Duterte cancels Vatican trip, personal apology to Pope

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 16 2016 10:34 AM

Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte speaks during his first press conference since he claimed victory in the presidential election, at a restaurant in Davao City, Sunday. Ted Aljibe, AFP

DAVAO - Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte said Sunday he had canceled plans to visit the Vatican to personally apologize for calling the pope a "son of a w***e".

"No more. That's enough," Duterte told reporters when asked about the planned trip, pointing out he had already sent a letter of apology.

He said the trip "could be an exercise in duplicity".

Duterte, 71, the longtime mayor of southern Davao city, won the May 9 election in a landslide following an incendiary campaign in which he gleefully used foul language to disrespect authority figures.

In a rambling speech to announce his presidential run, Duterte lashed out at Pope Francis for causing traffic jams in Manila when he visited the mainly Catholic nation last year.

"It took us five hours to get from the hotel to the airport. I asked who was coming. They said it was the pope. I wanted to call him: 'Pope, son of a w***e, go home. Don't visit anymore'," said Duterte.

READ: Duterte under fire for cursing Pope Francis

Catholic Church leaders condemned Duterte's comments but, like many other of his controversial remarks on the campaign, they had little impact on his popularity.

Duterte sent an apology letter to the pope during the campaign and received a response from the Vatican offering "the assurance of prayers".

Duterte had said the pope was the victim of a "stray bullet" resulting from his gutter language and frustration with government incompetence.

He also flagged a visit to the Vatican for the personal apology and his spokesman confirmed on Thursday that Duterte still planned to make the trip.

But Duterte, in his first press conference since election day, said Sunday night he had changed his mind.

"I might go there (the Vatican) and they will say, 'We are taking back the prayers'," he said.

Duterte emphasised that a senior figure of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said "it's not clear whether I was forgiven".

"But you know God is my friend (and) I ask him if I've been forgiven for all the sins I've committed on this planet," he said, adding that God replied: "Now and forever".

LOOK: Pope Francis responds to Duterte's apology

Duterte, who is due to be sworn into office on June 30 for a term of six years, was raised a Catholic.

But among his closest friends and advisers is Apollo Quiboloy, leader of the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ religious group who calls himself "the Appointed Son of God".

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