is currently in Australia for a five-day visit for a series of talks. He will also be conferred an honourary doctorate by the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne next week.
The Cardinal said that the revelations coming out from the pork barrel scam investigations only challenged the Church to strengthen its role to promote transparency.
He also stressed the Church’s stand that money stolen from the poor must be returned.
“The church has been promoting transparency in the investigation and also restitution for this obligation to return whatever has been taken unlawfully, unjustly, from the poor,” the Cardinal said.
Earlier last month, media reports in the Philippines suggested that the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines (CBCP) would support a people’s initiative to abolish the pork barrel system after the archbishop of Cebu, Jose Palma, called on fellow bishops to give its ‘moral blessing’ to two groups – the People’s Initiatie to Abolish Pork Barrel and the People’s Initiative Against Political Dynasties.
Cardinal Tagle said that there are “discussions happening in parishes” but “the main contribution of the church is to really raise the consciousness of the people” on corruption issues.
“It is not just about the politicians, there are also businesses and even NGOs stained because of this (the pork barrel issue),” he said.
“The Church cannot do it alone. Now is the time for different sectors and different organisations to work together, developing a culture of integrity is the project of all.”