President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines on Monday pledged to stop making statements against the Catholic Church after meeting with the head of the bishops association in the country, his spokesman said.

Duterte held the closed-door meeting with Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, about two weeks after he triggered controversy for calling God “stupid.”

“President Duterte agreed to a moratorium on statements about the Church after the meeting,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told newsmen.

Valles said ahead of the meeting that the dialogue was a “small, initial step” in efforts to ease tensions between Duterte and the Catholic Church in light of the president’s critical statements.

He added that he had not prepared a list of issues to discuss, and instead wanted to listen to Duterte’s concerns.

His intention was to “play it by ear, just to show our respect and sincerity [and] listen to the president, so I have no fixed agenda in my head,” he said.

On Friday, Duterte said he would resign if anyone could prove to him that God exists, saying, “I just need one person to tell me … there is really a God.

Here, I have a picture, I have a selfie with God.”

Duterte has in the past lambasted the Catholic Church in the Philippines, where more than 80 per cent of the population practices the religion.

He has called priests out for allegations of corruption and sexual abuse, which he has alleged he was a victim of when he was a school pupil in Davao City.

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