VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI applauded the Church’s role in abolishing the death penalty in the Philippines and encouraged the country’s bishops to continue to support all human life.

Pope Benedict met Nov 29 with bishops from the Philippines, who were in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visits to report on the status of their dioceses.

He encouraged Church leaders and the laity to be a “public witness” in promoting justice and charity.

He also praised the Church in the Philippines for its public role in supporting human life from conception to its natural end and in defending the family and marriage between a man and a woman.

“I also note with appreciation the Church’s work to abolish the death penalty in your country,” he told the bishops. The country abolished capital punishment for the second time in 2006 after it was reinstated in 1993.

Pope Benedict encouraged the Church to present “a unified and positive voice” to the public in its communications programs and initiatives as well as to proclaim the Gospel “with love” and in “a convincing and attractive way”.

The Church’s work in caring for the poor and fighting corruption must continue, he said.

“The growth of a just and sustainable economy will only come about when there is a clear and consistent application of the rule of law throughout the land,” the pope said.

The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the pope’s support has further strengthened the Filipino bishops’ resolve.

“Pope Benedict’s message… affirms the CBCP’s decision to preach and stand up for the Gospel of life,” said CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar.

Bishop Odchimar said the pope’s message validates the stand of the Catholic Church in the Philippine against contraception. n CNS, UCANEWS.COM

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