The new head of the social action arm of the Philippine Catholic Church looks forward to taking a more active role in peace-building efforts between warring factions in the country.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan said church leaders need to support and promote the resumption of the peace process between the government and communist rebels.
He called on both sides “to go back to the negotiating table” and set aside preconditions before talking with each other.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform had earlier welcomed the announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte to resume peace negotiations with communist rebels.
Church leaders have urged both sides to resume the stalled peace talks, citing growing violence in the provinces by both government and rebel forces.
Bishop Bagaforo said it would be better if the two parties held talks on neutral grounds. The decision on the venue of the talks has been a major stumbling block for their resumption.
The prelate said church leaders still have to formulate a program on how the Church can help in peace-building efforts.
The prelate of Kidapawan was named national director of the National Secretariat for Social Action/Caritas Philippines on Dec. 13.
He succeeded Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona of Caceres, who headed the Church’s humanitarian, development, and advocacy arm from 2013-19.
Bishop Bagaforo said he will continue to implement the agency’s existing programs “because there are many engagements that we need to sustain.”
“We want to explore any possible involvement of the social action [ministry],” he said, adding the Church’s involvement in advancing peace and order must improve.
Bishop Bagaforo also said he wants Caritas Philippines to promote the Church’s program to care for the environment.