After calling Pope Francis a “son of a bitch” for having paralyzed Manilla traffic during his visit to the Southeast Asian country, Rodrigo Duterte, who won recent presidential elections in the Philippines by a landslide, has said he will travel to Rome to apologize to the pontiff.
Duterte said he wants to “personally” present his apology to the Pope, and “ask his forgiveness,” according to Duterte’s spokesman, Peter Lavina.
“The mayor has reiterated on several occasions that he wants to visit the Vatican, whether he lost or won, not only to pay his respects to the pope, but also to give an explanation and ask his forgiveness,” Lavina told reporters.
Duterte, known in his native land for his outspokenness and occasional vulgarity, let slip his comment about the Pope last November, at the launch of his bid for the presidency, recalling his reaction to a traffic holdup caused by the papal visit in January 2015.
“We lost five hours going from the hotel to the airport. I asked what the holdup was. They said that it was the pope. I wanted to call him: ‘Pope, you son of a bitch, go back home. Don’t come over here to visit again,’” Duterte said.
The Philippines archipelago is some 80% Catholic, but Duterte is Protestant.
Duterte had already apologized to Pope Francis in a written letter, and in late February received a reply from the Vatican Secretariat of State, in which the Pope said he appreciate Duterte’s sentiments, while offering him his blessing and promising to pray for him.
The new president-elect won office on a platform of hardline law enforcement and populism, garnering nearly double the votes of his nearest political adversary.
The 71-year-old Duterte has often compared to Donald Trump for his blunt, pugnacious style and defiance of political correctness. As mayor of the southern Philippine city of Davao, Duterte became known for ruthless crime-fighting methods, responsible for cleaning up a city once notorious for its lawlessness.
The election saw a record turnout, with more than 81% of the 54 million registered Filipino voters showing up at the ballots.
On being elected, Duterte doubled down on his campaign promises, vowing to end crime across the nation and eliminate corruption within six months.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome