I chanced upon this post from the great Catholic apologist, Patrick Madrid, (you see him in EWTN), about his trip to Manila to prepare for the visit of John Paul II for the 10th World Youth Day, held in January 1995. This was a record setting event, drawing an estimated 5 million people at the Closing Mass held at the Rizal Park.
Here is an interesting excerpt of his encounter with the Iglesia ni Cristo at the sect's headquarters.
Iglesia ni Cristo headquarters,
Quezon City, Wednesday, 10:15 a.m.
I figured that since I was in Manila, I'd take the opportunity to rattle Iglesia ni Cristo's cage and put its leaders on notice that Catholic Answers is coming to town to explain and defend the true faith.
Iglesia teaches that at the Second Coming of Christ all true believers (Iglesia members in good standing) will be "caught up into heaven." But this isn't your usual rapture, according to a widespread and (alas!) probably false rumor. Iglesia members, having received advance warning, are to make their way to the local Iglesia church and await the rapture indoors. The entire building and all its occupants will be lifted up to heaven. This idea may have been inspired by Iglesia architecture: The buildings are aerodynamic, as though designed to fly better in the rapture. [Notice how gullible the members are. Its the religious Star Trek enterprise!]
Iglesia ni Cristo's sprawling headquarters reminded me of the Emerald City in the "Wizard of Oz," the difference being that these munchkins were anything but friendly once they found out what organization I represented. After persistent negotiations with the guards at the front gate I managed to wrangle a meeting with Bienvenido Santiago, the editor of Iglesia's monthly magazine, Pasugo. I was ushered into his office and shown to a seat. Also present was Samuel Paran, a minister on staff. Santiago handed me his no-nonsense business card. It read: "Bien C. Santiago, Minister of the Gospel."
[See this photo. Kinda reminds you of a Mormon Church, eh? Oh yeah, that's right. Because Manalo COPIED MORMONISM!]
I think these fellows were a little surprised, perhaps a little miffed, at my persistence in trying to see them, but after I was seated Santiago did his best to put me at ease with his gracious banter. [I know a couple of INC members. They are soooo protective of their own.]
"So, Mr. Madrid. What do you want?"
"I just dropped by to say howdy, and to tell you that Catholic Answers is sending a team of apologists to Manila for World Youth Day '95 to help out with the Holy Father's visit." He grimaced when I said "Holy Father." [I think the devil too grimaces.]
"We are well aware of your pope's visit next year."
"Oh? And do you have special plans to mark the occasion?"
Santiago grinned. "Let us just say that Iglesia ni Cristo will be ready for his visit."
I knew what that meant. Iglesia ni Cristo hates the Catholic Church [Boy they do!] and attacks its teachings whenever the chance presents itself. Each issue of Pasugo is crammed with articles showing how "unbiblical" the Catholic Church is for teaching doctrines such as the Trinity, the divinity and Incarnation of Christ, the Mass, and purgatory. As our chat progressed I gleaned that Iglesia was gearing up for an anti-Catholic proselytization push to coincide with World Youth Day. This push will include open-air preaching by Iglesia personnel, a barrage of anti-Catholic radio broadcasts throughout the Philippine islands, a massive tract distribution effort, and televised broadsides against the pope and the Catholic Church. [They love to hate the Church.]
We sparred for fifteen minutes or so, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Paran jotting down notes. For all I knew, the whole thing was being videotaped through the two-way mirror behind Santiago's desk, and I was being weighed, measured, and CAT-scanned, all for some sinister use by Iglesia at a later date. [You'll never know. That Temple is a virtual fortress. That is a possibility.]
I smiled. "Look, Bien, do you think you Iglesia folks might have an interest in another debate with Catholic Answers when we're here in January?" Karl Keating had accepted a challenge to debate one of their ministers a few years ago. Held in a high school gym, the debate drew an overflow crowd of 3,500 spectators, most of them Iglesia members bused in from throughout Southern California. No doubt the video tapes of the debate had been studied carefully by Iglesia's high command, which knew all about Catholic Answers. [You can see the videos in YouTube.]
Santiago smirked. "Why would you want another debate? Are you admitting that your Keating lost the first debate and now you would like a chance to redeem yourself?"
"Oh no, Bien," I smiled even more broadly. "Whatever would give you that impression? Haven't you seen the video of the debate? Keating killed your guy in that debate. We'd like to whip you again."
"That debate was a great victory for Iglesia ni Cristo. Keating lost." [In your dreams!]
The barbs went back and forth for several minutes, each of us smiling. I left a copy of Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth and the issue of This Rock that contained a cover story about our work in Denver at last year's World Youth Day. We made no agreement about a debate, except to express mutual interest in debating either the divinity of Christ or the papacy.
Outside, I looked back at the odd, streamlined buildings. With ten million members, Iglesia ni Cristo is growing quickly--not just in the Philippines, but among Filipinos in America. Nearly all converts, of course, are former Catholics. [They send Filipino members as "overseas workers" but in fact they are a family of missionaries. See the similarities with Mormonism?]
Iglesia ni Cristo, which in its evangelization activity and theology is like the Jehovah's Witnesses, is tenacious in challenging the Catholic Church. Come World Youth Day, even if no other anti-Catholic sects show up to harangue visiting youths, Iglesia alone will pose a stout challenge.
If there is one religion that breeds anti-Catholicism, then THIS IS IT! I had family members who had first hand experience at the bigotry of this religion that deifies Manalo. The name of Christ in the Church is all for show. They are not on bit Christian.
Be on the look out!