Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has personally written Pope Francis a letter to express his gratitude to the Pontiff for visiting the country in 2015.
According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay personally handed Duterte’s letter to Pope Francis on Wednesday, January 18.
“Our countrymen remember your Holiness’ apostolic visit in 2015 with deep appreciation, knowing that it was made with the most sincere regard for the welfare of the Church’s flock,” Duterte said in his letter addressed to the pope.
“The Philippines values its special relations with the Holy See and regards with gratitude your Holiness’ gracious stewardship of the Catholic faith,” it further read.
Duterte also expressed his high respect for the Pontiff.
Quoting the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza said that the pope has blessed the Philippines and Duterte.
“I said, ‘Bless the Philippines, your holiness.’ Pope Francis [said], ‘I will also bless your president,’” Dureza shared on his Facebook account.
Dureza and other Philippine government delegates are in Rome for the third round of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which is slated from January 19 to 25.
In 2015, then-presidential candidate Duterte made headlines after reportedly cursing the pope for causing heavy traffic during his papal visit. Duterte later clarified that the curse was directed at the government’s traffic management. He later sent an apology to the Vatican.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis sent a message to Manila, urging World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM 4) delegates to continue on searching and sharing God’s mercy.
“Carry on seeking and finding new ways to express God’s mercy,” the church leader said in his message.
The pope’s message was read by Papal Legate Archbishop Philippe Cardinal Barbarin during a mass held at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on Tuesday evening, January 17.
The WACOM is an international gathering of devotees of the Divine Mercy which is held every three years.