Pope Francis to visit PH Jan. 15-19, 2015 after Sri Lanka – Cardinal Tagle

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

MANILA – Pope Francis will visit the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19.

Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila announced the schedule of the visit in a press briefing Tuesday at the Manila archdiocese headquarters in Intramuros.“Accepting the invitation of the Civil Authority and the bishops, His Holiness, Pope Francis, will make an apostolic visit to Sri Lanka from January 12 to 15 and to the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015,” Cardinal Tagle said.Following the cardinal’s announcement, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. welcomed the news of the pope’s visit, especially since it will mark the 20th anniversary of the World Youth Day in the country in 1995.

“President Aquino is calling on all concerned government offices and the citizenry to work closely with the papal visit committee in ensuring the success of the apostolic visit of Pope Francis,” Coloma added. He said the president designated Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. as the government’s lead person for the visit.

Read full report

Empowering Asia’s laity – new book

Screenshot of cover of recently published book on Catholic laity in Asia by Charles Bertille.

Screenshot of cover of recently published book on Catholic laity in Asia by Charles Bertille.


Charles Bertille, the former director of Institute of Formation Fondacio Asia (IFF Asia) recently published his book “Empowering Asia’s Laity”.
Missiologist Father James Kroeger of the Maryknoll Fathers who has spent most of his 40 years as a missionary  in Asia based in the Philippines, described the book as a “labor of love, written by a dedicated Christian layman who has a deep missionary commitment, particularly to the emergence of a dynamic laity within the local Churches in Asia.”
Father Kroeger found in the book solid theology, Asian perspectives on ecclesiology, concrete approaches to evangelization, a vision of ministries–especially lay ministries–in the Churches. The book also offers insights into formation for missionary evangelization, Father Kroeger added.
Since 1997, the American missioner has taught and been engaged in formation work at the Jesuits’ Loyola School of Theology and Mother of Life Catechetical Institute in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. He also has served as a visiting professor at the Major Seminary in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Bertille’s book is sold at Claretian Communications Inc. in the Philippines and Herald Publications SDN BHD in Kuala Lumpur. Proceeds from sales will go to formation of laity and youth.
Young lay Church workers sing at their program closing their formation and leadership training program organized by Fondacio Christians for the World, in their former center in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

Young lay Church workers sing at their program closing their formation and leadership training program organized by Fondacio Christians for the World, in their former center in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

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Iglesia ni Cristo anniversary draws ‘thank you’ from Aquino, guidelines from Catholic bishops

preached at the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral for his 75th birthday and his creation as cardinal by Pope Francis  last Feb. 22. - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato preached at the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Cotabato’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral for his 75th birthday and his creation as cardinal by Pope Francis last Feb. 22. – NJ Viehland Photos

President Benigno Aquino III  celebrated with a throng of members and friends in events related to the centennial of homegrown Iglesia ni Cristo (INC, Church of Christ) whose teachings contradict Catholic doctrine, a Catholic bishops’ primer on the INC says.

INC celebrated the centennial of its foundation on July 27 mainly in Philippine Arena, a 55,000-seater dome arena legally owned by its New Era University. 

Iglesia officials said more than 1 million people joined their celebration in the arena in Ciudad de Victoria (Victory City), a 75-hectare tourism complex it built in Bocaue town, Bulacan province just north of Manila.

Aquino in his address to  the July 22 gathering of members and friends for the arena’s inauguration thanked the group for the service the arena and the group provide Filipinos.

Officials of INC  endorsed the candidacy of Aquino and his vice president in the 2010 elections. Regarded among “influential” religious groups in the country, INC rules that its 5-8 million member voters  elect its leaders’ choices. 

Last week, House Representatives endorsed the third impeachment complaint filed against the president over use of discretionary funds that the Supreme Court has ruled as unconstitutional.

Iglesia Ni Cristo was registered in the Philippines on July 27, 1914 by Felix Y. Manalo, a Catholic who became a protestant preacher then established his own religion after claiming to be  the last Messenger of God. The group does not publicize the number of its members in the Philippines and abroad.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, who heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith had  issued in March a primer  explaining conflicting beliefs of the Catholic Church and Iglesia ni Kristo.

