Philippine church leaders apologise for scandal



Philippine church leaders apologise for scandal Manila: Roman Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines apologised Monday to their followers for a scandal involving allegedly inappropriate donations to bishops.

Philippine lawmakers began investigating allegations last week that the government's lotto operator made illegal donations in exchange for political favours from influential church leaders friendly to ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

A pastoral letter issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines assured followers that the bishops concerned "are ready to accept responsibility for their actions and to face the consequences if it would be proven unlawful, anomalous and unconstitutional."

The statement issued at the end of the bishops' biannual assembly also said the CBCP would "re-examine the manner of our collaboration with government agencies for purposes of helping the poor, making sure that pastoral sensibilities are respected and the highest ethical standards are observed."

The chairman of the state-run Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Margie Juico, told senators last week that an audit showed that at least USD 158,600 in charity funds were used to buy five vehicles upon the request of several bishops.

The lotto operator raises funds for health care and other social services. The agency routinely donates ambulances to poor municipalities around the country.

"We are sorry for the pain and the sadness that these events have brought upon you," said the pastoral statement read at a news conference today by Bishop Nereo Odchimar, the CBCP president.

The CBCP is collegial body of bishops that formulates joint pastoral policies and programs.

Arroyo, who rarely directly responds to allegations against her, was elected a member of the House of Representatives after she stepped down last year. She was traveling out of the country and her spokeswoman made no comment.

PTI