But where was Asia? – Cardinal Tagle post-synod

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle hosted a media briefing on the recently concluded Synod on the Family at Arzobispado, Intramuros, Oct. 30, 2014. - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle hosted a media briefing on the recently concluded Synod on the Family at Arzobispado, Intramuros, Oct. 30, 2014. – NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in his first meeting with Philippines media since the close of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Rome Oct. 19 spent a few hours with journalists and media workers today for a briefing on the synod.

Here’s just one of many concerns, views, emotions and learnings he shared :

As a President Delegate, I attended so many press conferences in the Vatican because daily there was a press briefing and press conference.

On the second press conference that I attended, it just shook me – there was not a single Asian journalist among the hundreds and hundreds of international journalists. Sad to say there was not a single African journalist also.

The Sala Stampa, the press office, was really dominated by the West. So I asked myself, “Who will report on the concerns of Asia? Who will report on the voice of Asia being raised in the Synod hall?

And that is precisely the concern of the Synod – that the various and diverse situations and challenges surface.

So maybe your outfits could assign some of you full-time in the Vatican, so when things happen you don’t just rely on reports of others and you report these. Because the things you are reporting now, if they come from other sources are somewhat filtered already according to their concerns.

That’s why when I was interviewed by the Italian TV2000 and I expressed the concerns of Asia, the interviewer said, we have not heard that. I replied – because Europeans and people of the West are all who are in the press conference.

So I was a bit busy going to the press conferences just to be able to share our concerns in Asia.

I know for a fact that some people thought that the only topic discussed in the synod was divorce and gay union. I assure you, those were discussed. But I also assure you those were not the only concerns.

And for the Filipino media to have a more comprehensive reporting, I will give you the other concerns

[Note : Some words/sentences translated from Tagalog]

More to follow

Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka confirmed – Colombo archdiocese

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, at the meeting of clergy of the Archdiocese of Colombo on Monday 27th October 2014 at the Archbishop’s House, confirmed Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka on Jan. 13 and 14, 2015, the archdiocese reported on its website.

A delegation from the Vatican is reportedly expected to arrive in Sri Lanka to work out the program me for the Pope’s visit.

Read Colombo archdiocese’s full report

Questions about the pope’s announced visit arose in recent weeks after news broke of possible elections in the country in January. 

In a letter to Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Cardinal Ranjith reportedly asking the president to inform the church about the date of election and informed the nation’s leader that it was not appropriate for the Pope to visit any country at times of national elections.

Sri Lanka government reportedly confirmed Oct. 26 that the government is taking necessary steps, including necessary infrastructure arrangements, as planned, to facilitate the arrival of Pope Francis.

 

 

“No justice without life”conference vs death penalty steps outside Italy

 

[l-r] Leonardo Tranggono of Sant'Egidio, Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Massimo Roscigno, Philippines Secretary Leila De Lima, Philippines Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, Administrator Manuel Co of Parole and Probation Administration announce the first "No justice without life" Conference in Asia at the Oct. 23 press conference at the Department of Justice, Manila/ NJ Viehland Photos

[l-r] Leonardo Tranggono of Sant’Egidio, Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Massimo Roscigno, Philippines Secretary Leila De Lima, Philippines Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, Administrator Manuel Co of Parole and Probation Administration announce the first “No justice without life” Conference in Asia at the Oct. 23 press conference at the Department of Justice, Manila/ NJ Viehland Photos

Rome-based international Christian Community of Sant’Egidio and the Philippines Department of Justice (DOJ) welcomed delegates to the October 27-28 conference on the death penalty that will be held in Mandaluyong City, east of Manila.

Philippines Justice Secretary Leila De Lima announced the “Asia-Pacific Congress on human rights, respect of human life, abolition of death penalty,”  and introduced her department’s co-organizers during a press conference conducted Oct. 23 at the DOJ in Manila as delegates arrived. 

On Monday, representatives of Asian governments, activists and witnesses from Asian countries and more than 30 mayors from around the Philippines will gather  there for two days to listen to and dialogue on issues and points tackled in talks concerning human rights, respect for life, abolition of every kind of death penalty in Asia. 

Countries expected to send representatives include India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is also sending representatives from its commission on prison pastoral care.

 Leonardo Tranggono who serves in Sant’Egidio’s international affairs office told Catholic in Asia this is the first time the annual gathering launched in 2005 is being held outside Italy. Asia was selected primarily because majority of governments in the region still impose capital punishment, Tranggono said.

Tranggono and Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Massimo Roscigno thanked De Lima for accepting the invitation to host the “historic” conference and for the Philippine government’s “advocacy” for halting executions of persons. 

President Gloria Arroyo approved in 2006 the law abolishing death penalty in the Philippines.

This week’s conference host, Mandaluyong City, has also declared its opposition to the death penalty, along with more than 2,000 “Cities for Life” in some 50 countries, Tranggono said.

End of Part I       

Pope’s Visit On Track So Far – Sri Lanka Church spokesperson

Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to Sri Lanka in January next year is still on track as the Government has not made any official announcement of a Presidential Election, Catholic Church Spokesman Rev. Cyril Gamini said.

Although there was confusion earlier over the Pontiff’s visit because of an impending Presidential Election in January, Fr. Cyril Gamini said that the scheduled itinerary will not be changed as the Church has not been informed of an election in January.

Meanwhile it is learnt that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has not responded to…

 

Full report http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2014/10/26/popes-visit-on-track-so-far/

Blessed Joseph Vaz will be proclaimed Saint Jan. 14‎

Pope Francis announced on Monday that Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Sri Lanka, will be declared saint on Jan. 14, 2015, Vatican News reported.

Read full report

EU-wide crackdown on undocumented migrants condemned

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International condemns in strongest terms the ongoing crackdowns resulting in the criminalization of undocumented migrants and refugees being implemented by the European Union.

Read full report

 

Post-Synod thoughts – CBCP President Villegas

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan / NJ Viehland Photos

THE SPIRIT BLOWS WHERE HE WILL!
Random Thoughts at the Close of the Synod

I have just finished attending the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, convened by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.  It was my privilege not only to listen to the debates and interventions.  I also had the privilege of addressing the assembly on the role of the clergy in family renewal.  Much has been written and reported on in respect to this event, truly momentous in the life of the Church.  It is my duty, as President of the CBCP, and as a Synodal father, to share with you these thoughts at the conclusion of the synod.  It is, as has repeatedly been underscored, only the prelude of more complete discussions in the future that we all eagerly await.

INCLUSIVE AND FAITHFUL LOVE

There are two concerns of the Church: first, the Church must be able to extend to all that hospitality, that care, that mercy that Jesus ordained would be the mark of his community, his Body, the Church.  None should be systematically excluded because of circumstances personal to the individual.  All should be aided in the path of constant conversion and renewal.  All should be offered the hope of the Gospel.  All should be comforted by the love of brothers and sisters in the One Body of Christ. In this regard, Pope Francis warned us of the temptation to be simply “do-gooders”, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots.

In the name of misplaced mercy Pope Francis said we face the temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

The other concern is as legitimate as the first: that the Church must preach a message that is not just a concession to popular demand, but is truly Christ’s, and that the Church must remain constantly docile to the prompting of the Spirit.  This is the reason that the Church must be unceasingly devoted to that discernment by which we all seek out the will of God and read from the Gospels, as interpreted by the Tradition of the Church in a living faith, a response to the questions of our time. There is also a temptation, according to Pope Francis, of  hostile inflexibility that is, wanting to close oneself within the written the letter and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises; within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous.

HURTING FAMILIES

Filipinos who presently find themselves in irregular relationships — live-in unions, de facto separation from spouses and partnerships with other persons — must be helped by pastors particularly by the Sacrament of Penance, to follow the demands of true and unselfish love in the Spirit of the Gospel. We cannot presume to judge and condemn.  Rather, the presumption should be that there is a genuine effort on their part to live according to the demands of our faith.  The danger of scandal should never stand in the way of genuine charity, and the Catholic faithful must be reminded that much of what Jesus did was scandalous to the ‘righteous’ of his time.  Where, however, in the pastoral assessment of bishops and priests, the full and unqualified admission of persons in irregular unions to the life of the Church causes charitable and sincere Catholics to doubt and misunderstand the teaching of the Church, then some prudent arrangement must be worked out that will be beneficial to all.

PERSONS WITH SAME SEX ATTRACTION

Persons with homosexual orientation are sons and daughters of God; no less than any of us is.  Discrimination against them is contrary to the Gospel spirit. Verbal and physical violence against them is an offense against the good Lord Himself.  Through honest dialogue and pastoral accompaniment, it should be our goal to assist them to respond to the demands of chastity and that purity of body and heart that Jesus, in the Gospels, calls ‘blessed’.  When they wish to make an offering to the life of the Church according to their talents, abilities and gifts, the Church as mother provides for them.

To the legislators who consider giving legal recognition to same sex unions, the Church declares there is no equivalence or even any remote analogy whatsoever between marriage between a man and woman as planned by God and the so-called same sex unions.

We can be tempted to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing, said Pope Francis.

CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

In facing our Catholic brethren in painful broken marriage situations or our brothers and sisters with homosexual attraction quietly struggling to be chaste, Pope Francis said we must avoid two temptations: The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast; and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick, add to their already unbearable burdens.

Our Filipino Catholic laity must be fully engaged in the apostolate of the family for the family is precisely the competence of lay persons.  Active Catholic couples are asked to lead in initiatives that assist couples in living the reality of the sacrament of matrimony, and in the rearing of their families according to the spirit of the Gospel.  Our bishops and pastors encourage and support these lay initiatives.

I wish to borrow this prayer at the end of the Message to the People of God at the conclusion of the synod:

Laguna,NJ Viehland

Husbands, wives serve in farmers’ cooperative in Laguna,NJ Viehland

Father, grant to all families

the presence of strong and wise spouses

who may be the source of a free and united family.

Father, grant that parents

may have a home in which to live

in peace with their families.

Manila,NJ Viehland

Manila,NJ Viehland

Father, grant that children may be signs of trust and hope

and that young people may have the courage

to forge life-long, faithful commitments.

Alabang,NJ Viehland

Workers packing coffee in Alabang,NJ Viehland

Father, grant that all may be able to earn bread with their hands,

that they may enjoy serenity of spirit

and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.

Elderly people dance during party by Ed Gerlock

Elderly people dance during party by Ed Gerlock

Father, grant that we may all see flourish,

a Church that is ever more faithful and credible,

a just and humane city,

a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.

 

Rome, October 19, 2014

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan

CBCP President

 

Church in Asia: the importance of women’s voices – Interview

Theologian Agnes Brazal, PhD by NJ Viehland

Theologian Agnes Brazal, PhD by NJ Viehland

Women theologians in Asia have been sustaining the process of reflection and dialogue on feminist issues and concerns through conferences, symposia, artistic exhibits and publications.

Out of this movement came an association of theologians called Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA) that formed 12 years ago. Theologian Agnes Brazal, director of the Office for Research and Publications and coordinator of the graduate program at St. Vincent School of Theology in Quezon City was among participants of the first conference, and has served as joint treasurer since 2005.

The association is calling for papers and presentations for its Seventh Biennial Conference in Manila in January 2016. The conference will be the association’s first under Pope Francis, who has issued a call to make room for a more incisive role for women in the church.

Read Brazal’s description of the founding of EWA and discussion of the importance of feminist voices in the Church.

In 2013, Pope Francis issued his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), detailing the church's primary mission of evangelization in the modern world. / NJ Viehland Photos      [ View video on the exhortation by Rome Reports]

In 2013, Pope Francis issued his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), detailing the church’s primary mission of evangelization in the modern world. / NJ Viehland Photos [ View video on the exhortation by Rome Reports]

In Rome CBCP President reflects on poverty, migration, Filipino family

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) /NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) /NJ Viehland Photos

POVERTY, MIGRATION AND FAMILY
Archbishop Socrates B Villegas
CBCP President, October 16, 2014

Rome – Because the family is also an economic unit, poverty impacts on it — more often than not (though not necessarily), negatively.  While inspiring stories are told of families that have emerged stronger after having been tested in the crucible of poverty, more often, poverty inflicts terrible wounds on members of the family and sadly, many times, there is never a complete recovery!

Of the nations of Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranks among the highest in the dispersal of its citizens throughout the world.  In fact, there is hardly a corner of the world that one will not find a Filipino.  In Rome alone, there is a sizable and vibrant Filipino community.  And it would be a case of undue generalization to make the claim that it is poverty that drives Filipinos from their homeland to seek their fortunes elsewhere. 

We are not the poorest nation, but those who rank lower than us in the economic scale are not as dispersed as we are.  This compels us, if we are to understand the phenomenon of the Filipino family in the 21st century better, to look elsewhere for plausible explanations.

Many Filipinos who are abroad are nurses, teachers and other professionals, among these, engineers and agriculturists.  They are therefore not at the bottom of the economic scale. In fact, as professionals they would not have really been hungry had they remained home in the Philippines.  In dialogues with Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), it has become clear that many who have sought employment abroad have done so because they feel, rightly or wrongly, that in the Philippines, they do not get what they deserve. 

Philippines hospital doctors, nurses and staff / NJ Viehland Photos

Philippines hospital doctors, nurses and staff / NJ Viehland Photos

The phenomenon of the nursing profession makes for an interesting case study.  At one time, the Philippines fielded nurses all over the world, and till the present, many nurses in the United States and in Europe are Filipinos.  And as schools of nursing proliferated in the Philippines, we overstocked the labor market with nurses and really killed the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg.  There has been a deleterious slump in the demand for Filipino nurses.  Many schools of nursing have closed down, and graduates of the nursing curriculum have had to seek employment as call-center agents, sales representatives, etc.

The point seems to be clear: In the Filipino psyche is a romanticized notion of the West as the land of opportunity accompanied by a deprecatory assessment of the Philippine situation.  It is not really poverty alone, nor perhaps principally, that sunders families.  It is rather the idealization of the West — and, for non-professionals, or manual laborers, the Middle East — as the land of promise.

Many marriages are threatened by the separation of couples owing to overseas employment of one or the other spouse; this peculiarity of the national social psyche is threatening for it can only mean that not even the family is powerful enough a factor to keep Filipinos home, especially when, we observe, the Filipinos who pack their bags and seek employment abroad are not really impoverished Filipinos.

There is no doubt that the unprincipled aggressive recruitment policies of many Western corporations and business establishments, eager for cheap labor, induce Filipinos with dreams of immediate, though unrealistic, prosperity.  Talk to any OFW and you will be impressed at the grasp he or she has of terms relating to placement fees, payment schemes, salaries, benefits, wages, privileges…all this, obviously the result of sweetened deals packaged so as to attract cheap Filipino labor to country’s where a successful birth-control program has a very thin younger sector to take care of an increasingly aging population! 

This takes us to a more involved sociological issue that the Philippine church must resolutely and studiously confront: Does the family still matter to the Filipino, and does it matter sufficiently to come before every other consideration that may sacrifice the unity of the family? To cling to idyllic pictures from the past of members of the family cohesively constituting an economic unit working not only in proximity to each other but living under the same roof will be a disservice to a Church that is sparing nothing to be more effective in its pastoral care for members of the family.

It would be presumptuous to offer any definitive answer to this question, but the matter has to be raised, and the problem addressed.  Does the Filipino find in family ties and bonds a value so high that others, including the prospect of higher salaries and more comfortable living, can be sacrificed for it?  And if the Filipino’s valuation of the family has suffered a downturn, what can the Philippine Church do about it?

Obviously, the Philippine phenomenon is also symptomatic of a universal phenomenon: a re-thinking and a re-shaping of elemental units, the family principally among them.  And while many Filipino OFWs will declare that the sacrifice of living apart from spouse and children is one they willingly make ‘for the sake of the family’, one wonders what notion of family life and what norms of family membership Filipinos have when they willing forego conjugal cohabitation, they miss out on the childhood and adolescence of their children, they become strangers to their own families — while they make a pile abroad.

