The Philippine Congress has passed a bill declaring September 8, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, a national holiday. In the Catholic Church, the feast celebrates the birth of Mary, the mother of Christ.
In 2017 the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was made a non-working holiday, making this legislation, if approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, the second national Marian holiday in the island nation.
The author of the legislation, Congressman Rodolfo Farinas, said that the holiday would allow Catholics “to venerate and celebrate their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary,” reported UCANews.
News of the proposed holiday received a mostly positive reception from some Catholic leaders according to the UCANews report:
“I only wish [the politicians’] apparent devotion to Mary translates into genuine service to people and actual practice of Christian values in their personal and official lives,” said Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan. Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said what the legislators did was “very inspiring and interesting good news” and spoke of the Filipino culture of being “pro-God” and “pro-mother.” “The Senate rightfully did what we Filipinos hold dear in our hearts. The Senate publicly manifested that our country is Marian,” said Bishop Santos, head of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People.
However, Archbishop Fernando Capalla, retired prelate of Davao, questioned the wisdom of politicizing a Catholic feast.
“Why make a purely Catholic religious celebration a national holiday?” asked Archbishop Capalla, according to the UCANews report.
While President Duterte signed the 2017 bill making the Feast of the Immaculate Conception a holiday, he has had a strained relationship with leaders of Catholic Church, whose leaders have criticized him for the extra-judicial killings that have marked his war on drugs.
The Philippines government has stated that 5,176 “drug personalities” have been killed since Duterte came to power in 2016. Human rights groups, however, say that this number does not include the over 20,000 drug-related killings have been classified by police as “deaths under investigation.”
Duterte’s anti-clerical remarks have left him open to charges that he has incited violence against clergy. In 2018, three Catholic priests were shot dead.