Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz on Monday said the Church recognised freedom of religion as a human right and respected the wish of President Duterte to be buried without the prayers and blessings of priests.
"It is everybody's option to embrace the religion they think is right … That is his prerogative and therefore must be respected," the former Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop said.
"Hopefully, those who will be left behind will respect that because that would be his last wish, so to speak," he added.
Cruz was referring to Duterte's recent pronouncement that when he dies, he wants to be buried within 24 hours, without the blessings, prayers and rituals of Catholic priests.
In the Catholic Church, specific funeral rites are prescribed for the dead such as blessings, a special funeral Mass and prayers, including the absolution of the dead for the pardon and remission of sins.
Cruz explained that the Mass is "the most sublime prayer" even as "the blessing with the holy water is also a sanctifying element."