If, as Gaudium et Spes boldly proclaimed, the Church is the expert on humanity, then this anthropological and sociological question has to be something that merits the Church’s serious reflection, the debates and studies of its scholars, and the guiding voice of its shepherds.

‘We welcome the pope” – LGBT party leader

Bemz Benedito of Ladlad Party List, by NJ Viehland.
Bemz Benedito of Ladlad Party List, by NJ Viehland.

Bemz Benedito, founding member of Ladlad political party of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people, told reporters at Fernandina Forum today, “We welcome the pope. Actually, kami sa LGBT (we in the LGBT) community, even if we are non-practicing (their various religions) anymore, we welcome this pope.”

Benedito said Pope Francis “has been very liberal, very embracing, very accepting.”

However, the LGBT leader lamented that “the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines does not reflect Pope Francis’ attitude.” 

Bendito addressed the regular Wednesday forum at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan on the topic “Hate Crime and Violence Against Transgenders.”

The forum discussed the killing of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude who was strangled in a hotel room in Olongapo City, northwest of Manila Oct. 11. A U.S. marine is reportedly detained in a U.S. navy ship in the country as part of an agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines governments to have American military forces in the country. 

Related reports

 Family synod midterm report   /CNS

Catholic Church leads fight against gay discrimination in Nigeria–Archbishop    /CBCPNews

 Synod: Bishop from Malawi Says His Countrymen Need to Resist Western Influences   /Aleteia

 Related  posts

Cardinal Tagle highlights issues, concerns in pre-Synod feedback

Nuns help rebuild people, lives and families broken by crime

by N.J. Viehland

Muntinlupa prison,NJ Viehland

Muntinlupa prison,NJ Viehland

The Servants of the Holy Eucharist in the Philippines are solely focused on restorative justice.

Through this charism they work with Caritas Manila to help inmates return to community life by supporting their families and providing transition services.

Last year through painstaking research and legwork, their paralegals were also able to help free 108 people who were wrongly imprisoned…

     Nuns help rebuild people, lives broken by crime
Global Sisters Report
National Catholic Reporter
The grateful bride chose Sr. Zenaida Cabrera to be her wedding sponsor after the nun and fellow members of Servants of the Holy Eucharist had helped to free her father from prison.
Muntilupa prison,NJ Viehland

Sunday Mass with families at Maximum Security Prison, Muntilupa City, NJ Viehland

Prayer for the Filipino family

Last month’s Symposium on the Filipino Family: Catholic and Women’s Perspectives organized by the Theology Department of the Jesuit-owned Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City opened with a moving prayer-slideshow prepared and led by theology instructor Maria Elisa A. Borja.(rightmost in photo).

Speakers and organizers of the Symposium on the Filipino Family: Catholic and Women's Perspectives. Extreme right is Maria Elisa A. Borja - NJ Viehland Photos

– NJ Viehland Photos

The inter-disciplinary event involving women sociologists and theologians was inspired by Pope Francis’ encouragement and the upcoming synod on the family to dialogue about the situation of Filipino families and Church teaching on women and the family, organizers said.

Following is the text of the prayer for all who wish to join in praying for a fruitful Synod on the Family to run in Rome Oct. 5-19.

A Prayer for The Filipino Family by Maria Elisa A. Borja, Ph.D. cand.
(inspired by A Prayer for Children by Ina C. Hughes)

Heavenly Father, we come to you. Listen to our prayer for the Filipino family.

We pray for Filipino families filled with selfless love and joy,
but also for families that are plagued with hatred and selfishness

We pray for Filipino families who live by OHANA…
where “nobody gets left behind or forgotten”
but also for families who leave each other behind,
who alienate and forget one another

We pray for Filipino families who come to church and say their daily rosary together,

Children and relatives of inmates greet priest after Sunday Mass at Maximum Security prison chapel - NJ Viehland Photo

Sunday Mass, maximum security prison chapel,Muntinlupa City           – NJ Viehland Photos

but more so, for families who do not celebrate Sunday mass together,
and those who do not pray at all

We pray for Filipino families who eat together and share stories and laugh,

By Ed Gerlock

– Ed Gerlock Photos

but most especially for families who do not eat together,
who do not share, and who do not laugh

We pray for Filipino families bonded and whole,
but also for families broken and fragmented

broken by separation or divorce
broken by alcoholism or drug abuse
broken by physical, verbal or psychological abuse

We pray for Filipino families who live comfortably
but more so, for those who have nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep,
who cannot work or study
who suffer in poverty

Quezon City, NJ Viehland

We pray for Filipino families whose love sees through
the struggle of caring for a special child or aging parent,
but also those who are tired and feel so burdened by it

We pray for Filipino families who have a father, a mother, children and relatives
and those who have no fathers, no mothers,
whose parents are working far away in another country,
whose mothers mother other children
so they cannot mother their own

Airport by NJ Viehland

Boy at airport                   – NJ Viehland Photos

We pray for two-parent Filipino families,
but most especially, for single parents,
for solo mothers and those who live in dire poverty
because they have to raise a family alone

We pray for families who do outreach
and reach out to the bigger human family,
but more so for those who are exclusive, who separate,
who don’t care about any other family but their own,
who discriminate against those who aren’t part of their family

We pray for Filipino families who build each other up,
but also for families who tear each other down

We pray for Filipino families who have lost their faith in You, Lord,
and lost faith in each other
Filipino families dealing with painful memories that haunt them at night
Filipino families struggling to make it through another day
Filipino families consumed by material goods but empty in spiritual things

We pray for every Filipino family,
with two parents or one
for widows/widowers and orphans

Iriga, NJ Viehland

Fatima Center for Human Development, Iriga City         – NJ Viehland Photos

We pray for stronger fathers
stronger mothers,
greater bonds of love

Man and baby - NJ Viehland Photos

Man and baby       – NJ Viehland Photos

We pray for the bigger Christian family, who is Church,
that all may feel welcome, loved and at home in it,
especially the least, the last and the lost

Listen to our prayer, Lord

May the Holy Family of Nazareth be our strength and our guide,
May the Blessed Mother who is Mother of Jesus
and therefore, mother of us all, intercede for every Filipino family

We ask this in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of us all,
in unity with the Holy Spirit, AMEN.

A Synod on the Family! But where are the families? – Commentary

Muntinlupa prison,NJ Viehland

Maximum security prison chapel, Muntinlupa City                        – NJ Viehland Photos

 

Latin hymns are a distant memory today. They had been thrown out with liturgical solemnity. Nonetheless, a few sacred masterpieces remain etched deep in people’s psyche. “O esca viatorum” is one such hymn with a sacramental impress. 

That Eucharistic song reminds us of how Jesus broke bread as esca viatorum — wayfarers’ food – with two disciples en route to Emmaus. The manna-like role of the Eucharist was especially evident at the Last Supper.

Sustenance to the harried

When Jesus shared bread with his Apostles, he was not unaware of the imminent betrayal by Judas or the denial by Peter. Jesus communed with them, nonetheless. He was not unaware that almost all of his fellowship members would desert him that same night. Yet, he also knew such communing would sustain most of them in faith — food for the onward journey.

That healing effect of the Sacrament of love may have been very much in Pope Francis’s thoughts when he addressed Eucharistic congress organizers at September-end. He spoke of the Eucharist’s role “in bearing hope, forgiveness, healing and love to all in need, in particular to the poor, the disinherited and the oppressed …walking with them in search of an authentic human life in Christ Jesus.”

Walking with people?

Sadly, the great Sacrament’s role in “walking with” people on their search through life’s problems has been thwarted often by efforts to distort the Eucharist into a disciplinary tool. The ongoing debate about denying Communion to couples in troubled marriages is an example of such intervention.

Already, some laypersons have been driven away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation by abuse of the confessional or its reduction to a disciplinary tribunal. Such misadventures should caution pastors against denying the Eucharist to some faithful just when they need the Sacrament for spiritual sustenance in fellowship.

Marikina, by NJ Viehland

Mission sending, Couples for Christ, Marikina                                          – NJ Viehland Photos

Much evident vacuum

Some theologians’ efforts to distract the upcoming synod with disciplinary issues are not unlike half-century-ago moves to hijack Church renewal with cosmetic liturgical reform.

The Synod on the Family is already hassled with lack of genuine lay participation. Very much like earlier synods on family and laity, this assembly too appears to be overcrowded with bishops and experts. Hence, it is likely to ventilate perceived views on family issues more than the genuine views of families. In fairness to Christian families, such an unrepresentative assembly should not be further abused as a referendum on divorce.

A lesson for the next synod

Providentially, this two-week synod is to be followed up next year by a month-long synod on family-related matters. The experiences of the upcoming assembly should encourage Church leaders to provide for genuine representation of families at the follow-up synod. Such a synod with active participation of families should be left free to discuss real problems troubling modern families. Also, families should be left free to find faith-based solutions suitable to their specific cultural realities.

No doubt, such a family synod would need wise counsel, not impositions, from pastoral fora experienced in “walking with” families in the Eucharistic role noted in the earlier cited papal discourse. Regional family ministries and regional episcopal bodies will be more competent to offer such counsel than quirky lobbies with a kink to tamper with the ethos of local family life. 

END

Hector Welgampola
welgampo@gmail.com

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

Cardinal Tagle highlights issues, concerns from pre-Synod feedback

Nuns were among people who attended Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle's lecture at Loyola School of Theology Sept. 3, 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Nuns were among people who attended Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s lecture at Loyola School of Theology Sept. 3, 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, one of three presidents of October’s Synod on the Family, presented to professors, students and guests at the Sept. 3 Theological Hour of Loyola School of Theology highlights of the responses to a pre-synod survey of dioceses that are incorporated in the synod’s working document or Instrumentum Laboris.

Following are excerpts of this section of his lecture, from a personal recording of his lecture (words in parentheses are the reporter’s)… Cardinal Tagle said: I just have to enumerate some of the topics and I hope you don’t look at them simply as a list of concerns. Give yourselves time to ponder and see whether these concerns are part of our experience. If not then they might be speaking of concerns of other people.

In our Council (of the Synod of Bishops) of 15 persons, the discussion could be at one time heated, at another hilarious. We from Asia and from Africa would say, “Wait, wait wait, that is again a north Atlantic concern. That’s not our concern in Asia and Africa. Let me tell our stories…” They would say, “Wait, wait wait, that is the concern in Asia, not in Europe.” It’s good that we are able to listen to one another, and I tell you, those were tiring discussion, but moments of pure reflections.

I would always come home from Rome attending those meetings with my mind, my imagination ready to explode just trying to enter into the world of some people – the stories I heard from Africa, stories that I heard or testimonies from refugee camps and the impact of war on families. Sometimes I said to myself, “Oh, our concerns are really cute, really cute.” Couples separate because, “I don’t like ube (purple yam) ice cream.” Then we have stories about families really torn apart by war. How do you minister to families among the stateless people? Many of them are in Asia.

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 In the past, when we talked of interreligious dialogue, theologians came to mind…but now it seems to be happening worldwide. Interreligious dialogue must happen in the families. And how it worked? Our people were getting married to engage in interreligious dialogue on a daily basis not just in the classroom. The dialogue in the classroom ends, but if you’re married to someone who does not belong to the same faith or religion, how do you engage in that for life? Are we equipping, are we preparing our Christians and families to be agents of interreligious dialogue? It’s a different type of communication skill….

What one of the writers of this Instrumentum Laboris (working paper) did was to organize this narrative of responses into three main sections. I think there were 12 people who worked on the collation and the summary of the responses – half of them women, half of them males so that the different perspectives would be there.

Communicating the Gospel of the Family in Today’s World

Ed Fermin of Miriam College hands to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the working document of the Congress on the Filipino Family convened by school family councils, PTA particularly from Catholic Schools - NJ Viehland Photos

Ed Fermin of Miriam College hands to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the working document of the Congress on the Filipino Family to be convened by school family councils and parent-teacher-associations particularly from Catholic Schools – NJ Viehland Photos

The first section was titled Communicating the Gospel of the Family in Today’s World. Remember, the synod of bishops is about evangelization. It is the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization. The latest synod was on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith. So the theme continues but now focused on the challenges of and to the family.

When we think of family, does evangelization enter our mind? Do we connect the pastoral care of the family to evangelization? This is the one big chunk. The responses affirm that the family is mostly Good News. The family is Gospel. It is Good News. The Gospel of the family – and I guess all of us can resonate with that. We in Asia our joys are always connected to the family. Our pride and also our sorrows are always connected to the family.

The family is Gospel – especially because the family is part of God’s plan for humanity, for revelation and even for salvation. This plan of God for the family, for marriage is contained in the Scriptures and the many documents of the Church. It is intimately related to the vocation of the person and, in the tradition of the Church, to natural law.

Now, I pick up some of the concerns and what I think will be applicable for a school of theology and for people engaged in pastoral work. One big concern that emerged in this section is related to the knowledge and acceptance of the faithful – by the faithful – of the teaching of the Church and the Bible regarding the family.Responses show that the level of knowledge and acceptance varies from place to place. Generally speaking, the Biblical teaching regarding the family is quite widespread but there is much work that remains to be done in terms of appreciation of the Biblical teaching regarding marriage and family.

How about the documents of the Church? – Gaudium et Spes, Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio, and all the many statements of the episcopal conferences, homilies of the pope, etc.? The knowledge of conciliar and post-conciliar documents does not seem to have taken a foothold in the faithful’s mentality. In some parts of the world, they have no knowledge of those documents. This came up in the survey.

So, our commentary on it is this: While the content is important – family and marriage – it seems that in this first portion, the question is really that of evangelization. In a school of theology, I think you’d be interested in addressing some of the concerns that surfaced in the discussions. Aside from the dissemination – they say, oh, priests do not even know those documents, how can they talk about it? The responses say our parish priest never mentioned any of those documents, probably he does not know those documents exist. But not our graduates of LST !You know it’s a joke!

How about our pastoral workers? Our catechists? Our family life ministers? Do they know of these documents? Have they studied those documents? From where do they draw their so-called teaching about marriage and family? Do they come from Scripture and from their immersion to the will of God? Are these as contained in Scripture and the documents of the Church?

Another concern – the language of Church documents. The language of Church documents probably must shift as cultures and mindsets shift and we have here a test case – natural law. We did a survey in the Council – what do people think now when they hear the word “natural”? It’s quite different from the philosophical use of the word “natural” in natural law. For some people, natural is spontaneity. If I don’t like you, and I tell you, “I don’t like you,” that’s natural. I’m not going against my nature. So they say, if we quote Church teaching using the language of natural law, some people might say, “Oh, natural law, so if this is spontaneous to me I’m following natural law.” “Ah, what a beautiful girl. She’s married. Uh – natural law – I’m attracted to her so I’m obeying natural law.”

So the challenge is we experts presume that our language which is clear to us is absorbed by others in the same way that we understand it. Not anymore, so we have to review the language of the Church. In fact, there’s a proposal already – instead of talking of natural law – can we be more Biblical? Narrative – the use of narrative, the use of symbols – and we speak also to peoples of other faiths and cultures for how many people still get formal training in natural law theory? Related to that is the question of evangelization – related to the language of the Church.

Do we consciously, deliberately factor in the emerging mentalities of the time and how these emerging mentalities, perspectives and culture influence our people’s view of reality – people’s view of themselves, people’s view of family and relationships?

Another area, they say, we should look into – training, the formation of the clergy, the religious, the pastoral workers. Why are they incapable of communicating effectively the Gospel of family? They say, how come the media are more powerful? They are able to penetrate minds and hearts of people whereas the Sunday homily does not. So one of the recommendations is – please review the whole section of Evangelii Gaudium on the homily.

So, we’re not even talking about the content of the Gospel, but we are talking here about evangelization and we, of course, are put on the spot. And then they also say, maybe we should also take the path of beauty – the world of the laity – by witnessing to the beauty, the joy of married life. Maybe people will be attracted to marriage and Christian marriage, especially.

