MANILA, Philippines—It was supposed to exemplify Pope Francis’ message of openness and acceptance.
However, the t-shirt by ABS-CBN bearing the slogan “No race. No religion. I embrace diversity.” which it was selling in anticipation of the pope’s planned visit to the Philippines drew the ire of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for supposedly being “erroneous and misleading.”
In a statement, CBCP president and Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan Socrates Villegas said while Pope Francis is definitely open to diversity, the message on the t-shirt runs contrary to what he is espousing.
“Pope Francis knows he is head of the Catholic Church and definitely knows race and religion do matter because they form part of the identity of the people. He knows the real problem lies not in the differences, but in how some unscrupulous individuals exploit these differences for their own selfish ends,” he said.
He also urged the faithful to refrain from buying merchandise tagged with misleading lines.
For its part, ABS-CBN withdrew the shirts in question from online and retail stores and apologized it they offended anyone.
However, Bong Osorio, ABS-CBN spokesman, said the company did not intend to mislead the public, saying they were merely inspired by Pope Francis’ message of openness.
He added ABS-CBN will continue to sell other commemorative shirts with the slogans “Ganito Ako. Ganyan Ka. Who Am I To Judge.”, “Thank You sa Malasakit. Pope Francis Sa Pilipinas.” and “Speak Less. Act More.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Mylo Vergara of the CBCP’s Committee on Information and Media Relations said while anyone could make and sell commemorative merchandise, he urged the sellers to make items which centered on the Gospel.
Anyone who wants to sell items based on that guideline can check www.papalvisit.ph so they can know the theme and the reason behind the pope’s visit, he said.