The document hoped to offer guidance particularly to catechists and Catholic educators and formators.

“The respect we give to the religious beliefs of others should motivate us to get to understand those beliefs deeply, as this is demanded by the requirements of sincere dialogue. Differences in what we believe in do not make us distant from those who hold those beliefs, because as J. Maritain put it, among ideas contradictions are inevitable, but not among persons,” Cardinal Quevedo wrote.

Notheless, he stresses, “We cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are serious and deep differences between the Christian Faith and the doctrines of the Iglesia ni Cristo.”

Read A Primer on the Beliefs of Iglesia ni Cristo with the full text of Cardinal Quevedo’s introduction

Nuns reach out to sex workers in fight against prostitution in the Philippines

The mobile phone is an invaluable tool Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries Junior Sister Joy Culaiban uses so women and girl sex workers who want help in leaving prostitution can contact her. - NJ Viehland Photos

The mobile phone is an invaluable tool Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries Junior Sister Joy Culaniban uses so women and girl sex workers who want help in leaving prostitution can contact her. – NJ Viehland Photos

Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries have been encountering sex workers in the field (bars and brothels) for years. The sisters reach out to women and offer them love and listening and, if they want, shelter and a way out of the business, which is driven by poverty. They are also working to prevent entry into prostitution by educating women in rural areas, and they recently have been talking about their work at other dioceses so that the efforts can expand.

Read full report

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Philippines cardinals team up to promote Eucharistic Congress

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. - NJ Viehland Photos

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. – NJ Viehland Photos

MANILA – The four Philippine cardinals who faced media last month drew the connection between everyday life and the 51st International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Cebu, central Philippines, in 2016.

The first International Eucharistic Congress held in the Philippines was in 1937.Cardinals Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato and Luis Tagle of Manila, with retired Cardinals Gaudencio Rosales and Ricardo Vidal, at a June 10 press conference in the Manila archdiocese’s chancery building helped launch the theme, logo, prayers and the song for the meeting, which will be held Jan. 24-30, 2016.

With nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, they shared reflections on the meeting’s theme, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The cardinals and Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu (chairman of the gathering), priests and lay partners answered media’s questions, watched popular Philippine singer Dulce and her son sing the congress song and viewed videos, including a promotional video in which Tagle, Quevedo, media personalities, an actress and Congresswoman Grace Poe appear.

The International Eucharistic Congress is a church event where people from different parts of the world gather to celebrate the Eucharist, reflect its richness and pray before it.

Bringing the faith to the people: The 1975 "Thrilla", was in fact the legendary Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier boxing match. Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle on April 21,2013 ended with Mass for Good Shepherd Sunday. N.J. Viehland Photos [Product logos are not an endorsement by this blog.]

Bringing the faith to the people: The 1975 “Thrilla”, was in fact the legendary Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier boxing match. Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle on April 21,2013 ended with Mass for Good Shepherd Sunday. – N.J. Viehland Photos

More than 130 priests and bishops concelebrated at the closing Mass of the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila”, October 3, 2013 at the chapel of Rockwell Power Plant Mall in Makati City. N.J. Viehland Photo

More than 130 priests and bishops concelebrated at the closing Mass of the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila”, October 3, 2013 at the chapel of Rockwell Power Plant Mall in Makati City. –  N.J. Viehland Photos

Children, teachers, staff, volunteers, nuns, novices, joined in thanksgiving at Mass onFatima Center for Human Development's 30th foundation anniversary / N J Viehland Photo

Children, teachers, staff, volunteers, nuns, novices, joined in thanksgiving at Mass onFatima Center for Human Development’s 30th foundation anniversary – N J Viehland Photos

Read the full report and insights of the Church leaders on the upcoming congress, the first to be held under Pope Francis.

Bishops’ conference not part of latest complaint to impeach Aquino, CBCP

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

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan signed the impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III on Monday as an individual and does not represent the position of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), conference president Archbishop Socrates Villegas stressed in a statement shortly after the filing.

Archbishop Cruz joined 27 other individuals in filing the complaint and petitioning the House of Representatives to impeach Aquino over a funds disbursement program called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that the Supreme Court has ruled as unconstitutional. 

