With rice prices soaring, Mindanao Philippines Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez has threatened to withhold communion from rice traders who hoard rice accusing them of "satanic" practices.
ABS-CBN News reports that in a Radio Veritas interview Bishop Gutierrez Monday threatened to withhold communion to traders who hoard rice amid soaring prices in the overwhelmingly Catholic South-east Asian nation.
The Philippines, one of the world's largest importers of the staple grain, is struggling to build up stocks amid a rapid increase in prices in recent months.
Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the southern diocese of Marbel on Mindanao island said he will talk to local businessmen to find out if they are withholding supplies to artificially jack up the prices.
Local press reports said that rice was now at least 50 percent more expensive in some areas of Mindanao compared to the rest of the country.
"I will talk to them in private and ask, 'Why did you do that?' I will ask him to defend and explain - then I will say, 'You have to return what you have stolen plus the damage.'"
Hoarders who comply will get absolution. "I will give him communion. If he will say 'no', then I will say, 'You will not receive communion because you're the one excommunicating yourself. You don't want to be united with Christ because you are exploiting the poor.'"
"We are producing rice but why is it so expensive. Something is wrong. The reason is the greed of all businessmen and the incompetence of some government people," Bishop Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said the rice traders should open their warehouses not only to government inspectors, but also to bishops. The prelate said the bishops and the priests can even help in the distribution of rice, the country's main staple.
Meanwhile, Oxfam Australia chief Andrew Hewett has warned that the global food crisis looms as a humanitarian catastrophe that could dwarf even the 2004 Asian tsunami, posing an immediate threat to 290 million people, The Age reports.
This is in addition to the 854 million people who already endured persistent hunger before food prices skyrocketed to a 30-year high - rising 83 per cent in three years, Mr Hewett said.
Bishop to withhold communion to rice hoarders (ABS-CBN News, 2/6/08)
Mindanao bishop rebukes ‘satanic’ rice traders (Inquirer, 2/6/08)
Rising hunger could dwarf tsunami, warns Oxfam (The Age, 2/6/08)