A Nation on Edge, a Shrine Desecrated

Cardinal Calls for Stability Amid Pro-Estrada Protests

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MANILA, Philippines, MAY 4, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- As massive protests in support of jailed former President Joseph Estrada subsided here, the archbishop of Manila called for law and order, and protection for the new president.

Cardinal Jaime Sin decried the desecration done by Estrada supporters at the Edsa national Shrine to Our Lady of Peace. Protesters have held massive rallies there to reinstate the former president.

«The nation is in crisis; the enemies of law and public order are threatening,» Cardinal Sin said shortly after midnight Wednesday, as he called Filipinos over the radio to protect the duly constituted government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

After days of tension and a night of crisis late Monday and early Tuesday, calm has returned to Manila. Pro-Estrada protests subsided, and Arroyo has the support of the army and the Church.

«The enemies of democracy are a handful of people led by a few political leaders, candidates for the Senate, connected with the old establishment,» a local source told the Vatican agency Fides.

Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, president of the Philippine bishops´ conference, asked the nation for prayers in reparation for the desecration of the shrine.

Since April 25, some 2 million Estrada supporters have gathered at the shrine, at times using foul language and singing obscene songs. The Vatican flag was removed, and pictures of the ousted president were pasted on the image of the Blessed Mother, which stands atop the shrine.

«They are profaning a house of prayer, a temple of God, a monument to peace,» Cardinal Sin said. «They have positioned the loudspeakers facing the doors of the church, making it next to impossible to … [conduct] the liturgy inside the church.»

Stressing that «a time of crisis is also a time of heroism,» Cardinal Sin added: «We must preserve the blessings of our Edsa II,» referring to the January «rosary revolution,» which led to Estrada´s political downfall, and the subsequent proclamation at the shrine of Arroyo as president.

Since last Saturday, Catholics have been holding a vigil at the Mount Carmel Church of Quezon City. Arroyo and former President Corazon Aquino attended.

Archbishop Quevedo said that the plot to destabilize the country politically «is organized and funded with copious resources» by politicians. The move has no moral basis, he emphasized.

«First, it is immoral to force the return of the former president to an office that he has been charged of abusing morally and most gravely,» the archbishop said. «Second, it is immoral to prevent the law from being fully applied in pursuing the criminal charges filed against him. Third, it would also be immoral for rich and powerful people to exploit the sympathies and loyalties of the poor, by instigating and supporting them to destabilize the political situation.»

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