“I have no doubt that the good Archbishop himself will like it clarified that his decision to be one of the complainants is his alone, in the exercise of his discretion and as a result of his personal discernment,” Archbishop Villegas wrote.

He added that the position that any bishop takes on any particular issue is not necessarily that of the CBCP.

Villegas said the CBCP as the highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines “neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the President” nor will it “begrudge anyone, member of the clergy, or laity, the exercise of constitutionally and statutorily recognized rights.”

Acknowledging today’s “difficult and confusing times,” the prelate reiterated his call for everyone to submit to the Constitution as the prime expression of the covenant by which the Filipino people have determined the form and the operations of their government adding that there is a very important distinction between what is popular — or appear to be so — and what is right.

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

Through the media, I have been informed that Archbishop emeritus Oscar V. Cruz is one of the signatories of an impeachment complaint filed with the House of Representatives against the incumbent President.

I have no doubt that the good Archbishop himself will like it clarified that his decision to be one of the complainants is his alone, in the exercise of his discretion and as a result of his personal discernment.  As in the past, Archbishop Cruz has exhibited a lively interest in the events of our day, as should all Catholics.

It should also be clear, however, that the position that any bishop takes on any particular issue is not necessarily that of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines. That is to say that the CBCP as the highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the President, but it will neither begrudge anyone, member of the clergy, or laity, the exercise of constitutionally and statutorily recognized rights.

These are difficult and often confusing times.  We reiterate our earlier call for all to submit to the Constitution as the prime expression of the covenant by which the Filipino people have determined the form and the operations of their government.  There is a very important distinction between what is popular — or appear to be so — and what is right.

I pray that all our officials ever be cognizant of this important difference so that all may resist the temptation of pursuing a course of action only because it seems to be popular.  We urge respect for the breadth and the limits of constitutionally allocated powers between the great branches of government.

In the wake of recent events of which the public has been made aware through the media, we stand for an independent judiciary. To insist that ours be a government of laws and not of men is not to subordinate the human person to the law, but to uphold the equality of all before the law so that the powerful may not trample upon the week and so that all enjoy the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Let the government show the citizenry that the law is at all times to be obeyed, for only under such a regime are rights and liberties safeguarded.

We urge our citizens to keep themselves informed, to be circumspect in their actions and in their statements, and to allow their discernment at all times to be inspired by the Gospel, and governed by the law of love.

July 21, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP

Read also

Catholic bishop, missionary priest among those seeking Philippines president’s impeachment

Catholic bishop, missionary priest file impeachment complaint vs Aquino

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) chats with Franciscan Fr. Robert Reyes at Manila Hotel during a break in the August 26, 2013 forum on the Priority Development Assistance Fund that has since then been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. - NJ Viehland Photos

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) chats with Franciscan Fr. Robert Reyes at Manila Hotel during a break in the August 26, 2013 forum on the Priority Development Assistance Fund that has since then been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. – NJ Viehland Photos

Former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) who is chief judge of the Church’s national marriage appeals court and a Sacred Heart missionary priest joined 26 other individuals who signed on July 21 the complaint seeking President Benigno Aquino III’s impeachment over a funds disbursement program that the Supreme Court has ruled as unconstitutional.

Complainant Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a canon lawyer who retired in 2009 as archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan serves as Judicial Vicar of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal and directs the CBCP’s Legal Office. 

However, CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas has stressed that his predecessor as Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan in filing the complaint is acting “alone, in the exercise of his discretion and as a result of his personal discernment.”  

Archbishop Villegas in a statement issued shortly after the complaint was filed in the House of Representatives said that the 124-member CBCP, as the “highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the President.”  

Co-complainant priest Fr. Benjamin Alforque of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) is a biblical theologian who has been teaching Sacred Scriptures in various theology schools and formation houses in the Philippines and lecturing abroad on this and various topics, including promoting justice, peace and integrity of creation.

He co-chaired the Justice and Peace Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (JPC_AMRSP) and the ecumenical group Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR). A political detainee under Martial Law (1972-1981), Fr. Alforque became a founding member of the association of former political detainees in the Philippines (SELDA) and founding member also of the human rights group, KARAPATAN.

Read full text of the impeachment complaint the clergy filed with House Representatives, leaders of civil-society groups, anti-corruption and anti-pork activists, and other concerned citizens.