Without negating the role of the clergy in teaching.. they say, when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel of the family and of marriage, the lay people, especially the married ones, should assume the main role. I attended years ago a whole-day congress of the family. The first speaker was a religious woman. The second speaker was a priest. The third speaker was a bishop. The fourth was the bishop again – in the homily of the Mass. No one realizes, where are the lay people? Where are the married people? I said if you will invite me again for the same congress and this is the same line-up of speakers I will not attend. Of course they got mad at me. That’s the reason they did not invite me again.

We’re making a statement. It’s about marriage. It’s about family life. If I may expand this – what do the bishops say about charter change? Why us again? What do the lay people who took political science and the constitution – why not speak up? Why us again and again and again? So we talk about marriage. We talk about the things that lay people know better…I’m just giving some example.

Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges

The second section is titled The Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges. So, the Holy Father has been stressing we cannot avoid doctrinal and moral discussions, but the whole thrust of the extraordinary assembly is really the pastoral care of the family. So in this whole second section, new challenges – I don’t know if some of them are really new. Some of them have been with us for centuries – but the challenges that our contemporary families are facing, what are these then?

The first to be identified is the crisis of faith and its impact on family life. But it seems that this crisis of faith is not confined to the Catholic Church. We got a report that among some countries in Europe, while the practice of Catholic faith has declined dramatically, it has declined more dramatically among the Protestant Churches. And among the Jews, there’s an increasing number of what they call “cultural Jews” or not practicing – in the same way that we have cultural Catholics – baptized, with certificates, married in Church, confirmed, received the First Holy Communion from the archbishop, but all of it cultural.

Now the big question for us here is when people come to us for sacramental marriage, is faith a consideration? When people continue living in marriage, sustaining their family, is faith the motivation? In a context of a world where faith is considered as superfluous, even irrelevant, does faith still influence people’s choice about marriage and staying in marriage? Is marriage simply a social or cultural event? This question arises not only for people who come to us for marriage, but even in the day to day living of commitment. Is faith the reason why they remain committed to one another? So the question to ask is how can we make faith again one of the primary motivations for entering into sacramental marriage and to remain committed to married life?

Here, some questions about sacraments – the theology of sacraments and the pastoral approach to the preparation and the post-sacramental guidance that we give to people who are married post-marriage. I think we can all tell stories about how, not only marriage, but the other sacraments as well, have become social and cultural events and not anymore events of faith. So the question is how does it impact marriage and family life?

You start your married life with faith as the one significant factor. Do you expect people to remain faithful to each other in marriage and to the family because of faith? So even in our theology of sacraments… a big part is pre-sacramental preparation. There are a lot of seminars for baptism, confirmation, first confession, first communion, marriage. But the question is: Is there a pastoral program post-sacramental? How do we guide the newly baptized? How do we guide the newly confirmed? How do we guide the newly married? I do not know of any viable post-sacramental program existing in parishes and in dioceses. We spend so much time in the preparation, and afterwards there’s no sustaining guidance. If we look at the catechesis, the catechetical guidelines of the Fathers of the Church, some of them are post-sacramental: Do you recall the oil that was poured on you and how the oil felt as it flowed on your cheeks, etc… It is a reflection in life now of the grace of the sacrament received. So – there is the crisis of faith.

The second area here is very real. I don’t have time to explain everything, but these are some of the critical situations that have been identified pertaining to marriage and family.

1. Communication difficulties. This is not new. But I think what is lamented here is that we have many means of communicating – we have the cellphone, we can text, we have the Internet, we have the e-mail, but the question is have these means and gadgets really taught us how to communicate or are they merely means of transferring information swiftly? Just that, but no communication is happening. Even on an international level, we see a breakdown in communication – countries, heads of state, who don’t know how to communicate. Of course they have access to the most modern means of communication, but they are not communicating.

Priests and their superiors – when I want to talk to a priest I don’t use a cellphone. Because I say, where are you? I’m in the chapel. How do I know? I use the landline. I call Father, he’s not here. If you use the cellphone – where are you? I’m in the adoration chapel. Why did you answer your phone if you’re in adoration?

2. Another: violence and abuse – especially of women and the girl-child.

3. Different forms of dependence and addictions – we know the effects of these on relationships.

4. The uncritical use of media, and the values being communicated by media.

5. Now here – work and the competitiveness of the consumerist world. People work work work. They don’t have time to have coffee or tea with their spouses. They don’t “waste time,” as they say, with their children. They excuse this by saying, “We have to work” and they are “working for you.

6. Migration, of course. We were talking about divorce, when the Council asked me, “Do you have legal divorce in the Philippines?” I said no. Do you have legal separation in the Philippines? Well, there is legal separation. But many couples are separated not because they hate one another, but because poverty pushes them to leave their families. It’s a different type of separation. It’s not separation that’s “good riddance” but separation with pain. I became a bit dramatic discussing that.

Then I asked them, do you have Filipino migrants in your dioceses? They said yes. Do you have pastoral programs for those migrants so they will remain faithful to the families they’ve left? They say no because the only type of separation they know is divorce.

7. Poverty, consumerism, individualism and the scandals in the Church. The scandals in the Church, especially those committed by the clergy, some responses say these have had a big impact on the family and how the family has even justified the breakdown. Some say, how can they judge us, when they’re unfaithful. Look at our priests, they’re also unfaithful. So the counter-influence of infidelity.

Manila,NJ Viehland

Manila,NJ Viehland

8. Societal expectations – Some children don’t have a time for leisure. They don’t enjoy games on weekends. They have to work, even during summer breaks. They expect it.

9. Wars, the refugee problem, disparity of cult. These are some difficult situations, but connected to them are the difficult pastoral situations that are confronted by the Church.

10. Co-habitation, living together ad-experimentum, and there’s no more wedding because they say, we are poor, the government does not give us housing, and so why marry and become miserable? De-facto unions, which is connected to co-habitation – “Let us live together “- and in some countries those de-facto unions, without marriage or civil recognition now enjoy some rights.

11. And of course, the separated, the divorced and re-married divorced people. Here, the children are left alone.

12. Teen mothers, who often end up being single mothers.

13. Canonical irregularities in the reception of the sacrament. This has been discussed over and over again – divorced and remarried whether they can receive Holy Communion

14. The canonical procedures for the declaration of nullity of marriage – There’s a call to simplify the process or to de-centralize the process for the declaration of nullity of marriage and to make it cost-friendly. They are too costly.

15. What do we do with non-practicing Catholics – baptized, but non-practicing Catholics – who get married sacramentally, when you know they are not practicing, but they’re Catholics?

16. Same sex union, and the pastoral care of the children, because some of them have adopted

Challenges to a school of theology

These are some of the critical and difficult situations. What are some of the challenges to a school of theology?

The survey indicated a fluidity – the fluidity of a temporary understanding of family and marriage. In the past, we had a stable understanding of marriage. A man and a woman. Now it’s fluid, and in fact, some reports said, there are moves to delete or remove the word “marriage” because the word is too confining. The word marriage involves only a man and a woman, so they say remove that and replace it with union because it is more open – a man and a man, a woman and a woman, a man and a woman, a man and a chair ! We don’t want to be restricted. We want to use marriage and then find a man, but we’re limited by that word to choose a woman, but if we use the word union – ahhh – it’s now open.

This is related to the shifts in anthropology – understanding the human person, the understanding of freedom, the understanding of conscience. How can the Christian institutes of learning contribute to the whole discussion?

Going to our pastoral responses – it was also indicated that the Holy Father was deeply touched by this. In most of the reports, we were told that couples in irregular marital situations feel shamed and even condemned by the Church. They feel that because of the irregularity of their situation they don’t belong to the Church and the Church does not have room for them so they distance themselves.

So the question arose then – how do we reach out to them and assure them that in the Church they still find a community and home? How can we pastorally guide them, especially their children? How can we help them draw hope especially in their painful situation? And the Holy Father even list some questions because in some Churches children are denied Baptism when the pastors learn that the parents are in an irregular canonical situation.

So for theologians, the question raised for us to reflect on is what are sacraments? Are sacraments rewards to the righteous? Are sacraments to be used as punishment – in this case -of innocent children? Can we deny sacraments to children who belong to families that are in irregular canonical and sacramental situations? How do we blend these formulas in Christian teaching yet showing the hope that God offers to people in painful situations?

Let me go to the last portion. This is supposed to be a theological hour, so the third section is titled Openness to Life – the transmission of life and parental responsibility in upbringing of children. This section I think is very much welcome. It talks about openness to life. Openness to the transmission of life – the whole issue of contraception, the whole question of individualistic mentality, that is brought into our attitude about life and the transmission of life were very much present in those questions.

Related to the issue of contraception and individualism are also what we have already mentioned are the difficult shifts in anthropology and the understanding of the human person, the gender ideology, and so the questions therefore of fatherhood and motherhood….and the entry of the gender issue and same sex marriage and what happens to concepts of fatherhood and motherhood. I remember there was a movie titled “Ang Tatay kong Nanay” something like that. So what happens to motherhood? Is that concept still valid? Is it an empty concept? What happens to fatherhood?

Responses also said that the teaching of Humanae Vitae and other documents of the Church should be captured and transmitted in its fullness for they are not teachings about contraception and natural methods, but about the decisive human experience of love. This is the main context and should be the main context in our discussion of the openness to life and the transmission of life. It’s not just about a method, it’s about an experience of a radical and decisive experience of loving that makes you generous to life.

This section included the transmission of the faith in the transmission of life. So the whole question of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist – and they ask the question why are parents hesitant to transmit the faith? Why do they pass on the responsibility to Catholic schools and catechists? If you run a Catholic school, you hear parents say this often: “That’s why I sent my child to your school for you to teach him or her about the faith!” I say, “Well, what are you doing better? That’s part of transmission of life, you transmit the faith also. Why are you making us the surrogate transmitters of life and faith?” It seems to be a universal experience. They hire a catechist, they hire tutors, they send their children to Catholic schools and say, that’s your mission – transmit the Catholic faith to them while the parents do nothing. The question is why? Why are they hesitant to do that?

Manila catechists and Catholic school teachers -NJ Viehland Photos

Manila catechists’ and Catholic school teachers’ conference on family -NJ Viehland Photos

Transmission of life and faith must be a concerted effort of the wider Christian family – of the schools, the parishes, the lay movements with special attention to the godparents. They said if the child comes from a family with an irregular situation, maybe we can tap more fully the godparents for the transmission of the faith. But then again, the question is how do we choose godparents and are godparents still aware of their role in the transmission of faith? Parang (As if) it’s a whole review of the whole sacramental practice also.

And because of migration, we said we should take care of the grandparents who are now parenting their grandchild. In fact some grandparents are requesting for seminars on parenting their grandchildren. They said I’m supposed to be a grandfather, not a father to these children. How do I conduct myself as a father when I am a grandfather? I don’t know whether it is an academic question or an existential question. That’s why grandparents spoil their grandchildren – because they’re behaving like grandparents, not as parents. What do you say to the children, and what pastoral program do we have to equip grandparents as parents?

And finally they say, in all of this, can we be creative and joyful in our approach to the family? This is the complexity of the issue. Any person, any group who claims they have clearly defined answers to all of these questions and difficulties are deluding themselves. That’s why this synod in October will be spent on how, and serious listening, and entering worlds that are not familiar to us – the complexity of issues, the diversity of cultures and situations.

When we engaged in one discussion of the canonical nullity of marriage the Holy Father pointed to the full will. He said maybe many marriages are not valid because of lack of will. Playing devil’s advocate, I said, what do you say to this: In Asia, there are some cultures that arrange marriages and spouses meet each other a few days before marriage, or the day before marriage. I know a couple of Chinese descent. Their marriage is arranged. They just celebrated their 40th anniversary of marriage. The four children, their marriages were not arranged. They were free to court anyone, they were free to get married to anyone, unfortunately, three of those marriages ended up in separation. Which is the valid marriage? Will we declare arranged marriage as invalid for lack of will? And declare those separated as marriages still valid because you chose and while they chose, they separated.

That question of mine ilicited a response from an African bishop. That bishop said that is happening in some sub-cultures in Africa. He said the key is with arranged marriage, clans intervene when there are problems and they help the couple to sustain their marriage. So the complexity of the issue – it’s just fascinating to listen to each other – and the invitation to institutes of higher learning to contribute through research and pastoral creativity to resolve our debate.

The whole spirit, according to the Holy Father, is that of pastoral solicitude – pastoral solicitude that upholds doctrinal integrity, yet mindful of the imperfection of the human condition. Yes, we have the ideal. But how do we guide and lead people broken and weak and sinful to the ideal? How do we give hope to those who have missed the ideal? Part of the spirit is to celebrate the heroism and the beauty that we find in couples who have remained committed to their marriage and to their families.

The Holy Father, from the beginning of his pontificate, has emphasized that “the Lord never tires of forgiving: never! It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness.” (Angelus, 17 March 2013). This accent on mercy has had a great impact even in matters relating to marriage and the family, in that, far removed from every kind of moralism, it confirms the Christian outlook on life and opens new possibilities for the future, no matter what the personal limitations or the sins committed. God’s mercy is an opening to an ongoing conversion and a continuous rebirth.

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END OF NOTES [for official transcript, contact Loyola School of Theology, Theological Hour]

Hong Kong Cardinal Tong appeals to SAR gov’t, protesters – Document

Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong has appealed to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government to exercise restraint on the second day of Occupy Central protests after police sprayed tear gas on people who had massed up in Hong Kong’s Central district and surrounding neighborhoods for the civil disobedience movement. 

Cardinal Tong also appealed to the tens of thousands of protesters, including young students, to keep calm, as he urged Christians to pray for peaceful reconciliation of the conflicting parties in the protests. 

Earlier on Monday, Assistant Commissioner of Police Cheung Tak-Keung told a press conference that around 41 people, including 12 police were injured when protesters charged through police cordon lines yesterday in what media called the “Umbrella Revolution” because people carried umbrellas for protection against tear gas.

Cheung said police warned oncoming protesters and gave them time to comply with orders. He said police used tear gas 87 times in nine locations yesterday. They also resorted to using pepper spray and batons to keep their distance and prevent injuries, the commissioner said. He said police used “minimum force.”

By paralyzing Hong Kong’s financial hub, Occupy Centeral with Love and Peace protests aim to press for democratic change, mainly in allowing citizens to freely choose their top leaders.

Media around the world have been following the protests since they began on Sunday.

 

 

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restrain and calm from protesters - Hong Kong Church Document

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restrain and calm from protesters – Hong Kong Church Document

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restraint and calm from protesters - Hong Kong Church Document

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restraint and calm from protesters – Hong Kong Church Document

CBCP statement on the proposed Bangsamoro law – Document

Sr Cecilia Espenilia OP with Muslim girl in Luneta. - NJ Viehland Photo

Sr Cecilia Espenilia OP with Muslim girl in Luneta. – NJ Viehland Photo

Following is the CBCP President’s statement sent to Catholic in Asia in Manila, Sept. 27, 2014

PEACE BE WITH YOU! ASSALAMU  ALAIKUM! 

CBCP Statement on the Bangsa Moro Proposed Law

 

When Jesus, the Lord, breathed his Spirit and his peace on the apostles, he did so as the fulfillment and summation of all that he had been sent to be and to do for the world!  Peace is therefore God’s gift.  We must cooperate with God, for we can and often do stand in the way of peace.  But we must pray for it and never, for a moment, think that we can, by our cleverness, calculation and strategic craft win it for ourselves!

Hopes for Peace

The Executive Branch has submitted to the Legislature a bill that, if passed, will become the organic law of the political entity already called “Bangsamoro”.  Many in Mindanao — and the government itself — pin their hopes on this latest attempt at what is hoped will be a definitive solution to the beautiful land of Mindanao that has, unfortunately, seen so much violence and has had so much of Filipino blood — Muslim and Christian alike — spilled on its soil!  The CBCP stands with the government and with all earnestly seek and strive after peace.  It commends the efforts not only of the present peace panel that, together with representatives of Muslim Mindanao, has hammered out the accord that presaged the introduction of the bill, but also those of earlier peace panels under prior administrations.  The dream of peace in Mindanao has been a common national aspiration for a very long time now.

