MANILA — The influential Catholic church in the Philippines said Monday it had asked boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao to follow in the footsteps of NFL hero Tim Tebow and become a “bible ambassador”.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, who presides over the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) bible ministry, said church leaders had approached Pacquiao with the idea, but received no feedback from the 32-year-old fighter.
“We asked him to partner with us in promoting the reading of the Bible among Catholics,” David told reporters.
“We told him: ‘You would be a big help to us brother Manny’, but he has not pledged his partnership yet.”
He said Pacquiao could follow the example of the Philippine-born National Football League star Tebow, a devout Christian dubbed by some in the press as “God’s quarterback.”
“Tim Tebow became very popular by promoting the word of God,” David said. “Some have referred to Manny Pacquiao as the Tim Tebow of the Philippines.”
Tebow, born in Manila in 1987 to a Baptist missionary couple, has emerged as America’s hottest football star with his come-from-behind heroics for the Broncos.
Tebow has been very vocal about his Christianity and recently pledged to help fund a $3 million hospital in the southern Philippines.
Pacquiao is regarded as one of the greatest boxers in history, amassing a 54-3 win-loss record with two drawn bouts. He holds a record eight world titles in as many weight divisions.
Pacquiao, who is also a politician and recently elected to the Philippines’ lower house of parliament, often cites God as the source of his success, and wears a rosary around his neck before and after his fights.
But the ultra-rich sportsman has not escaped intrigue, and reports of him womanising and gambling have become rich tabloid fodder.
In an interview with Philippine TV station ABS-CBN this month, Pacquiao said he had recently renewed his faith and given up vices following an “encounter with God” during a dream.
In the dream, Pacquiao said he found himself in a forest, where a bright light shone, believed to be God, asking the fighter why he was veering away from Him.
“I woke up crying. I remember I was crying in my dream and when I touched my pillow, it was wet,” he said.
“If I had died last year or in the last two years, I’m sure I would have gone straight to hell. My faith in Him was there, 100 percent, but behind it, after prayers, I would still do evil things.”
Pacquiao said he now immersed himself in Bible study and spent more time when not in training with wife Jinkee and his four children, according to ABS-CBN.