Read also 

Catholic bishop, missionary priest among those seeking Philippines president’s impeachment

Pork tales

 

Malaysia Airlines MH17 – more than a story of political strife

Youth sitting in front of the altar in the candle-lit San Fernando de Dilao church, Paco where Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila led the archdiocese's Day of Lament and Hope prayer service for victims and survivors of recent calamities in the Philippines. By NJ Viehland

Youth sitting in front of the altar in the candle-lit San Fernando de Dilao church, Paco where Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila led the archdiocese’s Day of Lament and Hope prayer service for victims and survivors of recent calamities in the Philippines. By NJ Viehland

Social media offer the public a peek into the hearts and minds of people who were on the doomed Malaysian airlines flight that crashed in East Ukraine  on Thursday reportedly killing all 298 passengers and crew.

Malaysia Airlines released the full flight manifest Saturday of the persons on board the flight MH17 that was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and urged family members and friends to contact the airline.

View MH17 flight manifest here

Passenger Ariza Ghazalee posted on Facebook  a picture of 15 pieces of luggage on a sidewalk about to be loaded into a car that would take her family to Schiphol Airport, the Netherlands for the flight to Malaysia and a new life, a July 18 post on the Wallstreet Journal blog reports.

The blog describes photos, the story of the Ghazalees’ European vacation, plans to migrate from Kazakhstan to Malaysia, and even reports a Taylor University’s (Malaysia) confirmation that her son was on the flight that was believed to have been downed by a surface-to-air missile.

Read the WSJ full blog here

Their plane that reportedly left Amsterdam at 12.15 pm, local time was believed to have been shot down by the missile causing it to crash into grasslands and flower fields in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia rebels.

As authorities investigate the alleged attack, relatives and friends of passengers anxiously await information on their loved ones.

Filipino fatality Irene Pabillon Gunawan was reportedly traveling with her husband, Hadiono, and their two children to join a family reunion in Quezon Province, northern Philippines. Her family is reportedly waiting anxiously for instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs on the remains of their  loved ones.

Relatives in the Philippines have spoken with Rappler social news network about their grief and sense of loss in the death of a loving, generous and caring person.

A text message that came in to her sister-in-law’s cell phone had Irene signing off as passengers were boarding the plane. “Be careful always that the trees won’t fall on you…” she added in her text message in Tagalog language.

Parts of the Philippines was suffering from the effects of typhoon Glenda (International Name Rammasun) then. 

Irene who had spent around 30 years in the Netherlands with her Indonesian husband who worked for Malaysian Airlines was reportedly sending siblings and a nephew through school. Kim, the nephew, recalls one of Irene’s Facebook posts in which she comments on relatives plans for a night of drinking and videoke. She reportedly asked them to wait for her so they can have a videoke concert and go drinking.

Reading WSJ and Rappler’s full story on MH17 passenger Irene Pabillon Gunawan and family pinches the heart, and reminds one that MH17 is not just a story of geopolitics , but is more so a story of persons, many of whom are ordinary, non-politicized people who are unfamiliar with issues and conflicts outside their own context. 

Sadly, missiles and weapons of war in this age strike down more than just their physical targets. They shatter countless lives, hopes and future of innocent people and their families across the globe, far away from the center of the conflict.

To join “Prayers Are Awesome’s” Facebook prayer for MH17 Ukraine victims, click prayer sharing

Warning to public on Philippines papal visit racket

Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines (second from left), watching presentations at the dinner honoring Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato on his 75th birthday and creation as cardinal in Cotabato City on March 2014. Left to right he sat with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Auxiliary Bishop Collin Bagaforo of Cotabato, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro and Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines (second from left), watching presentations at the dinner honoring Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato on his 75th birthday and creation as cardinal in Cotabato City on March 2014. Left to right he sat with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Auxiliary Bishop Collin Bagaforo of Cotabato, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro and Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. – NJ Viehland Photos

Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Guiseppe Pinto has asked the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to warn the public about unauthorized sale of tickets to Masses and events during Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines next year.

In a letter addressed to CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Pinto revealed the “unpleasant information” the nunciature has received about groups who might wish “to take advantage of the papal visit to exploit innocent people and enrich themselves.”

