The politically influential Catholic Church in the Philippines on Friday ask President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to reconsider its decision to boot out an Australian nun who had joined anti-government demonstrations.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which represents the church’s hierarchy in the country, said it was truly saddened by Duterte’s move to expel Sister Patricia Fox, 71.
“We sincerely make an appeal that the authorities may make a reconsideration of their order for Sister Patricia Fox to leave the country,” said CBCP head Romulo Valles, who is the archbishop of the southern city of Davao, the president’s home town.
The church has had an acrimonious relationship with Duterte, who has bristled at its criticism of his anti-drugs war. He has accused the church of being, in his words, “full of shit” and calling bishops hypocrites.
Church leaders have led peaceful street marchers against Duterte’s drug war and displayed huge graphic photographs of some of the people slain in the crackdown, outside some of its churches in a bid to shock the government.
Valles said the immigration bureau should give Fox a chance to explain herself again and be allowed to stay in the country to serve the people as she had done the past 27 years.
Immigration officials said the Australian nun was given 30 days to leave the country because she had breached the terms of her visa by engaging in activities that were not permitted under the visa’s conditions.
“The situation certainly involves legalities – the authorities have said that she has been found to have violated certain laws of our land,” Valle said, but noted Fox’s lawyer was also filing a motion for reconsideration before the immigration bureau.
“We continue to pray for Sister Patricia Fox – for her health and well being,” he said.
Duterte’s government has not responded to the church’s appeal.
The nun, who belongs to the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion and is a longtime resident of the Philippines, has worked closely with the poor. But intelligence agents photographed her attending anti-government street protests early this month.
Fox was the second foreign activist ordered out of the country, after an Italian official of the Party of the European Specialists was deported upon arrival.