Vatican City — The pursuit of just and lasting peace in Mindanao has become a common concern for Pope Francis and President Aquino when they met recently at the Vatican.
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Pope Francis has expressed support for the peace and development of Mindanao while the Philippine leader remained hopeful of the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) within his term.
The peace initiative in Mindanao, the importance of dialogue in conflict resolution, and Yolanda-rebuilding efforts were among the topics discussed during the “cordial” talks between Francis and Aquino at the Apostolic Palace last Friday.
Afterwards, Aquino held talks with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, about the peace process, poverty alleviation projects, among others.
“Special reference was made to the peace process in Mindanao, with the hope that commitment from the Parties may guarantee stable and lasting peace to the region,” the statement issued by the Holy See said.
Emerging from his private audience with the Pope, President Aquino said the Vatican considers the Philippines as an “example” of peace negotiations with Muslim rebels amid the threat of extremism threatening some parts of the world.
Aquino said Parolin was “more emphatic” in saying that “we can serve as an example of how to reach out to our Muslim brothers and achieve peace especially in the spirit where extremism is such a threat worldwide.”
The Mindanao peace process could be “useful to others to build upon as a response to the radicalization that is happening,” Aquino added.
Also, the President expressed confidence that the draft BBL would eventually be approved by Congress, saying its passage was just “a question of time.”
Aquino said he hopes the BBL would be passed within his term but if not, he believes it will still be inevitably be approved.
Aquino believes that the BBL, which seeks to create a Bangsamoro political entity with larger territory and powers, would hopefully address complaints and disenfranchisement in Mindanao.
At present, a proposed Bangsamoro Basic law remains pending in Congress due to concerns raised by some lawmakers about the alleged unconstitutionality of some provisions. President Aquino has repeatedly said the measure stands on firm constitutional ground and would help promote peace and development in Mindanao.
Asked if he thinks there’s a deliberate move by some sectors to ensure the BBL won’t be passed within his term, Aquino said: “I don’t think it’s a deliberate move although some quarters were probably encouraging it.”
Aquino explained that he has pushed for the “timely passage” of the BBL to enable the transition authority to demonstrate the difference of their governance.
Apart from the peace issues, the conversation between Francis and Aquino also focused on the dialogue among different sectors of Philippine society as well as the contribution of the Catholic Church in the lives of Filipinos.
The two leaders also exchanged views on international and regional issues including efforts to migrate climate change, the Holy See press office said.
Before the meeting ended, Pope Francis gave the Philippine leader two gifts – a copy of Laudate Si, his latest encyclical on the protection of the environment, and a bronze sculpture showing an olive branch holding together two parts of a rock face. The medallion symbolizes the duty of political leaders to overcome what divides and work for peace.
Aquino, in turn, gave Francis a porcelain tea set made in the Philippines.
“The visit of the President here with the Holy Father is very significant. It shows that he is very grateful, the Filipinos are very grateful for the visit of Holy Father in Manila,” Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Mercedes Tuason said.
“We hope for more diplomatic engagements between the Philippines and Vatican. And we thank the President especially for coming here to show the affection that we have,” she added.
BEFORE AND AFTER
The President was earlier welcomed by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Pontifical Household, and Colonel Christoph Graf, Commandant of the Pontifical Swiss Guards, at the Courtyard of Saint Damasus, before being taken to the papal library for the meeting with Francis.
After his meeting with the pope, the President attended the unveiling of the mosaic image father Our Lady of Peñafrancia at the Vatican Gardens, saying he felt honored to be at centuries-old place of refuge of Catholics.
“I am thankful that, today, the mosaic image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia — who we affectionately call “Ina” which means “mother” in our native tongue — will be unveiled and blessed in this garden,” the President said in his speech.
“It is a symbol of our nation’s deep bond with the Virgin Mary, who has protected us during many of our darkest moments,” he added.
Aquino said the recognition of the Philippine Marian devotion in the Vatican is a great blessing for all Filipino Catholics.
“We are grateful to the Holy See for allowing us to share this devotion with the rest of the Catholic world who embark on pilgrimages to the Vatican, who can now stop and reflect in front of the mosaic image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia,” Aquino said.
“It is also a constant reminder for the Filipinos who find their way onto this Holy Land that, far though they may be from their homes, we are bound together by our roots, and by the faith we share,” he added.
Source: Manila Bulletin