Dialogue and Debate with Charity

The CBCP now urges the Legislature to do its part: To study the measure assiduously, to debate it vigorously and to place the interests of the nation and the vision of lasting, principled peace before every petty consideration.  Let those who have reservations to the proposal, or even those who oppose it, speak their minds freely, coherently and without reserve, and let those who advocate it argue as strenuously in its defense, for only in the context of intelligent — but charitable — discourse can we hope for a reasonable outcome and resolution.  The lessons we have learned from the painful conflicts that now rend apart the troubled nations of the Middle East should leave no doubt that, to be enduring and acceptable, any settlement, any organic act, any piece of constitutive legislation must be as inclusive as possible.  We particularly insist on the participation in the exchange and debate of the members of the indigenous cultural communities and the indigenous peoples in Mindanao.  It would violate the tenets of social justice to ignore them under the pretext of going by the desires of the majority!

Inclusive and Embracing

The effort the government has taken to arrive at an agreement acceptable to all Filipinos underscores the premium that must be placed on the political and territorial integrity of the entire country.  History — guided by The Lord of History — has fashioned our nation as one.  Let us keep it one — in that variety of ethnicities, cultures, languages and peoples that makes it one of the most alluring pieces of Divine workmanship in the world.

The emergence of Bangsamoro should not mean the exclusion of any Filipino from any part of the country by reason of religious belief, ethnicity or language.  Our Muslim brothers and sisters have found their way through various parts of the archipelago, settling in many provinces heretofore almost exclusively peopled by Christians.  As far as we know, they have been welcomed, received and respected.  It is our hope that Christians too may receive hospitality in those parts of the one Republic that, by legislation, may be marked out as Bangsamoro.

Let every Filipino turn to the same God, the one Father of us all with the fervent prayer: Make me an instrument of your peace!

September 28, 2014, San Lorenzo Ruiz Feast

 

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. – NJ Viehland Photos

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
    Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
    CBCP President

Cardinal Tagle on laying the ground for synod on family, Part I

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, and one of three presidents of the Oct. 5-19 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, explained the first 2 synodal assembly being held in a row, which Pope Francis is convening this year and next year. - NJ Viehland photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, and one of three presidents of the Oct. 5-19 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, explained the first 2 synodal assembly being held in a row, which Pope Francis is convening this year and next year. – NJ Viehland photos

[unofficial transcript of Cardinal Tagle's Lecture at the Theological Hour of Loyola School of Theology at Ateneo de Manila University, Sept. 3, 2014]

Good morning to everyone.

Thank you for heeding the invitation of Loyola School of Theology for us to reflect on the Instrumentum Laboris of the upcoming Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

To give you a bit of background, this is a first in the history of the Church and the Synod of Bishops. Why?

This is the first time that two synod assemblies will happen in a row.

I was elected a member of the Council of the Synod of Bishops in 2012 and in our meeting we were planning already the Synod of Bishops on 2015 for the general assemblies usually take place every three years, and next year will be special. It would mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Synod of Bishops.

But the surprise already came – Pope Francis – and he said, “I want a synodal process, not just a synodal assembly, a process.” So – two assemblies to be held successively. The first would be an extraordinary assembly and followed here by the ordinary assembly.

That caused a lot of confusion in our Council. How do you relate an extraordinary assembly to an ordinary assembly? Will the participants of the extraordinary assembly – who by the way, will be restricted to the presidents of the episcopal conferences – will they agree to be simply the introduction to the ordinary assembly that will happen in 2015?

The Holy Father gave us the direction. The extraordinary assembly to be held this October will analyze information, testimonies, and recommendations in order to respond more accurately to the new challenges to the family.

In the year 2015 the ordinary assembly will reflect on the analyses and the points emerging from the extraordinary assembly in order to formulate appropriate pastoral guidelines.

So the assembly this October will focus on the status quaestionis (state of investigation, survey results) . It’s really a bit more descriptive and next year in 2015 there we find a more directive approach in terms of pastoral guidelines to be given.

So the Holy Father says we cannot in three weeks do everything – listen in one week and the next week give directives. So we will spend time listening, analyzing and entering the complexity of the concerns of the families and let it simmer, let it percolate and then after a year let us gather again and with more representation of the bishops, lay people and the religious, after a long period of listening, maybe we can indicate pastoral directives.

So this is the first time a synodal process will be held this way. So please pray for it. The Holy Father was not fazed when we presented him questions about the identity and the foresight of both assemblies. He said, how will you issue directives and guidelines if you do not first study, listen, enter the world of the families?

Now, for some dates:

This process of listening started in Oct. 2013. A set of questions was sent to episcopal conferences – nine questions.

What do they cover?

The 1st set of questions concerns the diffusion of the teachings on family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s magisterium:

- How is the teaching of the Church disseminated?

- How is it proclaimed and how is it received?

The 2nd set of questions is on marriage according to the natural law. For so long in time, it is through the Natural Law Theory that the Church hopes to dialogue with people of other faiths – other religions.

The 3rd is the pastoral care of the family in evangelization. Let us not forget that. It’s not only pastoral care of the family, but pastoral care of the family in the whole mission of the Church on evangelization.

The 4th is the pastoral care of families in certain difficult marital situations.

The 5th, on unions of persons of the same sex.

The 6th, the education of children in irregular marriages

The 7th, the openness of married couples to life and the transmission of life.

Eighth, the relationship between the family and the person – so the anthropological dimension of the whole concern

and the ninth is other challenges and proposals

So the episcopal conferences who had concerns not covered by the eight questions were free to indicate – and, I tell you – the list of that ninth item was longer than the responses to the first eight.

We were told to work fast so that by Jan. of 2014 the responses would have reached the secretary of the Synod of Bishops for analysis.

I don’t know what your dioceses did, but we were encouraged to bring the questionnaire to the grassroots, like to make the questions the matter for discussion in the Basic Ecclesial Communities or family gatherings so that we cull responses not only from bishops, priests and religious, but also from lay people – most especially from lay people.

And we were happy to note that while we were gathering and synthesizing the reports from the different dioceses from the Philippines we realized that a good number of lay people on their own responded to the questions and said they submitted their responses. So even if they did not belong to any Church organization, BEC or were not part of the parish consultation, they submitted their responses. So they were incorporated in the report on responses coming from the Philippines. But of course in the process, we have to summarize and summarize so the details got “blended in the juice.”

So on Jan. 2014, the Vatican offices got the responses and on June 24, 2014, the summary came out in the form of an Instrumentum Laboris, which is the instrument for the work of the synod.

As I said the primary participants are the presidents of episcopal conferences, but the Holy Father appointed as auditors and even experts a lot of lay people, even couples…. They would even give some conferences to the bishops so that the practitioners of marriage could witness to the happy celibates about the reality of marriage. So it’s a good strategy of our Holy Father – of listening …

With that as background, I would like to present to you, to highlight to you, some of the responses we got, and are incorporated in our Instrumentum Laboris.

End of Part I

Read Part II

Philippines debating the law to give more autonomy to Islamic south

Read story: Draft Law Brings Hope, Faces Challenge of Religious Extremism

Tapatan sa Aristocrat - Bangsamoro Law, (l-r) Melo Acuna, Retired Commodore Rex Robles, Atty. Anne Basman, former DILG Secretary Rafael Alunan III - by NJ Viehland

Tapatan sa Aristocrat – Bangsamoro Law, (l-r) Melo Acuna, Retired Commodore Rex Robles, Atty. Anne Basman, former DILG Secretary Rafael Alunan III – by NJ Viehland

 

Bangsamoro table Basman 2014 09221

Bangsamoro table Rex Roblesm2014 09221

Manila’s street children to Pope Francis : We’re waiting for you

 

Last Sunday, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle left Manila for Rome.

He will hand over to Pope Francis around a thousand letters from children of Tulay ng Kabataan (TNK, bridge of the youth), and a video made by TNK Foundation, a media release from the foundation reported.

What is this  foundation and what is it inviting people to do in the run-up to Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines in January? Find out  on the foundation’s website.

Click Dear Holy Father photo to watch their video.

A new Silk Route to world peace and beyond? – Hector Welgampola

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka

China’s President Xi Jin Ping has just wrapped up a South Asian tour targeting a new Maritime Silk Route. And a papal letter reportedly invites him to retread Marco Polo’s original Silk Route, this time East to West.

A papal invitation

The news of Pope Francis inviting President Xi to visit the Vatican was reported by well-informed Rome journalist Gerard O’Connell. According to O’Connell, whose Argentine-born wife Elisabetta Pique has just published the recentmost papal biography, Pope Francis has sent the invitation through an Argentinian emissary.

The papal letter, reportedly, offers to meet with the Chinese president even in Beijing. It is a sequel to Pope Francis’ earlier-expressed readiness to “visit China tomorrow.” The unprecedented papal initiative independent of the Curia is reminiscent of Saint John XXIII’s innovative moves to build contact with then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Those prophetic moves can have subtle lessons for today as well.

Pope John XXIII and Khrushchev

Pope John was the only recent pope with wide diplomatic experience in Eastern Europe and Western Europe. He also had pastoral wisdom to act decisively and discreetly amid curial dithering. Then curial heavyweights like Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani said contact with the USSR would weaken the faith of Eastern bloc Catholics and give wrong signals to Western nations. 

Despite such curial misgivings, the pope welcomed Khrushchev’s daughter Rada and her husband Adzhuberi to the Vatican. The visitors conveyed warm greetings from the Soviet leader and his appreciation for the pope’s work for world peace. But when Adzhuberi proposed diplomatic relations between the Holy See and USSR, the pope was slow to respond. He used a metaphor, “God did not create the world in just one day!”

Diplomatic relations?

The onetime diplomat intimated his rustic Roncalli bias for people’s pastoral welfare over diplomatic links. “The Vatican has two hands, and we want to shake the two hands of the USSR, that of the State and that of all the members of the Russian Church,” he said.

Pope John’s gutsy pastoral foresight has much wisdom for today, especially for those who consider diplomatic links more important than China Catholics’ welfare.

His informal invitation, “I hope that if Mr Khrushchev visits Rome, both of us will find time for a meeting,” never worked out. Nonetheless, the two genial giants had taken the first steps toward the thaw. It was bigger than man’s first steps on the moon. History was in the making, and the world would never be the same again.

Patriotic Associations

The breakthrough following that thaw helped ease Church-State tensions in the USSR. Already, there had been token actions like the freeing of Ukranian Archbishop Josyf Slipyj from detention. Over time, other similar moves followed within the Soviet bloc.

Improved Church-State relations weakened patriotic Catholic associations such as Hungary’s Opus Pax, and Czechoslovakia’s Pacem in Terris. When Yugoslavia’s Church-State dialogue grew, groups like Cyril Methodius Society lost their grip over religious affairs.

Confucian insights

What started with Khrushchev greetings for Pope John’s 80th birthday launched a momentum in Eastern Europe. Its worldwide impact endures still even though the two leaders never met. Will Pope Francis’ letter to President Xi open another historic chapter in world history?

The leader of China’s 1.3 billion people may need time and space to reflect on and respond to the humble gesture by the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics. Whatever may be its outcome, the papal letter was a Jesus moment like Matteo Ricci’s overtures to Confucian culture. Once more, history is in via, with an invitation to leaven world peace with Confucian insights. The Lord of history knows that its ultimate end result lies beyond the control of either pope or president.

****************

Hector Welgampola has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.  Write himwelgampo@gmail.com 

Tagle: Responses to synod on family survey reveal ‘much work’ left to do

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, and one of three presidents of the Oct. 5-19 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, explained the first 2 synodal assembly being held in a row, which Pope Francis is convening this year and next year. - NJ Viehland photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, and one of three presidents of the Oct. 5-19 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, explained the first 2 synodal assembly being held in a row, which Pope Francis is convening this year and next year. – NJ Viehland photos

 

Quezon City – The situation of families presents “an invitation to institutes of higher learning to contribute through research and pastoral creativity to resolve our debate,” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle told professors, students and guests at the Loyola School of Theology’s Theology Hour lecture series on Sept. 3.

Read full report 

Cardinal Tagle to lead Manila’s “Walk for Climate”

Cardinal Luis Tagle with two young survivors of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) after his dialogue with People Surge survivors' group at his residence in Intramuros, Manila April 8, 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Tagle with two young survivors of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) after his dialogue with People Surge survivors’ group at his residence in Intramuros, Manila April 8, 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Tagle will show solidarity with Global March for Climate by leadIng the “Walk for Climate” on  Friday, Sept. 19,  after the Mass at the Manila Cathedral at 6:30 a.m., the archdiocese’s office of communications announced.

Walk for Climate highlights the Season of Creation observed in the archdiocese and 11 dioceses around it from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4.

The archdiocese through the activity calls for urgent action against climate change. Parish stations will carry messages on the environment calling  government to take urgent steps to reduce climate risk by stopping the use of coal plants for energy generation, and by stopping aggressive and destructive developments such as reclamations, agricultural land conversions, and mining.

Quezon City press conference on climate change, NJ Viehland

Quezon City press conference on climate change, NJ Viehland

Participants will walk from the Cathedral stop at the Our Lady of the Pillar Church (Sta. Cruz Church), to proceed to other churches in the city, in a relay manner: St. Vincent de Paul in San Marcelino, San Fernando de Dilao in Paco, St. Joseph the Worker in Palanan, Santa Clara de Montefalco in Pasay. It will end at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran Church).

Bishops and priests of the ecclesiastical province will celebrate the Mass then join the walk along with environment officials from the government led by Commissioner Yeb Sano.

Participants are expected to come from Archdiocese of Manila, the Dioceses of Malolos, San Pablo, Imus, Antipolo, Novaliches, Cubao, Caloocan, Parañaque, Pasig and the Apostolic Vicariates of Puerto Princesa and Tanay.

The archdiocese through the activity calls for urgent action against climate change. Parish stations will carry messages on the environment urging government to take urgent steps to reduce climate risk by stopping the use of coal plants for energy generation, and by stopping aggressive and destructive developments such as reclamations, agricultural land conversions, and mining.

Participants will walk from the Cathedral stop at the Our Lady of the Pillar Church (Sta. Cruz Church), to proceed to other churches in the city, in a relay manner: St. Vincent de Paul in San Marcelino, San Fernando de Dilao in Paco, St. Joseph the Worker in Palanan, Santa Clara de Montefalco in Pasay. It will end at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran Church).

Bishops and priests of the ecclesiastical province will celebrate the Mass then join the walk along with environment officials from the government led by Commissioner Yeb Sano.

Participants are expected to come from Archdiocese of Manila, the Dioceses of Malolos, San Pablo, Imus, Antipolo, Novaliches, Cubao, Caloocan, Parañaque, Pasig and the Apostolic Vicariates of Puerto Princesa and Tanay.

 

 

Cardinal Quevedo: Church’s shared mission of portraying God’s love, justice and peace

 

Quevedo Ateneo Award NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato in southern Philippines accepted Sept. 16 the Bukas Palad (open hands) Award from the Jesuits’ Ateneo de Manila University. In his response, he reminded people attending the special school convocation that every member of the Church shares in the “common mission” of showing others that God loves them and plans to let truth, justice and peace prevail.

Following are excerpts from Cardinal Quevedo’s message delivered after he accepted the citation from Ateneo President Father Jose Ramon Villarin,

 

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Sept. 16, 2014, Quezon City - by NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Sept. 16, 2014, Quezon City – by NJ Viehland

… Most profoundly I thank the Ateneo de Manila University, its Board of Trustees, its distinguished president Fr. Villarin, and the Awards Committee for this meaningful award. I am deeply humbled by the award.
Quevedo citation Ateneo NJ Viehland
For forming me to be a missionary to the poor, my vocation which is the basis of this award, I thank my religious congregation, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). To portray the Lord’s Gospel to the poor, to be specialists in difficult missions… that is the charism handed down to every Oblate by our founder Saint Eugene de Mazenod. 
This is the reason that we Oblates of Mary Immaculate have chosen to work among the people of Maguindanao, Tawi-tawi and Sulu.