Expressing regret in his letter dated July 8, he called on Villegas to “announce to the Filipino people that no tickets will be sold for any of the papal gatherings.”

END

Related reports

CBCP Document: Pastoral Letter to Prepare for 2015 Papal Visit

What can Asia expect of upcoming papal visits?

“United in Grief” over Malaysia Airlines 17 crash – Najib Razak

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaking at a press conference televised from Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, July 17, expressed shock and sadness over  Malaysian Airlines flight 17’s crash allegedly after being shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Following is the text of Razak’s statement in which he vowed thorough investigation into the tragedy that has thrown people of various nationalities together in grief…

Yesterday evening, I was informed of the terrible and deeply shocking news that a Malaysia Airlines jet went down in eastern Ukraine.

Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the jet was Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which was on a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The flight departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm, local time. It was scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 6.10 am, local, Malaysian time.

The aircraft was a Boeing 777-200.

The aircraft’s flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

And International Air Transportation Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions.

Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the aircraft did not make a distress call.

The flight was carrying a total number of 295 people – comprising 280 passengers and 15 crew members.

Malaysia Airlines is in the process of notifying the next-of-kin of the passengers and crew. All possible care will be provided to the next-of-kin.

The Government of Malaysia is dispatching a special flight to Kiev, carrying a Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team, as well as a medical team.

According to information provided by Kiev Air Traffic Control, the location of the plane’s emergency locator beacon is 48 degrees 7 minutes and 23 seconds North; and 38 degrees 31 minutes and 33 seconds East.

The Ukrainian authorities believe that the plane was shot down.

At this early stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy.  

But we must – and we will – find out precisely what happened to this flight.

No stone can be left unturned.

If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.

Emergency operations centres have been established. In the last few hours, Malaysian officials have been in constant contact with their counterparts in Ukraine and elsewhere.

And I will be speaking to a number of world leaders over the coming hours.

I have had several conversations with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

I have also spoken to the President of Ukraine. He has pledged that there will be a full, thorough and independent investigation, and Malaysian officials will be invited to take part.  

The Ukrainian president also confirmed that his government will negotiate with rebels in the east of the country, in order to establish a humanitarian corridor to the crash site.

Just now, I received a call from President Obama.

He and I both agreed that the investigation must not be hindered in anyway.

An international team must have full access to the crash site.

And no one should interfere with the area, or move any debris, including the black box.

This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia.

As we work to understand what happened, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those on board the flight.

I cannot imagine what they must be going through at this painful time.

The flight’s passengers and crew came from many different countries.

But today, regardless of nationality, we are all united in grief.

-

A bulletin posted by Malaysia Airlines listed the number of passengers and crew according to nationality as follows:

Nationality Total
Netherlands 154
Malaysia 43 (including 15 crew & 2 infants)
Australia 27
Indonesia 12 (including 1 infant)
United Kingdom 9
Germany 4
Belgium 4
Philippines 3
Canada 1
Unverified 41
Total 298

 

 

Pope Francis, visit war-torn areas and survivors – Tamil Civil Society Groups

Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) has called upon Pope Francis to visit war-torn areas in the North and East and visit the survivors of the “war  against Tamils”, as part of his visit to Sri Lanka in 2015.

TCSF – a network of Tamil civil society social activists from the North and East including Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, aired their appeal in a letter to the Pope on Sunday. It requested him to openly call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to genuinely address grievances of Tamils during his meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The text of the letter is published on Eye Sri Lanka

Address grievances of all factions – human rights, justice and peace advocate

In her presentation to last month’s International Conference on Politics and International Affairs in Athens, Salma Yusuf, pointed out that while the defeat of the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) in May 2009 ended the three decades-long conflict, its root causes remain.

Yusuf, university lecturer and adviser to programs on human rights law, transitional justice, comparative social justice and peace-guilding, stressed that grievances of all factions in the conflict have to be addressed. 

“When advocating reconciliation and unity, the fears and anxieties of all communities must be acknowledged, understood and addressed,” Yusuf said.

She warned, “An over-emphasis on the grievances of the Tamil community alone which is the natural tendency can lead to new waves of conflict and at must be avoided at all costs.” 

