Church has a job for Pacquiao

2012-01-30 17:51

The Catholic Church in the Philippines has asked Manny Pacquiao to become a "Bible ambassador".

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said on Monday church leaders had approached Pacquiao with the idea to follow in the footsteps of American football hero Tim Tebow.

They have had no reaction from the 32-year-old boxer.

"We asked him to partner us in promoting the reading of the Bible among Catholics," said David, who presides over the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' (CBCP) Bible ministry.

"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 Philippine-born National Football League star Tebow, a devout Christian dubbed 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. He has pledged to help fund a $3 million hospital in the southern Philippines.

Pacquiao is regarded as one of the best boxers in history. He has a professional record of 54-3, with two draws, and has won a record eight “world” titles in as many weight divisions.

Pacquiao, who is a member of 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 there have been reports of him womanising and gambling.

In an interview with a Philippine TV station, ABS-CBN, Pacquiao said he had recently renewed his faith and given up vices after 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%, 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 his wife, Jinkee, and their four children.