Quevedo Ateneo Bukas Palad NJ Viehland

Most of all I thank the Lord, the giver of all good gifts. Everything that I am, everything that people say I have merited because of certain modicum  of skill or talent, everything is simply and absolutely God’s gratuitous gift.
All is grace, said Saint Therese, and that quotation also was given also by our mathematician.
I’m afraid to sit beside her …after…if I pass addition, then I can do the rest….She quoted Rahner – quite understandably, she quoted a Jesuit … 

Quevedo Ruiz Ateneo Awards NJ Viehland

Yes, everything is grace. There are no surprises. There are no coincidences. And if coincidences are really signs of God’s providence, then truly providential it must be to be made an Oblate cardinal and receive honors in this year of the Lord 2014, the 75th year of Oblate missionary presence in the Philippines. We will wait for our own suppression. Then we will celebrate restorationIt is also the 50th anniversary this year of my priestly ordination.
But from a wider perspective, this award reminds us of our common mission to portray God’s reign of salvation. God’s reign of justice and peace, of truth and love, particularly for the poor and the marginalized. Let us all keep our mission focus as priest and bishop. “The reign of God,” “the reign of justice and peace.” That perspective is indeed deeply related to the Christian identity – my identity and yours. To be Christian is nothing more and nothing less than to be disciple in mission.
This is the emphasis given to the Christian identity by our own pope – Pope Francis [another Jesuit. At least we now know that there is an infallible Jesuit.]
For being a missionary disciple is to tell the story of Jesus – the God made poor for our sins. Jesus who walked and lived among the poor, Gentile or Jew, to be ultimately their peace.
The dialogue of Jesus with a non-Jew, the double negativity of being a Samaritan and a woman…
I’m very happy that there is finally a woman awardee for Lux in Domino Award for the Ateneo. It’s a good beginning for the Ateneo. (I am a Jesuit product, so I can make jokes about them…)
The dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman has to be a paradigm for building harmony and peace in our country today. We live in the cusp of Philippine history where just and lasting peace in Mindanao is in the final stages of realization – of mutual respect and understanding, persistence, patience, the wisdom of peace negotiators the past thirty years are God’s gifts for the peace process.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo's birthday guests included former Muslim autonomous region officials - by NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo’s birthday guests included former Muslim autonomous region officials – by NJ Viehland

When finally peace will have been realized, whatever contributions I may have given to it, and to the integral development of indigenous peoples and poor farmers in my own Archdiocese of Cotabato, all those are God’s gifts that we may be in solidarity with one another day by day, my dear friends – solidarity among us peoples of different cultures and beliefs as we live. Saint John Paul II has observed, “The fruit of solidarity is peace.”
Once again, thank you very much.

Catholic Women educators weigh in on discussion of Filipino family ahead of synod

From left: Father Ruben Tanseco, SJ, Eleonor R. Dionisio, Agnes Brazal, PhD, Mary Racelis, PhD, Emma E. Porio, PhD gave presentations and a reaction at the Symposium on the Filipino Family: Catholic and Women's Perspective, Sept. 13, Ateneo de Manila University. - By NJ Viehland

From left: Father Ruben Tanseco, SJ, Eleonor R. Dionisio, Agnes Brazal, PhD, Mary Racelis, PhD, Emma E. Porio, PhD gave presentations and a reaction at the Symposium on the Filipino Family: Catholic and Women’s Perspective, Sept. 13, Ateneo de Manila University. – By NJ Viehland

Inspired by Pope Francis’ challenge to the Church to “broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church,” the Theology Department of the Jesuits’ Ateneo de Manila in Quezon City organized a symposium to  allow women to voice out their perspectives on issues in their field of expertise relevant to situations Filipino families face today.

Symposium organizers said the discussions are timely as the Church prepares to hold the Synod on the Family in the Vatican October 5-19, 2014 and in 2015 .

Leaders in various disciplines tackled the concerns, new trends, and experiences Filipino families undergo in a “patriarchal context wherein patriarchy is still hardly articulated,” organizers wrote in their symposium description. They said using the  interdisciplinary approach aims to bridge gaps and intensify present connections between religious beliefs and the wealth of knowledge from culture, the secular arts, and sciences.

Presenters and their topics included:

• “The Catholic Church in the Philippines: Some Perspectives on Gender and Public Policy on the Family” by Eleanor R. Dionisio 

• “Women, Family and the Church in a Changing Society: An Introduction to the Socio-Cultural Issues” by Mary Racelis, Ph.D

• “Gender and Family Dynamics: Building Climate Resilience Among the Urban Poor” by Emma E. Porio, Ph.D

• “Gender Roles in the Context of Feminization of Migration: Challenge to Papal Teachings?” by Agnes M. Brazal, Ph.D

• Reaction: Fr. Ruben Tanseco, SJ from the Center for Family Ministries (CeFam)

[more]

Sri Lanka Cardinal Ranjith: Don’t politicize pope’s visit

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has urged the government and the opposition to refrain from using Pope Francis’ visit as a political tool, amid speculation that snap presidential polls will be declared early next year.

Full report in Daily FT

Bishops’ Conference president hails national basketball team, values in sports

Gilas Pilipinas vs Senegal - screengrab YouTube

Gilas Pilipinas vs Senegal – screengrab YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cD36kglSyE

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) praised the Philippines basketball team that competed in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain for their teamwork, for fighting fairly and spreading goodwill and hope.

Archbishop Villegas’ statement was posted on Veritas 846 website Sept. 11, two days after the GILAS Pilipinas contingent arrived in Manila from winning one out of five games in its group. The team that won in overtime against Senegal 81-79 after losing to Argentina, Croatia, Greece  and Puerto Rico is preparing to leave for the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, minus its towering American-born center, Andray Blatche, a naturalized Filipino.

Gilas in Tagalog language translates to gallantry or mettle among other things in English.

Read the full statement of CBCP’s president On the Lessons from GILAS PILIPINAS

For the first time in forty years, a Filipino basketball team, GILAS, a name that has captured the imagination as well as carried the hopes of our countrymen, represented the country in the FIBA competitions. We may not have reaped a harvest of victories, but GILAS certainly won the admiration of many, Filipinos and foreigners alike.

The CBCP commends the members of the team and joins an ecstatic nation in hailing their admirable endeavour! Our victories have been sweet, our defeats, honorable!

FAIRNESS. Sports can and should be a promising vehicle of evangelization, for fairness is its fundamental rule. Fairness that goes by the sublime name of justice is the fundamental aspiration of our nation. It is the hope of the CBCP that as the nation understood the necessity that games be fairly played, it also learned the precious lesson that whether in the life of the individual or of the community or of the State, things ought to be fair just at all times.

UNITY. The players came from different nations — different in race, language, belief and ideology — but these differences did not stand in the way of the camaraderie and the sportsmanship that gave sports-lovers the world over a welcome respite from the cruel realities that hound us daily. We can overcome the differences that set us apart when we set our hearts to it. When we choose to be friendly towards each other, even if we must compete, we can all have fun. Happier and fuller lives come with the acceptance of others and with a healthy respect for differences. GILAS and the other teams that joined FIBA learned this. So did we!

GILAS has sowed seeds of goodwill, understanding and friendship. Let all nurture their flourishing with hearts of goodwill, thoughts of peace and feet firmly treading the ways of friendship. Mabuhay ang GILAS!

September 11, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
CBCP President

Aquino sends Bangsamoro draft law to congress, kicks off stakeholders’ dialogues

Cotabato,NJ Viehland

Cotabato,NJ Viehland

President Benigno Aquino III has submitted to the Philippine Congress the proposed law providing for the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity that is seen as key to establishing and promoting peace and development in the southern Philippines.

Bangsamoro entity created by the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

An update from the Institute on Autonomy and Government (IAG) reported that the Senate and House of Representatives can now proceed to deliberate on the draft law. 

Congressman Rufus Rodriguez will chair the Special Committee that will take up the proposed law in the Lower House. The House of Representatives will create a 75-member ad hoc committee to “review, evaluate and propose legislation” based on the draft BBL.

Its functions include:

* Study, deliberate on and act upon all measures referred to it inclusive of bills, resolutions and petitions, and recommend for approval or adoption by the House those that, in its judgment, advance the interests and promote thr welfare of the people;

* Establish appropriate system and procedures to ensure that constituencies, sectors and groups are given sufficient opportunities to be heard;

* Pursue dialogues and consultations with affected sectors and constituencies;

* Require the submission of studies, research and position papers;

* Engage the services and assistance of experts and professionals from the public or private sector as may be needed;

* Conduct hearings and inquiries in aid of legislation on matters within its jurisdiction;

* Act on measures referred to it and render a report to the plenary for its consideration.

Senate discussions will be led by the Committee on Local Government, chaired by Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. Members include Senator Antonio Trillanes IV (Vice chair) and member Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino, Pia Cayetano, Manuel Lapid, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Grace Poe. Senators Ralph Recto, Alan Peter Cayetano and Juan Ponce Enrile are Ex-Officio members.

IAG in an e-group notice said with the NGO Philippine Center  for Islam and Democracy (PCID) it will continue to report on deliberations on the BBL in Congress.

In Cotabato City, southern Philippines, the institute will collaborate with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines political foundation, Notre Dame University of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation (NDBC) and launch a series of talk shows to foster understanding of the proposed BBL.

The talkshop series will bring together members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), experts, civil society leaders, and key stakeholders to discussions, analysis and debates on the salient features of the BBL certified as urgent by the President for approval by Congress.

IAG senior policy adviser, Oblate Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr., meanwhile will reconvene the Bangsamoro Study Circle group in a series of special sessions to study the draft bill for greater participation of stakeholders in the discussion of the issues that confront the general public.

Concerned people are invited to study the proposed law and submit their views and opinion on the draft law to info@iag.org.ph , which will publish  comments on its website’s opinion section. 

IAG will also publish updates on Facebook and Twitter @IAGorgph using hashtag #BBLWatch 

Remembering Sri Lankan Catholic cinematographer Andrew Jayamanne – Hector Welgampola

Andrew Jayamanne - screen grab, YouTube, Anura Amarasingha

Andrew Jayamanne – screen grab, YouTube, Anura Amarasingha

A Catholic cinematographer’s unscreened trail of service and travail

“My faith is my life and I will never betray it,” said Andrew Jayamanne in a message to friends soon after leaving Sri Lanka over two yeas ago. It clarified the truth about media distortion of an interview he had given before joining his sons working in Italy.

Witness to truth was the consistent criteria in the life and work of this Catholic cinematographer and media guru, who passed away recently in Italy, at age 71. After colleagues, pupils and fans farewelled him at Colombo’s National Art Gallery, his remains were interred in his native village on Sept. 7.

Though values of truth and transparency are not too popular in today’s media world, the late Jayamanne had assimilated them as part of faith life. Heir to a value heritage so eminently evidenced by the life of his granduncle, the late Cardinal Thomas Cooray, his spirituality was nurtured in Periyamulla parish. His father, Vincent Jayamanne, led the parish as lifelong Church warden. Beatrice, his gracious mother, was a model of Catholic motherhood, and their home was a stoic school for life.

Jayamanne had his early education at the village Catholic School and Colombo’s Minor Seminary. He began honing cinematic skills under the guidance of another great son of Periyamulla, Father Ignatius Perera, founder director of Radio Electronics, Colombo. The priest’s home-grown holistic spirituality had made him equally at ease in conducting the Vatican choir as in solving technical problems of then Radio Ceylon. And Jayamanne was blessed with the privilege of assimilating the techno-artistic versatility and simplicity of that many-talented genius.

As young Jayamanne graduated from cameraman, to scriptwriter, filmcritic cinedirector and media guru, his Christian simplicity and genuine humanity outshone all talents and attributes. Even as a top cinematographer, he was equally available to high-brow professionals as to no-brow amateurs.

Being very much a people person, he drew no distinction between classical cinema and popular cinema. His professionalism echoed what Pope Francis said recently about film culture. Antonio Spadoro’s book “Pope Francis” summed up the preferred papal view of media in these words: “The classic work is the one that everyone can somehow feel as their own, not something that belongs to a small group of refined connoisseurs,” That indeed was part of the media values Jayamanne sought to cultivate through the pioneer media training courses he ran for OCIC. His teaching skills came to be much valued throughout the country as well as beyond.

Andrew Jayamanne - screen grab, YouTube, Anura Amarasingha

Andrew Jayamanne – screen grab, YouTube, Anura Amarasingha

From the 1970s onward, his career peaked over three decades. With some 30 movies and an equal number of teledramas to his credit, Jayamanne’s accolades included a dozen media awards. But accolades never went into his head, and his heart never swayed from his steadfast value base. His reluctance to trade principles for opportunism, however, gradually undermined his career. Bowed but not broken, he found much rewarding experience as a media guru until he decided to take a break away from the local media minefield.

Jayamanne’s decision to leave Sri Lanka did cause a major flutter in local filmdom as well as in political circles. A sense of guilt prompted attempts at last-minute remedial measures. But they were too little too late. The cancer of professional undercutting and opportunism had already begun to erode his spirit. His final ailment was only its physical manifestation. However, the million dollar question remains whether both his welfare and the training of future artistes could not have been better achieved if Church and State media agencies had continued to better harness his energies. Therein also lies the cue to this media mahatma’s unscreened saga of witness to truth.
May the Divine Artiste unravel its lessons while Andrew Jayamanne returns to the heavenly embrace of his ancestors.

Hector Welgampola

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka retired Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Bangkok. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

 

 

Catholic bishops dedicate feast of the Holy Cross Masses, collections to persecuted Christians in Syria, Iraq

Novaliches,NJ Viehland

Senakulo, Bagong Silangan parish, Quezon City, Novaliches diocese, Good Friday 2014 by NJ Viehland

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has set a day of prayer for peace in Iraq and Syria on Sunday, Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, has also appealed for a “charity collection”, which must be remitted to the CBCP Secretariat by September 30, 2014 so the aid can be “immediately” transmitted to the Apostolic Nunciatures in Iraq and Syria.

CBCP Archbishop Villegas 2012 NJ Viehland

 

Read Archbishop Villegas’  full statement  dated September 5 and posted Sunday on the FaceBook account of Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila.

Message on Ordination of three new bishops for Hong Kong diocese – Cardinal Filoni

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in a message to Hong Kong Diocese on the ordination of three new auxiliary bishops for the diocese reminds that service in the Church must be seen in the light of faith, which “takes place within the communion of the Church.”

Citing Pope Francis’ first encyclical on faith titled Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith), Cardinal Filoni wrote, “In fact, service in the Church must be seen through the eyes of faith, which “is not simply an individual decision, which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart, nor a completely private relationship… between the autonomous subject and God… (but) always takes place within the communion of the Church” (Lumen Fidei, 39).

He recalled Pope Francis’ vision of service to Christ and to the Gospel presented in his apostolic exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world (Evangelii Gaudium) as demonstration of one’s love for the poor, common good, peace and missionary desire.

Read the full text of  Cardinal Filoni’s message published in the Sept. 6 issue of Sunday Examiner, the weekly news service in the diocese.

 

Good Shepherd Sr. Pilar Verzosa remembered with Pro-Life fund-raising party

Good Shepherd Sister Pilar Verzosa, pioneering head of Pro-Life Philippines, smiles from a picture as Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, retired Archbishop of Manila, blessed her ashes during her funeral Mass at the chapel in the RGS convent in Aurora Blvd, Quezon City, - NJ Viehland Photos

Good Shepherd Sister Pilar Verzosa, pioneer and long-time head of Pro-Life Philippines, smiles from a picture as Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, retired Archbishop of Manila, blessed her ashes during her funeral Mass at the chapel in the RGS convent in Aurora Blvd, Quezon City, – NJ Viehland Photos

Pro-Life Philippines is organizing a “Lugaw Party” (congee/soup party) on September 20, 2014, Saturday, 9:00 a.m-11:00 a.m. at its “new home” on 70 Main Horseshoe Drive, Horseshoe Village, Quezon City, coinciding with the birthday of its late foundress, Good Shepherd Sister Pilar Verzosa.