Read full text of her presentation  titled Sri Lanka: Reconciliation is Both a Process and a Goal 

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Sri Lanka’s Buddhist-Muslim Clashes Reveal the Evil of Politicising Religion

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What Can Asia Expect from Upcoming Papal Visits?

 

Korea will give Pope Francis a peep into the mosaic of Asian Christianity, by Hector Welgampola

The Churches of the global South have begun to feature pretty well on the agenda of Pope Francis’ early travels. His first trip was to attend the World Youth Day activities in Brazil. Then came his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May. Come August, the pope will travel to South Korea. He is due to attend the Asian Youth Day there and the beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.

Korean martyr Paul Yun Ji-chung screenshot from Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea's website. http://www.koreanmartyrs.or.kr/sbss124_en_view.php?num=1

Korean martyr Paul Yun Ji-chung screenshot from Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea’s website. http://www.koreanmartyrs.or.kr/sbss124_en_view.php?num=1

 Outreach to North Korea?

Brazil offered Pope Francis a brief encounter with groups of youth worldwide: the future Church. In South Korea he will meet with the future Church of Asia. His visit venue is 200 kilometres away from the venue of the recent ferry disaster. But, the tragic tales of the ferry martyrs will be even more palpable than distant memories about the beati Martyrs. Yet, more eloquent than the silence of all these dead is the muffled cry of living martyrs.  The first Asian visit can offer Pope Francis an opportunity for pastoral outreach to the entire Korean Nation, which was divided six decades ago by outside intervention. Just as Pope Paul VI spoke to the Chinese Nation from Hong Kong in 1970, no doubt, Pope Francis could reach out to all Koreans of North and South with a reconciliatory message. Exposure to the last vestiges of political ideology that still linger in Asia may also help alert him to newer threats of neo-racism sprouting in the region.

Catholic Korean lay volunteers and Sisters of Mary nuns from Korean Boys Town and Girls Town joined Filipino Sisters of Mary and other Catholics led by Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in celebrating the 20th death anniversary of Fr. Aloysius Schwartz in Cavite Province. - NJ Viehland Photos

Catholic Korean lay volunteers and Sisters of Mary nuns from Korean Boys Town and Girls Town joined Filipino Sisters of Mary and other Catholics led by Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in celebrating the 20th death anniversary of Fr. Aloysius Schwartz in Cavite Province. – NJ Viehland Photos

Laity-founded Church

The laity-founded Korean Church has been unique in many ways. Like most early Asians, Koreans revered the written word. Some Korean scholars visiting China about 300 years ago, brought home Scripture texts including those of Jesuit missioner Matteo Ricci. Laypeople’s study of these texts led to further visits to China where they sought Baptism in 1784. Scripture-based faith sharing sustained the priestless lay Church. And when missioners first arrived nearly 50 years later, they were surprised to find a faith community of 4,000 Catholics.

Integrated faith and witness

Lay spirituality has been the backbone of the Korean Church. During the last century, the virility of Korean laity’s faith became evident in the founding of lay groups such as the Korean Catholic Farmers’ Movement and the Woori Theology Institute. Woori’s young lay theologians have engaged in theological research and sociological surveys related to the everyday life of the local Church. Their research projects have helped improve the effectiveness of pastoral programs. As need arose, these lay movements worked alongside the Korean Priests’ Association for Justice. The Jesuari prayer movement met another aspect of people’s spiritual needs.

Such faith witness was encouraged by the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, whom Koreans often described as “the Nation’s conscience.” The first Korean to receive the red hat, he prided that his Myeongdong Cathedral had become the rallying point of striking workers of various faiths. The Korean Church integrated people’s faith witness with solidarity in people’s struggle for human rights in a fast industrialised society.

Lay saints

In many countries, canonisation is considered a privilege of clergy and Religious. But the vast number of Korean saints are laypeople. In 1984, Saint John Paul II canonised 103 Korean Martyrs. And on the upcoming visit, Pope Francis will participate in the beatification of another 124 Martyrs. They all personify the faith journey of mostly laity among some 8,000 Catholics persecuted for their faith through 18th-19th centuries. More importantly, although the country is divided as North and South Korea, the Church is not. And so the martyrs include Northerners as well as Southerners.

