Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has formed a three-man committee to open up a dialogue with the Catholic church and other religious organizations following his controversial criticism of the Christian faith.
Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque, who is on the committee, says the group will focus on mending the government's relationship with the church.
"Perhaps one of the themes of the talks is how to reduce the rift between the government and the church. I know that there is separation of church and state and there is no need for a dialogue. But the president decided to open the process of dialogue. Let us allow the church and the government to define the agenda as the dialogue proceeds," Roque said at a press briefing in Davao City.
When asked if the decision to create a committee was related to Duterte's statements about God, Roque said: "I would be lying if I were to say it has absolutely no relation. Maybe it is related to that and the president made the decision because both the church and the government belong to the same society."
Duterte sparked outrage last week for mocking the Biblical account of creation and original sin.
"So God was lonely, so he created paradise and that's planet Earth. And God said, 'I will create man,' so there was Adam. God found that Adam was lonely, so he took one of his ribs and created woman. But God doubted his creation so he tested it. He called a snake and told it to give an apple to Eve. Eve ate it and gave it to Adam. And so malice was born," Duterte said.
"Who is this stupid God? You created something perfect and then you think of an event that would destroy the quality of your work. How can you rationalize that God? How can you believe him? So now we're all born with an original sin. Even in the womb, we already have sin. What kind of religion is that?" the president asked.
However, he stressed that he does believe in a "universal being."
Many religious leaders condemned Duterte's comments, but now they hope this new committee will be a step in the right direction.
"That is most welcome development. To dialogue, it is to listen to one another. It is always good," Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles told the church-run Radio Veritas.
"I look forward to the meeting because I know that this topic would be discussed and we can make a response. First, we are saddened because there were things said that should not have been said because sometimes it is out of place, out of tune," he said.
"Secondly, at some point we ask and reflect on what he said because we cannot deny that we also have our weaknesses. There are also things that the Church did which did not completely conform to the teachings of the Catholic church," Valles added.