Cardinal Tagle lecture on Synod on Family – Photo

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, and one of three presidents of the Oct. 5-19 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, explained the first 2 synodal assembly being held in a row, which Pope Francis is convening this year and next year. - NJ Viehland photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, and one of three presidents of the Oct. 5-19 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, explained the first 2-synod assembly being held in a row, which Pope Francis is convening this year and next year. – NJ Viehland photos

Today at Loyola School of Theology.

Five earthquake survivors to dine with Pope Francis – Tagbilaran Bishop Medroso

Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran at CBCP Plenary Assembly, Pope Pius XII Catholic  Center, Manila, 2012. - By Dave Viehland

Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran at CBCP Plenary Assembly, Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila, 2012. – By Dave Viehland

Five survivors of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in central Philippines in 2013 will be among individuals who will meet and eat with Pope Francis when he comes to the Philippines for his pastoral visit in January, Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran said.

Bishop Medroso, whose diocesan territory covers quake-ravaged Bohol province, revealed the plan in an interview on Monday, Sept. 1 with Manila Archdiocese’s Veritas 846. 

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will visit the Philippines from Jan. 15-19 proceeding from his apostolic trip to Sri Lanka.

Bishop Medroso said he still hopes that the Holy Father would swing by Bohol, even for just a short time to visit with residents who suffered effects of the earthquake. Such a visit would inspire them, the bishop said.

“He (Pope Francis) will be going to Palo and we will be sending there some of my people here who were victims of the quake, five of them. They will eat with the Pope. It is also my dream he would come to Bohol, kahit mga (even for just) 1 or 2 hours to counsel our people,” Bishop Medroso said. 

More than 200 people died due to the earthquake and an estimated 300,000 individuals have been affected by the tremor that rocked Bohol, and sections of Negros Oriental and Cebu provinces.

Bishop Medroso reported that aside from 11 Heritage Churches, the earthquake destroyed at least 33 other churches in his diocese.  

He said the diocese has built “alternative churches” and temporary tents where Catholics could gather for Mass. He said the diocese faces the challenge of lack of funds and land to set up churches.

Bishop Medroso stressed, nonetheless, that the Church will continue with its services to the faithful.

The radio report in Tagalog language can be read here.

Filipino soldiers evacuated from Golan Heights – video conference with Manila

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang and journalists listened to the head of Philippines troops tell via video conference their story of how they escaped from Syrian rebels who tried to seize their firearms at their post in Position 68, the Golan Heights, and possibly hold them hostage.

Read the inside story of what Catapang has called the “great escape” from Golan of troops led by Captain Nilo Ramones.

In a message Catapang read to the troops, who he described as “warrior peacekeepers”, the AFP chief thanked the United Nations, governments of Israel and Syria and “God almighty” for their role in keeping the troops safe during the crisis.

 Following is the full text of Catapang’s prepared message:

 Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat dyan. (Good morning to all of you there!)

At the onset, let me say w are proud of your service to global peace.

As the eyes of the world and the Philippines were focused on what happening to our Philippine contingent in Golan Heights you have shown to the world and the Filipino people that you can hold on to your sworn duties to maintain the peace in Golan Heights and pursue your mandate – peace amidst adversary.

It was never easy but the calming courage and resolve you have displayed was undeniably world class and this will be forever remembered. Under the guidance and concern of our commander-in-chief along with the Secretary of National Defense and Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the AFP ventured to collectively do everything possible to bring all of you to safety.

With the United Nations at the forefront we also thank the host nations, Israel and Syria, for your support and unwavering commitment during that critical period of the crisis. Certainly the spirit of global “bayanihan” in the itnernational front was working.

Most of all we thank God almight for the successful effort to bring all of you out of harms way. I commend all of the Filipino warrior peacekeepers of the 7th Philippines contingent to Golan Heights for showing to the world what we are made of and for showing them what we can do in the service of peace.

We watched as you stood your ground against groups that seek to destroy the peace in this world. Indeed you have shown so much competence and professionalism during this crisis.

I join the Filipino nation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and your respective families in congratulating all of you for a job well done.

Mabuhay kayoing lahat! Mabuhay ang Armed Forces of the Philippines!

You are a source of national pride. Aas your Chief of Staff, I salute you all!

 

No surrender of “love of God” in educating Filipinos – DepEd Sec De La Salle Bro. Luistro

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education - FaceBook Photo

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education – FaceBook Photo

Education Secretary Brother Armin Luistro, a member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle) denied reports that the department he leads has surrendered its vision of learners formed to be “God-loving,” as claimed in various media reports on the department’s revised statement of vision, mission and values (VMV.)

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) the same day  issued a statement lamenting the silence about God in the reworded version of the  vision statement.

Brother Luistro explained the new statement of the department’s VMV in a post on the DepEd’s website Friday, Aug. 29. He stressed that the statement of vision, mission and values must be taken in its entirety. Doing so would show that the term “God-loving” remains as a value that the department seeks to promote as stated in the word “Maka-Diyos”, its synonym in Filipino language.

He said specifying the formation of students who are  God-loving, pro-people, pro-environment and patriotic allows values education teachers to develop modules that will form persons of integrity who live out their faith and convictions, while avoiding pietism or ritualism.

“We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners.”

He also affirmed the constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. He said the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue.

Brother Luistro’s complete statement reads:

On 4 September 2013, I released DepEd Order No. 36 s. 2013 in order to update the Agency’s directions and further strengthen our capacity to fulfill our constitutional mandate.  The review of our Vision and Mission was anchored on the Filipino Core Values of *Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa as articulated in Section 40, Republic Act 8491. [*pro-God, pro-human being, pro-environment, patriotic]

Recent media reports have mistakenly attributed to me claiming, “the God-loving phrase was removed from the department’s vision to be fair to Filipinos who may subscribe to other beliefs and principles”. I had not issued any statement to that effect. This attribution is completely false.

Other articles refer to a Christian advocacy group whose spokesperson “aired the group’s dissatisfaction over what it believes is a rash decision on DepEd’s part that had been influenced by some members of the non-religious sector.”  Other local news articles referred to a group claiming to have pressured the Department based on an open letter that they posted on 5 February 2013 via their Twitter account.  I have not had the occasion to interact with any of these groups on this matter.

As early as 2010, discussions on the revision of the VMV were initiated within the department. A series of consultations was conducted with key persons in various levels of the organization, including the regions and school divisions.

It is important that the DepEd’s new VMV be regarded as one document to be appreciated in its entirety.

The term “God-loving” is synonymous with Maka-Diyos. The term Maka-Diyos is essentially connected with Maka-tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa and allows our Values Education teachers to develop modules that will hopefully form persons of integrity.  It warns against pietism or ritualism and encourages persons of faith to live those convictions everyday, everywhere.

We maintain that the formation of God-loving learners is a vision that we have not surrendered. We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners. We affirm the long-established constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. We also affirm that the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue, as this is a part of learning to live together.

************

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – NJ Viehland Photos

Following is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ statement sent to Catholic in Asia 

CBCP President on the 2013 Version of the Vision Statement of the Department of Education

The Department of Education recently re-worded its Vision Statement.  In the past, the department tasked with the formation of our children once envisioned “functionally literate and God-fearing Filipinos”.  Unfortunately, in its 2013 version, there is no more mention of God, nor of the salutary fear of Him that, Scripture tells us, is the beginning of all wisdom.

A vision statement is not an empty platitude.  It guides the articulation of policy.  It orientates plans of action.  While maka-Diyos remains one of the Department’s core-values, we maintain that the formation of God-fearing pupils and students is a vision that cannot be surrendered.

“This Sacred Synod likewise declares that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.”  This is what Vatican II teaches in “Gravissimum Educationis“. 

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. - NJ Viehland Photos

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. – NJ Viehland Photos

The right of a child to recognize God, to love him and to hope in him cannot be harmful to anyone else, believer or not.  Our pluralistic society indeed accords respect for the option of some to believe and for others not to. This respect for pluralism does not compel civil society to expunge the name of God from public life, especially when the majority of Filipinos continue to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and to trust in Divine Providence. Furthermore, the attitude of our laws in the Philippines towards religion is characterized as’benevolent neutrality': the accommodation of religion whenever such accommodation does not offend law or public policy.

We exhort our Catholic laity in public elementary and high schools to be zealous in the apostolate of forming pupils and students. Do not get tired of teaching that God is the beginning and the end of all things, that he is the Father who wishes all to have life, and to have it to the full! 

This, our dear public school teachers, is your particular mission in the life of the Church, the dignity of your calling as evangelizers within the world and its concerns.  It is a challenge of particular urgency in this, the Year of the Laity. Stand up for God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

August 29, 2014, Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS   

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan  

President, CBCP

************

At least 20 million students enrolled in public pre-school to high school in school year 2011-2012 and 3 million reportedly enrolled in private schools for those levels.

 
 

 

UN officials hail role of cultural, religious dialogue in advancing peace, development

Muslim contestant delivers her speech during the elocution contest on peace on Jan. 30, 2014 as part of Zamboanga City's observance of 3rd World Interfaith harmony Week. - screen grab from video by Silsilah Dialogue Center on YouTube http://youtu.be/jIappGJ3V3k

Muslim contestant delivers her speech during the elocution contest on peace on Jan. 30, 2014 as part of Zamboanga City’s observance of 3rd World Interfaith Harmony Week. – screen grab from video by Silsilah Dialogue Center on YouTube

United Nations officials yesterday highlighted the important role played by the initiative known as the Alliance of Civilizations in building bridges to peace, especially amid the current instability in many parts of the world, as they kicked off a global forum in Bali, Indonesia.

The Forum hosted this past week for the first time in the Asia-Pacific region focused on the theme “Unity in Diversity: Celebrating Diversity for Common and Shared Values.” Discussions ran along the lines of  the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

Launched in 2005 through the initiative of Spain and Turkey, under the auspices of the UN, the Alliance seeks to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide.

“The Alliance is here for you to serve as a soft power tool for conflict prevention, reconciliation, and to advance sustainable development,” said the High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

“Globally, there is a persistent need for the work of the Alliance if we really want to pursue the future we want,” he told the gathering of government officials, business representatives, faith leaders, media professionals and young people from around the world.

Nasser noted that the Alliance retains a strong commitment to innovative approaches. For example, it is working with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to promote digital games and apps as avenues for cross-cultural dialogue and conflict resolution.

It is also working with private sector organizations such as the BMW Group and others to promote dialogue and intercultural understanding, while making vital contributions to prosperity and peace.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his remarks noted that too many of the world’s worst crises are driven by those who exploit fear for power. “Too many societies are fracturing along cultural, religious or ethnic lines,” he stated, adding “We have much work ahead of us across a landscape of tension.”

In this context, the the alliance has supported grassroots initiatives, including encouraging Muslim-Christian volunteerism in Mindanao and helping Pakistani university students take the lead in healing sectarian divisions. 

Read the full report here

View video of Nasser’s speech here

CBCP President’s appeal for prayers, aid to suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria – Full Text

Most people who joined the 2012 Grand Mission Congress in Marikina City last April were students, teachers, professionals and workers from the youth sector. (N.J. Viehland Photos)

Youth hold hands in prayer at Mass, April 2012 Grand Mission Festival, Marikina Sports complex- NJ Viehland Photos

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President Archbishop Socrates Villegas has called on Filipino Catholics to offer prayers and funds to aid people who are suffering in the hands of militant groups in Iraq and Syria.

Archbishop Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan in a statement posted Aug. 27 on the portal of Manila archdiocese’s Veritas 846 radio said aside from displacing, killing and torturing people, the violence by Islamic State and other militants in Iraq and Syria supposedly to build an Islamic nation, has defaced religion.

He appealed to Filipino Catholics to “counter the defacement of religion” by practising mercy, compassion and love. He also appealed to Philippines bishops to collect money to help victims, assuring that the CBCP will see to their delivery to appropriate Church authorities in Iraq and Iran.

Following is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ appeal posted on Veritas 846

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. – NJ Viehland Photos

Before a horrified world, militants, without compunction and in utter mercilessness, beheaded journalist James Foley. He may not have died for the faith, but he certainly died, a person of faith, we are told by those who were with him in his last days. Pope Francis sent his grieving family a personal message of condolence. We join our prayers to those of our Holy Father that James may find solace in the bosom of our Loving Father.
James is one of the thousands who now suffer because of the ruthlessness of ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and militant groups of like persuasion and brutality. We should be particularly appalled that children have not been spared. Among the bodies that the rampaging onslaught has left in its wake are those of hapless infants and children — they who are not deserving of any punishment or suffering at all! Thousands have been displaced and must now live as refugees in often squalid conditions because of those who take it upon themselves to kill and to terrorize in the name of God.
Not only then are helpless and defenseless persons the victims of the brutal imposition of a rigid and unforgiving version of faith. Religion is as much a victim, for those who kill and slaughter, wound and maim, destroy and burn in the name of God send the world the awful message that religion divides, that faith is oppressive, that belief can engender so much unkindness!
In the Philippines, we will do our part, first of all, to counter the defacement of religion. We will live as our Lord and Master has asked us to live: with love for each other, bearing each other’s burdens, ever forgiving and humbly asking to be forgiven, respecting the freedoms of all, particularly the right to religious belief. “By this shall all know that you are my disciples”; by this do we pray to convince the world that faith in a God of love and mercy can still heal our world, as we trust Him who can make all things new!
But that is not enough. I appeal to our Filipino bishops take up a collection for the needs of the suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria. These collections will be sent to the CBCP that will see to their remittance to the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Syria and Iraq. While we have our own projects in the Philippines, we cannot put these ahead of the suffering of Christians in that troubled part of our world. They have not only been evicted from their homes.
Their places of worship — many of them, thousands of years old — have been razed to the ground by a godless rage with which no genuine religion can ever identify! For many, the food and drink that sustain life are daily issues. They rise from sleep each day to struggle just to keep themselves alive. We must be generous, and the fact that we have our own needs here in the Philippines does not excuse us from the Christian obligation of sharing with our suffering brothers and sisters from our own need.
Finally, let us be ceaseless in prayer, uniting ourselves with our suffering brothers and sisters, commending to the God who offers himself to us as our future their pains, their shattered lives and dreams, their bereavement and their loss. We pray that even as many of them now see no way out of the misery that has been visited on them, the God who opens paths through the sea and ways in the desert, may make a way for them to the future that can only be His gift!
August 27, 2014, Feast of Saint Monica
+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP

Related posts

Grieving Pope Francis phones family of slain U.S. journalist Foley
Strength from faith, Rosary – American journalist Foley slain by IS

Related reports:

Saudi Arabia Grand Mufti: terrorism has no place in Islam

Hong Kong Church calls for genuine dialogue, democracy as political tension rises

Hong Kong diocese has published a statement on universal suffrage and civil disobedience in response to the increasing discussion revolving around the Occupy Central Movement and growing dissatisfaction with the current governmental system in the diocese’s Sunday Examiner newspaper, and the Chinese-language Kung Kao Po on July 28, as well as in daily newspapers in Hong Kong on July 26.

The statement calls for genuine universal suffrage in the territory and an end to what it calls processes put forward by the government that are broadly representative in name only, but not in reality.

Earlier, on July 25, Father Michael Yeung Ming-cheung in a press conference on the statement held at the Diocese Centre explained that the Church in issuing “An Urgent Call for Earnest Dialogue and Responsible Action” did not mean to intervene in political affairs of Hong Kong, but only “wanted to support the universal value of democracy.”