While celebrating the faith integrity of such witnesses who died for the faith, the Church needs more the integrity of those who live it out in service. The late president Kim Dae-jung’s long political struggle as well as the earlier faith witness of poet Kim Chi-ha are just two examples of such Eucharistic service as bread broken to feed people’s contextual hunger for justice, peace.

Lived witness

Jesus’ multiplication of loaves “shows the future Heaven,” said Kim Chi-ha in the “Declaration of Conscience” he wrote in prison in his early years. This reality is further depicted in his poem:

“Food is heaven As you can’t go to heaven by yourself Food has to be shared Food is heaven As you see the stars in heaven together Food is to be shared with everybody When the food goes into a mouth Heaven is worshipped in the mind Food is heaven Ah, ah, food is to be shared by everybody.”

Kim’s earlier poetry was similar to that of Latin American Ernesto Cardinale, which cannot be unfamiliar to Pope Francis. More than any recent pope, he is equipped with the grace to grasp the native wavelength of people’s yearnings that are variedly tagged in Asia as Korea’s Minjung theology, Japan’s Burakumin theology or India’s Dalit theology, all of which reflect the Gospel’s call for sharing and justice. Will he listen to these Southern voices of the Spirit, which some Church leaders have heard but not heeded? END

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 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

Vatican’s new ‘media czar’ no stranger to Asians

Lord Chris Patten, Britain’s last Governor of Hong Kong before the European state handed over its colony to the Chinese in 1997, has been appointed to head the mixed committee of Vatican staff and international experts created to propose reforms over the year in Vatican’s media operations.

Edward Pentin in his blog for National Catholic Register called Patten the Vatican’s new “media czar.”

He cited Patten’s as “one of the most interesting appointments” in Australian Cardinal George Pell’s July 9 announcement of developments in Pope Francis’ efforts to reform the Roman Curia. The pope has appointed the Australian cardinal prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, which is auditing and supervising offices of the Roman Curia, the Vatican City State and institutions connected to the Holy See. 

Hong Kong is both part of China and outside of it as defined in the 1984 Joint Declaration, the treaty under which Britain handed over its former colony. Seventeen years after the hand over, the struggle for power and control continues between the Special Administrative Region and the Beijing government.

 

Franciscan Sisters’ school expands education to Aeta

Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Sr. Mary Francis Borje, 75, looks in on the culture class of the indigenous Aeta cultural group of students at St. Francis Learning Center in Subic, Zambales, which she started and coordinates, after serving four years in mission among Dayak tribespeople in Indonesia. She was assigned to Subic in 1990, more than a decade after returning to the Philippines.. (N.J. Viehland)

Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Sr. Mary Francis Borje, 75, looks in on the culture class of the indigenous Aeta cultural group of students at St. Francis Learning Center in Subic, Zambales, which she started and coordinates, after serving four years in mission among Dayak tribespeople in Indonesia. She was assigned to Subic in 1990, more than a decade after returning to the Philippines.. (N.J. Viehland)

Coming to Subic just before the rampage of Mt. Pinatubo volcano was more than coincidence. The Lord knows many things I do not know. – Sister Mary Francis Borje, SFIC

Read full story   Franciscan Sisters’ school expands education to Aeta

 

CBCP Document: Pastoral Guidance on Reproductive Health Law

(Updated July 10, 11:23 pm)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has released a pastoral guide on the implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) law to properly inform Catholic health workers, government officials and employees, educators and the faithful about their rights in relation to the Supreme Court’s recent decision that paved the way for the implementation of the controversial law.

Quezon City hospital doctors and nurses - NJ Viehland Photos

Quezon City hospital doctors and nurses – NJ Viehland Photos

The Supreme Court in April ruled that Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act is not unconstitutional as petitioners asserted, except with respect to certain provisions.  

Bishops reflected on these developments during their seminar last week ahead of their July 5-7 semi-annual plenary assembly in Manila, finalized the document titled Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the Reproductive Health Law on July 7 and released it to media.

Following is the full text of the pastoral guide:

Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the Reproductive Health Law

“Truly children are a gift from the Lord;
the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps 127:3).

