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Philippine Catholic Church leaders honor departed former president
Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and His Holiness Pope Francis view the gifts at the Sala dei Papi of the Apostolic Palace during the Philippine president’s private audience with the pope in the Vatican on Dec. 04, 2015. / Joseph Vidal / Malacañang Photo Bureau

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines honored the country’s former president, Benigno Aquino III, who died on Thursday, June, 24, from a lingering illness. He was 61 years old.

The former president was the son of two of the country’s political icons, — former president Corazon Aquino and former senator Benigno Aquino Jr.

Cardinal Jose Advincula of the Archdiocese of Manila led Church leaders in offering prayers for the country’s former president.

“We have been informed of the sad news of the passing away of our former president,” announced the cardinal at his installation as the 33rd archbishop of the national capital on Thursday morning.

“Let us entrust him to the mercy of our loving father and let us now pray for the eternal repose of his soul,” said the cardinal.

“Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace,” prayed Cardinal Advincula.

Aquino’s father and namesake, Benigno Jr., was an opposition leader during the rule of strongman Ferdinand Marcos. He was assassinated when he returned home from political exile in the United States in 1983.

The killing shocked the nation and helped propel Marcos out of office in the 1986 “People Power” revolution, and ushered in the presidency of Aquino’s mother, Corazon.

Known popularly as “Noynoy,” the younger Aquino rode a wave of public support to the presidency after the 2009 death of his mother.

“As president, [Aquino] proved himself to be a worthy son of such great parents to whom the nation is indebted for the restoration of democracy in our country,” said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, also in the national capital region.

“Sincere prayers and condolences to the family of the former president. May God’s love and mercy be his as he has shared his life to the people,” said Bishop Rex Alarcon of Daet, south of Manila.

Retired Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, also in the southern part of the main island of Luzon, said the Filipino people “deeply mourn the untimely death” of the former president.

“He was a humble hard working president who greatly improved the economy of our country,” said the bishop, adding that the Filipino people “will never forget the patriotism of this extraordinary family.”

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao said Aquino would be remembered for his “economic reforms and his government stance of life’s sacredness.”

“We extend our condolences to his family and offer prayers for the repose of his soul,” said the bishop, who heads the social action commission of the bishops’ conference.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said he remembers former president Aquino’s “goodness,” adding that the Filipino people “are grateful for the goods he has shown and did to our country.”

In a statement, Senator Imee Marcos, daughter of the late dictator, paid tribute to Aquino for his “kind and simple soul” and said he would be deeply missed.

Aquino still carried a bullet wound from a 1987 attempted military coup against his mother’s administration, during which he was shot five times and three of his bodyguards were killed. 

In 2010, after Aquino said that Filipino couples should be allowed to use artificial contraceptives if they wish, then-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Bishop Nereo Odchimar, opposed the push and asked for dialogue with Aquino.

In 2012, Aquino supported a “reproductive health” bill that would mandate sex education in schools and subsidize contraceptives. He said it would reduce birth rates among the poor, as a defense of the legislation. The Catholic bishops opposed the legislation, and Fr. Melvin Castro, head of the bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said Aquino was “hard-hearted” for refusing to consider the concerns of bill opponents.