Read the full report on the need for genuine dialogue in Hong Kong’s political polarization published in the diocese’s Aug. 23 Sunday Examiner newspaper issue …

Wish for Pope Francis’ visit to Madhu to reconcile Church and nation

Screen shot of the logo of Pope Francis' January 12-15 visit to Sri Lanka 2015 discussed on the website of the Archdiocese of Colombo http://www.archdioceseofcolombo.com/inner.php?news_id=369

Screen shot of the logo of Pope Francis’ January 12-15 visit to Sri Lanka 2015 discussed on the website of the Archdiocese of Colombo http://www.archdioceseofcolombo.com/inner.php?news_id=369

The reported visit of Pope Francis to the Shrine of Madhu in Northern Sri Lanka in January is seen as a logistical challenge,  an opportunity for the charismatic head of the Catholic Church to raise awareness of the plight of victims of the 26-year civil war in the country that ended in 2009, and a way to ease tension in a divided Church and nation.

The supposed planned visit revealed earlier this month by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, awaits the Vatican’s official announcement.

Italian La Stampa newspaper’s Vatican Insider website discusses Cardinal Malcom’s announcement of the visit to the Marian Shrine, logistical problems surrounding such a journey and its significance to resolving division among Sri Lanka clergy and Church members as well as to people’s quest for national reconciliation.

More on this in Sri Lanka: Pope Francis will go among the Tamils

Related posts
Sri Lanka’s Buddhist-Muslim clashes reveal the evil of politicising religion, Hector Welgampola
Ruki Fernando out of detention – is he free? – Interview
 
 

‘People’s initiative’ petition-campaign against pork barrel – photos

Muslim girl at Luneta Park sat with Sister Cecilia Espenilia [front, in red hat] and close to 20 fellow sisters of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena during the Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally Aug. 25, 2014. - NJ Viehland Photos

Muslim girl at Luneta Park sat with Sister Cecilia Espenilia [front, in red hat] and close to 20 fellow sisters of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena during the Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally Aug. 25, 2014. – NJ Viehland Photos

MANILA, PHILIPPINES

The nationwide campaign for 10 million signatures to pass a bill that will abolish the pork barrel system kicked off here today with a rally in Luneta Park co-organized with the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP).
Police estimated some 5,000 people were at Luneta during the 7 a.m. Mass, but organizer Renato Reyes, Jr., secretary general of New Patriotic Alliance (“Bayan”) tweeted that 20,000 people came.

Stand up, sign up vs. all pork! rally Aug. 25, 2014 at Quirino Grandstand, Luneta Park, Manila - NJ Viehland Photos

Stand up, sign up vs. all pork! rally Aug. 25, 2014 at Quirino Grandstand, Luneta Park, Manila – NJ Viehland Photos

Nurses - Just one of the variety of sectors represented at the Aug. 25, 2014 rally dubbed as Stand up, sign up vs. all pork in Luneta Park, Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Nurses – Just one of the variety of sectors represented at the Aug. 25, 2014 rally dubbed as Stand up, sign up vs. all pork in Luneta Park, Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

La Salette Sr. Sonia Silverio (center in cream blouse and brown skirt) with ecumenical bishops, priests and lay Church leaders ring bells at the Stand up, sign up vs. all pork! rally Aug. 25, 2014 to call attention to the "evils" that arise from pork barrel fund allocations. - NJ Viehland Photos

La Salette Sr. Sonia Silverio (center in cream blouse and brown skirt) with ecumenical bishops, priests and lay Church leaders ring bells at the Stand up, sign up vs. all pork! rally Aug. 25, 2014 to call attention to the “evils” that arise from pork barrel fund allocations. – NJ Viehland Photos

Rallyist greets Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Jr.  before the bishop's speech at Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally at Luneta Park, Manila Aug. 25, 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Rallyist greets Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Jr. before the bishop’s speech at Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally at Luneta Park, Manila Aug. 25, 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

Religious and members of their institutions were prominent rally participants at Luneta, along with groups of nurses and health workers, teachers, lawyers, private and government workers – and even beauty queens.

Even beauty queens showed up represented by Maria Isabel Lopez (left, Bb. Pilipinas- Universe 1982) and Azenith Briones [rightmost, Mutya ng Pilipinas 2nd runner up and Miss Photogenic) rejected pork barrel allotments during the Aug. 25, 2014 Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally at Luneta Park, Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Even beauty queens showed up represented by Maria Isabel Lopez (left, Bb. Pilipinas- Universe 1982) and Azenith Briones [rightmost, Mutya ng Pilipinas 2nd runner up and Miss Photogenic) rejected pork barrel allotments during the Aug. 25, 2014 Stand up, sign up vs. all pork rally at Luneta Park, Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

Even doggies Winston (brown) and Cleo came to Luneta Park's Quirino Grandstand grounds where petition signing and a concert-rally were held Aug. 25, 2014 as part of a movement to stop all pork barrel fund allocations. - NJ Viehland Photos

Even doggies Winston (brown) and Cleo came to Luneta Park’s Quirino Grandstand grounds where petition signing and a concert-rally were held Aug. 25, 2014 as part of a movement to stop all pork barrel fund allocations. – NJ Viehland Photos

Read full report here on why the religious groups and Catholic bishops support the movement to stop pork.

Signing of the petition and the program during the rally followed a 7 a.m. Mass concelebrated by various priests. In his homily, Missionaries of Jesus Father Wilfredo (Freddie Dulay) reflected on the pork barrel controversy and people’s response in faith. 

Following are excerpts from  Father Dulay’s homily which are clear enough to be transcribed:

…..  Dear brothers and sisters,

Our country is not constituted by jaded populations. We are not cynical or impervious to change. Ours is a people of hope crafting and wanting to believe in the possibility of a better tomorrow.

We are a people who look forward to new beginnings – always desirous for a fresh start – may it be after an earthquake, a typhoon or disastrous government, and the Arroyo government could not be described in kinder terms.

No matter the folly of the previous administration, our people would always give the new one a chance expecting it could be no worse than its predecessor, hoping at least that it would do better.

We’ve had enough of the short lady from Lubao. Her greed for power and money had no measure and she was blatant about them. She really had to go.

But now that she’s gone from center stage, what do we have?

Many of us believed that we would have another shot at benevolent leadership, at least.

But why are we so angry after Janet Lim-Napoles got careless and fell into the gap – and now getting angrier when the PDAF reincarnated into the DAP?

Ask the people, especially those we have traditionally called the “common tao” – if a bit condescendingly and as if we haven’t all become so common in our ways – three simple and rather straightforward reasons are repeated time and again.

First was betrayal. *”Naisahan nanaman tayo. Nauto nanaman tayo. Nakuha nanaman tayo sa mga pangako. Tayo daw ang kanyang boss at magkasama nating tatahakin ang daang matuwid. Hindi naman palang totoo ang daang tinatahak ng nagtutuwid. kunwari lang pala. Hindi lamang bale ito at baluktot, masalimuot pa. kunwari lang pala. Ang daming tinatago – billion billion pala. Kung di pa natapilok si Janet, ang katotothanan ay di pa natin matatarok hanggang ngayon.” – betrayal.

*(We’ve been conned once again. We’ve been suckered-in again. We’ve been taken again by promises. He said we are his boss. This was just make believe, after all. It’s not true that the road we travel is the straight path. This isn’t nay broken and crooked, it is treacherous as well. There’s so much that is hidden – billions and billions. If Janet did not stumble, we would not be grasping the truth today.” – betrayal.)

The second simple reason is that now we know better. **”Wala naman palang dahilan upang maghirap ang nakararami sa atin. Wala naman palang dahilan upang sila ay magutom at magdusa. Ang dami palang pera. Mayaman ang bansa. Marami naman palang sapat na pera upang magpatayo ng napakaraming paaralan at hospital at tugunan ang ating mga pangunahing pangangailangan. Meron tayong kakayanang umabante at umunland.”

**(There’s no reason after all for many of us to be wallowing in poverty. There is no reason after all for them to be starving and suffering. There is so much money after all. The country is rich. There is so much and sufficient funds after all to put up so many schools and hospitals and to provide for our basic needs. We have the capability to advance and progress.”

There’s plenty to go around and a lot going for us. Where has it all gone?

Now at least we know where the money goes. We don’t only have leeches for leaders, with a few exceptions (but they are truly hard to find), there are also bottom-feeders, and their pockets much to our grief ***”talagang bottomless.”  ***(really bottomless)

My dear brothers and sisters,

Should anybody here be surprised that we are gathered to collect signatures for the abolition of the pork barrel system and all its manifestations and reincarnations?

Abolish the pork, and the true leaders would emerge – not those who are engaged full time in self-service, but leaders who would want to serve the people and build up the nation.

Maybe it’s not too late. Beloved and beleaguered leaders, listen and take heed to what the Lord declared more than 2,000 years ago: “I came to serve, not to be served.” He followed it up by telling us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and get lost in a sulfurous non-airconditioned place?”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but the paraphrase fits the occasion.

Let us pray that our leaders would wake up.

 ***********

Renato Reyes, Jr. , Secretary General of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) told Catholic In Asia, “We’re very pleased with the level of support from the Catholic Church. There’s a big boost coming from at least 73 bishops and we expect support from their diocese and parishes. 

He said the pork barrel controversy has managed to unite the population. “It has managed to unite the religious, the progressives, the unions, students, teachers.” Reyes considers this “a good sign that, hopefully, we’d be able to continue with the momentum in the coming days.”

How important is it for this cause to have the Catholic Church so actively behind it? Reyes notes, “Corruption is a moral issue, so it’s very good that they’re involved. They can mobilize their constituents. In gathering signatures, it’s also very nice that they’ve opened up their parishes and dioceses and invited the people to sign up for the People’s Initiative. The have that actual support of manpower and machinery.

Reyes explains that the movement’s measure of success is “if we are able to mobilize people and if we are able to raise awareness.

He stressed that activities over the weekend through Monday is just the beginning. “This is just the start – the attempt to get numbers – the signatures. The bigger indicator of success would be raising the consiousness of the people and making them more vigilant about corruption and holding the president himself accountable for all this corruption,” Reyes added.

 

 

 

 

Grieving Pope Francis phones family of slain U.S. journalist Foley

Pope Francis from a video screen grab after communion on the Mass at beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.

Pope Francis from a video screen grab after communion on the Mass at beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.

Pope Francis, himself grieving over relatives’ death and injury in an accident, phoned the family of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Syria.

James Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, in a television interview said the pope’s gesture was “so kind” especially since he was grieving the death of  the wife and two young children of his nephew, 35-year-old Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, in a car crash Aug. 19 in Argentina. Bergoglio was critically injured, reports Catholic News Service (CNS).

Its story Pope Phones Family of Slain Journalist reported Pope Francis called because he wanted to console the family.

US intelligence judged as authentic a video released by Islamic State (IS) militants showing the beheading of Foley.

In June, al-Qaeda-inspired forces attacked Iraq areas and since then IS has taken control of territories in Syria and Iraq aiming to turn the entire region into a caliphate (Islamic nation). IS said beheading Foley, who had been seized in Syria in 2012, was retaliation for U.S.’s recent intervention in Iraq. 

Related stories

‘Even the Pope has a family': Grieving Pope Francis thanks well-wishers after nephew’s wife, 2 sons die in car wreck 
Grand Mufti: Terrorism has no place in Islam
Indonesia’s Counterterrorism Chief Concerned About Hate Speech

 

 

Pope Francis to visit Madhu Shrine, spend time with war victims, orphans? – Sri Lanka web news

Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

screenshot – Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

Pope Francis would visit the historical Madhu Shrine during his stay in Sri Lanka in January next year, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo reportedly announced in Madhu.

The Pope will arrive in Sri Lanka on the 13th of January 2015, and celebrate mass at the Galle Face Green on the 14th morning before heading to Mannar District in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, reported EyeSriLanka online newspaper.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the district of Mannar is considered one the holiest Catholic shrine in Sri Lanka, and is a place of worship for both the Sinhalese and the Tamils and has been considered a symbol of unity between the two communities.

Bishop Rayappu Joseph, said Pope Francis would visit the Madhu shrine during his January visit and bless the war victims at a special mass at the shrine.

Bishop Joseph along with Cardinal Ranjith blessed thousands of pilgrims who gathered there from various parts of the island for the August festival last Friday, Aug. 15 . 

“Pope Francis will be the first Pope to travel out of Colombo,” Bishop Joseph is quoted saying. The Pope is expected to interact with the war widows, disabled persons and orphans, he added.

Read EyeSriLanka report

Related posts

Concern about Pope Francis’ Sri Lanka visit mounts with militant climate vs. religious minorities
Sri Lanka’s Buddhist-Muslim clashes reveal the evil of politicising religion, Hector Welgampola
What can Asia expect of upcoming papal visits?
Ruki Fernando out of detention – is he free?

Slavery, World Day of Peace 2015 theme – Why is it relevant today?

(Vatican Radio)  The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has announced the theme selected by Pope Francis for the upcoming World Day of Peace.  The theme, “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters” will be the title of the Message for the 48th World Day of Peace, celebrated on 1 January 2015.  It will mark the second time Pope Francis celebrates the Day of Peace since he has risen to the papacy.

Read the note from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on why the theme is relevant today…

Asian bishops, clergy, pastoral workers and lay leaders through the tenth plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences  (X FABC Plenary Assembly) in Vietnam in 2012 had expressed concerns over old and “new forms of slavery,” including the abuse of human rights of refugees and migrant workers, as well as age-old traditions and cultural practices involving women and the girl child.

Strength from faith, Rosary – American journalist Foley slain by IS

Photojournalist James Wright Foley who the US government confirmed has been executed by Islamic State captors had reportedly said his faith and praying the Rosary during captivity made him feel close to God and his family.

Stories about how their Catholic faith and the Rosary carried him and his family through agonizing days of his captivity spread after the the National Security Council announced on Aug. 19 that the U.S. intelligence community judged as authentic, a gruesome video of Foley’s beheading released Tuesday on social media by the Islamic State movement.

Read the full story of how faith and praying the Rosary gave Foley and his family strength in the face of death

Related sites

Find James Foley website

Find James Foley Twitter

Free James Foley Facebook

West India state bans Hindu vigilante groups

The government of Goa has banned a Hindu right wing group, which is infamous for its moral policing tactics, from entering the western Indian state.

“We have banned Sri Ram Sena,” Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told the state legislative assembly on Wednesday.

Sri Ram Sena (the Army of Lord Rama) chief Pramod Mutalik had announced in June their plans to set up a branch in Goa in September.

Founded in the late 1960s, the organization won media attention in 2009 when its members attacked women for going to a pub in Mangalore, a coastal town in neighboring Karnataka state.

Read full report in Matters India

More than 35 percent of the 1.76 million people in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman in a 2006 report were listed as  Catholics.

Pope Francis Mass for Peace and Reconciliation in Korea – Full Text

Bridge and mountains at Yosemite National Park. - NJ Viehland Photos

Bridge and mountains at Yosemite National Park. – NJ Viehland Photos

I ask you, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of his reconciling love (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20), to continue to build bridges of respect, trust and harmonious cooperation in your parishes, among yourselves, and with your bishops. – Pope Francis

Full text of Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass for Peace and Reconciliation

Myeong-dong Cathedral, Seoul

August 18, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As my stay in Korea draws to a close, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon this beloved country, and in a special way, upon the Church in Korea. Among those blessings I especially treasure the experience we have all had in these recent days of the presence of so many young pilgrims from throughout Asia. Their love of Jesus and their enthusiasm for the spread of his Kingdom have been an inspiration to us all.

My visit now culminates in this celebration of Mass, in which we implore from God the grace of peace and reconciliation. This prayer has a particular resonance on the Korean peninsula. Today’s Mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us how powerful is our prayer when two or three of us join in asking for something (cf. Mt 18:19-20). How much more when an entire people raises its heartfelt plea to heaven!

The first reading presents God’s promise to restore to unity and prosperity a people dispersed by disaster and division. For us, as for the people of Israel, this is a promise full of hope: it points to a future which God is even now preparing for us. Yet this promise is inseparably tied to a command: the command to return to God and wholeheartedly obey his law (cf. Dt 30:2-3). God’s gifts of reconciliation, unity and peace are inseparably linked to the grace of conversion, a change of heart which can alter the course of our lives and our history, as individuals and as a people.

At this Mass, we naturally hear this promise in the context of the historical experience of the Korean people, an experience of division and conflict which has lasted for well over sixty years. But God’s urgent summons to conversion also challenges Christ’s followers in Korea to examine the quality of their own contribution to the building of a truly just and humane society. It challenges each of you to reflect on the extent to which you, as individuals and communities, show evangelical concern for the less fortunate, the marginalized, those without work and those who do not share in the prosperity of the many. And it challenges you, as Christians and Koreans, firmly to reject a mindset shaped by suspicion, confrontation and competition, and instead to shape a culture formed by the teaching of the Gospel and the noblest traditional values of the Korean people.

In today’s Gospel, Peter asks the Lord: “If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” To which the Lord replies: “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:21-22). These words go to the very heart of Jesus’ message of reconciliation and peace. In obedience to his command, we ask our heavenly Father daily to forgive us our sins, “as we forgive those who sin against us”. Unless we are prepared to do this, how can we honestly pray for peace and reconciliation?

Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation. In telling us to forgive our brothers unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it. What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross. The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love.

This, then, is the message which I leave you as I conclude my visit to Korea. Trust in the power of Christ’s cross! Welcome its reconciling grace into your own hearts and share that grace with others! I ask you to bear convincing witness to Christ’s message of forgiveness in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life. I am confident that, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation with other Christians, with the followers of other religions, and with all men and women of good will concerned for the future of Korean society, you will be a leaven of the Kingdom of God in this land. Thus our prayers for peace and reconciliation will rise to God from ever more pure hearts and, by his gracious gift, obtain that precious good for which we all long.

Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people.

Before leaving Korea, I wish to thank the President of Republic, the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and all those who in any way helped to make this visit possible. I especially wish to address a word of personal appreciation to the priests of Korea, who daily labor in the service of the Gospel and the building up of God’s people in faith, hope and love. I ask you, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of his reconciling love (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20), to continue to build bridges of respect, trust and harmonious cooperation in your parishes, among yourselves, and with your bishops. Your example of unreserved love for the Lord, your faithfulness and dedication to your ministry, and your charitable concern for those in need, contribute greatly to the work of reconciliation and peace in this country.

Dear brothers and sisters, God calls us to return to him and to hearken to his voice, and he promises to establish us on the land in even greater peace and prosperity than our ancestors knew. May Christ’s followers in Korea prepare for the dawning of that new day, when this land of the morning calm will rejoice in God’s richest blessings of harmony and peace! Amen.

[as published in NEWS.VA]

 

Update: video – Augustinian Recollects stay in Sierra Leone mission facing Ebola threat

Updated Aug. 21

View video of Interaksyon’s online interview here
Augustinian Recollects in mission in Sierra Leone - Photo courtesy of Recoletos Communications Inc.

Augustinian Recollects in mission with children in Sierra Leone – Photo courtesy of Recoletos Communications Inc.

 Augustinian Recollect missionaries are staying put in their Sierra Leone mission that is under the order’s Philippines Province to offer people there encouragement, accompaniment and help in battling the lethal Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the Order announced.

Father Lauro Larlar, Order of Augustinian Recollects Philippines Provincial told Catholic in Asia its Sierra Leone mission members serve in two separate parish communities in the Diocese of Makeni in West and northern Africa, one of the high risk areas of the country for Ebola infection.

“We are appealing to everyone to pray for our brothers in Sierra Leone, for all people working to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, and for people they serve, especially in high-risk places” Father Larlar said on Aug. 18.

By then, the World Health Organization (WHO) had reported at least 1,145 people have died from the outbreak of the disease among 2,127 confirmed probable and suspected cases recorded by ministries of health of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The actual number of cases could run much higher, the WHO statement added. 

Father Larlar said the Recollects working in Kambai and Kamalo communities arrived at the decision to stay after they discussed the situation and needs of the people with the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Makeni.

He said four of the missionaries are Filipinos – Brother Jonathan Jamero and Fathers Roy Baluarte, Dennis Castillo and Russell Lapidez. The two other missionaries are Spanish priests Fathers Jose Luis Garayoa and Rene Gonzales.

“They are a young group, with one of the Spanish priests as the eldest – around 60 years old,” Larlar said. “The youngest would be two years ordained, so around 27 or 28 years old. The rest would be around 35-40 years-old.”

Three other Recollect missionaries who were on vacation in the Philippines could not re-enter Sierra Leone because of travel prohibitions, the Provincial added.

African government and airline authorities have restricted travel after cases of Ebola heaemorrhagic fever were reported on the continent. According to WHO Ebola outbreaks’ case fatality rate has reached 90 percent. 

Outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa near tropical rainforests where the virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. There is no licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals, WHO added.

Apostolate of presence

Father Larlar said while the missionaries have been watching the crisis for months, they waited for Makeni Apostolic Administrator Xaverian Father Natalio Paganelli to return from Rome so they could discuss with him and other clergy about the situation and needs of the Church in Makeni.

Philippines-based Recollects advisers “simply asked them to first dialogue with the Apostolic Administrator, be sensitive to the needs of the people, and pray for the light of the Holy Spirit. So they gathered, met and prayed until they arrived at this decision,” Father Larlar said.

He said Paganelli gave the missionaries freedom and respected the decision of the group. The missioners decided not to leave because they believe they can help more by remaining with the people, Father Larlar said.

“They are attending to the people, they administer the sacraments, hold daily prayer with the people. That’s what we call the apostolate of presence – so people will feel they are not abandoned,” the Provincial Superior explained.

“People who are exposed to this virus will feel they are accompanied, that the Church suffers with them, the Church works for them,” he added.

Missonary’s experience of outbreak

In a report to their provincial headquarters in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Father Lapidez shares his own experiences and those of people he encounters in missio . 

The missionary said people directly involved in caring for the sick and other sources have noted government’s delayed imposition of strict control of movement of people in the borders of Sierra Leone after the first Ebola infection from Guinea and Liberia were reported. He said he first heard of an outbreak of Ebola infection in April.

People also disregarded warnings against eating monkey or bush meat saying ancestors and elders have eaten these meat over time and they never got sick with Ebola disease.

They only began to recognize the fatal effect of the virus after Sheik Umar Khan, the only virologist in Sierra Leone and the head of the task force fighting EVD outbreak, died from infection last July, Father Lapidez observed. 

Traditional washing or ritual cleansing of dead bodies in people’s homes left family members susceptible to infection, Lapidez added citing the 16 year-old boy who took care of his sick mother then got infected and died of Ebola virus disease.

Later, three medical doctors and over 20 nurses who cared for patients caught the infection and died also. Father Lapidez said poor health facilities and shortage of trained personnel for handling Ebola infected patients contributed to these deaths. Medical staff said they left the work in protest of government’s neglect.

Because of stigma against people infected or suspected to be infected patients turned away from hospitals in favor of traditional healers. As a result, they transmitted the disease to healers, Father Lapidez reported.

He also wrote about family members of a woman who was admitted to a hospital in Freetown and confirmed to be carrying the Ebola virus who tried to forcibly take their relative out of the hospital. In the Ebola treatment Centre at Kenema, a group of people rioted outside the facility after a woman declared that Ebola does not exist.

Mission context

Recollect mission in Sierra Leone started sometime in 1997, but was cut off by the civil war. “After the war, when things were calmer, we returned – around 2004,” Father Larlar recalls.  

The two parish communities Kamabai and Kamalo entrusted to the order are located in the interior isolated areas. “One is 45 minutes drive from the capital, the other is about 2 to 3 hours from the capital depending on the road, whether it’s raining or not,” the Philippines head explained.

The parish has numerous chapels, even though Catholics are the minority. Majority of the population is Muslim, Father Larlar said, adding they live poorly and their relations with the mission have been “very peaceful”.

He said Recollect missionaries were concerned that if they left the people would feel abandoned and rejected because there is no other priests’ community there to take on their work. “Native priests are few. Most of the priests attending to the parishes are religious, many of whom also decided to stay,” Father Larlar said.

“There is so much intramurals among the tribes,” Father Larlar added. For years, the diocese has had no bishop “because they (locals) live there by rules of tribes, and after the bishops’ consecration they wouldn’t let him enter because he comes from a different tribe and hails from southeast of Sierra Leone,” Larlar explained.

Strong tribal practices are evident even at Mass and other Church activities. For example, when the priests celebrate Mass in a chapel, people of various faiths come. “We welcome them because Mass is a gathering of people, and in Africa the people are fond of gatherings. They just do not receive communion,” Father Larlar said.

Holy Spirit’s work

The Order’s head admitted their missionaries’ decision to stay “surprised us.”

“We appreciate and recognize that this must be the work of the Spirit inspiring them. We did not expect this decision. We had told them that if they feel they have to evacuate the place, we are ready to assist them with that.” Instead, “they surprised us and we are very happy with the decision and the readiness to suffer with the people, though we are worried.”

To show support, fellow Recollects in the Philippines keep constant contact with the missionaries. “We assured them of that, and to send financial assistance, just in case they would need more funds.

“Of course we offer our prayers and our sacrifices for them, tell people about their work and ask for their prayers as a way of accompanying our brothers in Sierra Leone,” Father Larlar continued.

END

Read also 

Ebola can’t drive Philippines missionaries from Sierra Leone

Updated: Pope backs use of force vs Islamic militants attacking religious minorities in Iraq – Fox News

Read full AP report from Fox News about what Pope Francis says about stopping an “unjust aggressor“, Aug. 18, 2014

A Vatican-approved transcript of Pope Francis’ airborne Press Conference from Korea records the pope saying, “It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.  I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means.”

Pope Francis Philippines visit : Pope wants to eat with the poor – Bishop Du

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Bad news for politicians and rich people who hope to rub elbows with Pope Francis during his first visit to the Philippines in January.

Here’s what Inquirer says about preparations for the January papal visit and plans to have a typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivor who lost his whole family stand beside the pope so he will feel he is not alone…

Charity and Compassion is the theme of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines.

Haiyan survivor Mark Anthony Lacanaria who joined People Surge alliance of typhoon survivors told Catholic In Asia in Manila in April how he survived the "super typhoon" that flattened communities in Leyte, central Philippines last Nov. 8, 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

Haiyan survivor Mark Anthony Lacanaria who joined People Surge alliance of typhoon survivors told Catholic In Asia in Manila in April how he survived the “super typhoon” that flattened communities in Leyte, central Philippines last Nov. 8, 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

Juan Gagarino and wife Eugenia returned to their hometown of Guiuan, Samar to stretch his pension of 6,000 pesos. They are back in Estero urban poor community in Legarda after typhoon Yolanda ( Haiyan ) wrecked their Samar house and small store last November. By NJ Viehland

Juan Gagarino and wife Eugenia returned to their hometown of Guiuan, Samar to stretch his pension of 6,000 pesos. They are back in Estero urban poor community in Legarda after typhoon Yolanda ( Haiyan ) wrecked their Samar house and small store last November. By NJ Viehland

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Nun, Haiyan survivors hand over petition to Aquino’s office

Pope Francis’ Homily at Concluding Mass for 6th Asian Youth Day – full text

Pope Francis at the Mass near Gwanghwamun Gate, central Seoul, South Korea on Aug. 16 during the beatification of 124 martyrs who were killed between 1791 and 1888, because of their faith. - screenshot from live stream coverage

Pope Francis at the Mass near Gwanghwamun Gate, central Seoul, South Korea on Aug. 16 during the beatification of 124 martyrs who were killed between 1791 and 1888, because of their faith. – screenshot from live stream coverage                                       

  “Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love!”

              – Pope Francis at Concluding Mass for 6th Asian Youth Day

                 Haemi Castle Square, South Korea, Aug. 17, 2014

 

Dear Young Friends,

The glory of the martyrs shines upon you!

These words – a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day – console and strengthen us all. Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ. He is the light of the world; he is the light of our lives! The martyrs of Korea – and innumerable others throughout Asia – handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ’s truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant. With the certainty of his victory over death, and our participation in it, we can face the challenge of Christian discipleship today, in our own circumstances and time.

The words which we have just reflected upon are a consolation. The other part of this day’s theme – Asian Youth! Wake up!– speaks to you of a duty, a responsibility. Let us consider for a moment each of these words.

Participant leads prayers of the faithful at Mass presided by Pope Francis on the closing of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17, 2014. - screen shot of news coverage.

Participant leads prayers of the faithful at Mass presided by Pope Francis on the closing of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17, 2014. – screen shot of news coverage.

First, the word “Asian”. You have gathered here in Korea from all parts of Asia. Each of you has a unique place and context where you are called to reflect God’s love. The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life!

screen grab live coverage of the Mass closing 6th Asian Youth Day in Korea Aug. 17, 2014 led by Pope Francis.

screen grab live coverage of the Mass closing 6th Asian Youth Day in Korea Aug. 17, 2014 led by Pope Francis.

As Asians too, you see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions. Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit given you in Baptism and sealed within you at Confirmation, and in union with your pastors, you can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures. You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in Baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt, and lead to death.

Returning to the theme of this Day, let us reflect on a second word: “Youth”. You and your friends are filled with the optimism, energy and good will which are so characteristic of this period of life. Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love! This is the path you are called to take. This is the path to overcoming all that threatens hope, virtue and love in your lives and in your culture. In this way your youth will be a gift to Jesus and to the world.

Religious men and women joined the closing Mass of the 6th Asian Youth Day led by Pope Francis Aug. 17, 2014 in Korea. - screen grab from live coverage.

Religious men and women joined the closing Mass of the 6th Asian Youth Day led by Pope Francis Aug. 17, 2014 in Korea. – screen grab from live coverage.

As young Christians, whether you are workers or students,whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present! You are the present of the Church. Keep close to one another, draw ever closer to God, and with your bishops and priests spend these years in building a holier, more missionary and humble Church – a Church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.

Delegate prays for Churches in Asia during Prayers of the Faithful of the Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17 in Korea. - screen grab live coverage

Delegate prays for Churches in Asia during Prayers of the Faithful of the Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17 in Korea. – screen grab live coverage

In your Christian lives, you will find many occasions that will tempt you, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, to push away the stranger, the needy, the poor and the broken-hearted. It is these people especially who repeat, today, the cry of the woman of the Gospel: “Lord, help me!” The Canaanite woman’s plea is the cry of everyone who searches for love, acceptance, and friendship with Christ. It is the cry of so many people in our anonymous cities, the cry of so many of your own contemporaries, and the cry of all those martyrs who even today suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus: “Lord, help me!” Let us respond, not like those who push away people who make demands on us, as if serving the needy gets in the way of our being close to the Lord. No! We are to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion.

Thousands of young Catholics from around Asia gathered for Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day, Aug. 17, 2014 near Haemi Shrine, South Korea. - screen grab from live coverage.

Thousands of young Catholics from around Asia gathered for Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day, Aug. 17, 2014 near Haemi Shrine, South Korea. – screen grab from live coverage.

Finally, the third part of this Day’s theme – “Wake up!” –Wake up! speaks of a responsibility which the Lord gives you. It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel. Today’s responsorial psalm invites us constantly to “be glad and sing for joy”. No one who sleeps can sing, dance or rejoice. It’s no good when I see young people who are asleep. No! Wake up. Go. Go. Go ahead. Dear young people, “God, our God, has blessed us!” (Ps 67:6); from him we have “received mercy” (Rom 11:30). Assured of God’s love, go out to the world so that, “by the mercy shown to you”, they – your friends, co-workers, neighbors, countrymen, everyone on this great continent – “may now receive the mercy of God” (cf. Rom 11:31). It is by his mercy that we are saved.

Dear young people of Asia, it is my hope that, in union with Christ and the Church, you will take up this path, which will surely bring you much joy. Now, as we approach the table of the Eucharist, let us turn to our Mother Mary, who brought Jesus to the world. Yes, Mother Mary, we long to have Jesus; in your maternal affection help us to bring him to others, to serve him faithfully, and to honor him in every time and place, in this country and throughout Asia. Amen.

Young people, Wake Up!