OUR dear brother priests, Catholic physicians and health care workers, government officials and employees, educators and fellow Church workers:

While we would have wanted the Supreme Court to nullify the RH Law (Republic Act No. 10354), we must now contend with the fact that it has ruled rather to strike down important provisions of the law in deciding Imbong v. Ochoa, G.R. 204819 (April 8, 2014) and companion cases.

It is our pastoral duty to pass the necessary information and instruction to our Catholics who, as health care workers (physicians, nurses, midwives, medical aides, medical technologists, etc.), are employed in health facilities, whether public or private, so that they may know what their rights are under the law as passed upon by the High Court. The same duty is owed to our Catholic government officials and employees who, in the discharge of their public duties, may be asked to enforce the RH Law. The Supreme Court majority opinion alone is 104 pages long and many may not have the patience nor the skill to make their way through the legal argumentation involved.

As teachers of the faith and morality, assisted by our legal experts, we are presenting an outline of the salient points in the Supreme Court decision which we think may be helpful for our pastoral ministry and discernment:

1. The Supreme Court points out that the whole idea of contraception (as the means to control population growth) runs through the RH Law. It is in fact the governing and overarching principle of the RH Law. Other provisions such as skilled birth attendance, maternal care including pre- and post-natal services, prevention and management of sexually-related diseases and sicknesses are already provided for in the Magna Carta for Women. In rendering its decision in the Imbong case, the Court affirms the principles of “no-abortion” and “no-coercion” in the adoption of any family planning method.

2. The right to life is grounded on natural law and is inherent in a person, and therefore not a creation of, or dependent upon a particular law, custom or belief. The right to life precedes and transcends any authority or the laws of men.

3. Abortifacients are prohibited by the RH Law. An abortifacient is any drug or device that: a) induces abortion; or b) induces the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb; or c) prevents the fertilized ovum to reach and to be implanted in the mother’s womb.

In this regard, it is important to point out that the Supreme Court has invalidated two related provisions in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Law for inserting the modifier ‘primarily’ in the definitions of “abortifacient” and “contraceptive”. The Court notes that the word “primarily” (which is not found in the RH Law itself) would HAVE INTRODUCED THE SURREPTITIOUS INTRODUCTION OF DRUGS AND DEVICES THAT, THOUGH PRIMARILY NOT ABORTIFACIENT, WERE ALSO ABORTIFACIENT IN USE AND IN EFFECT. The Court clarifies that, consistent with the no-abortion spirit of the RH Law, even contraceptives that have no such primary intention, but have the secondary effect of destroying the fetus or preventing nidation (attaching of the fertilized egg to the uterine wall), should be considered as abortifacients and are, therefore, banned.

4. No contraceptive that harms or destroys the life of the unborn from conception or fertilization, either as a primary or secondary effect, can be allowed under the law, even if it be advertised, categorized, distributed and announced as a contraceptive. The determining factor therefore is whether or not the supposed contraceptive also prevents nidation, or the attaching of the fertilized egg to the uterine wall, or destroys the zygote, embryo, blastocyst or fetus. If it does, then it cannot be allowed under the law.

5. In the distribution by the Department of Health of contraceptive drugs and devices, the provisions of an existing law, R.A. 4729, must be complied with. Said law makes it unlawful for any person, partnership or corporation to sell, dispense or otherwise distribute, whether for or without consideration, any contraceptive drug or device, unless such sale, dispensation or distribution is by a duly licensed drug store or pharmaceutical company and with the prescription of a qualified medical practitioner.

TO OUR KNOWLEDGE, NO SINGLE CONTRACEPTIVE HAS YET BEEN SUBMITTED TO THE FDA PURSUANT TO THE RH LAW.

6. The Court expresses itself very strongly on the following point: “At this point, the Court is of the strong view that Congress cannot legislate that hormonal contraceptives and intra-uterine devices are safe and non-abortifacient. The first sentence of Section 9 that ordains their inclusion by the National Drug Formulary in the Essential Drug List (EDI), by using the mandatory ‘shall’ is to be construed as operative only after they have been tested, evaluated and approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). The FDA, not Congress, has the expertise to determine whether a particular hormonal contraceptive or intrauterine device is safe and non-abortifacient.” We urge our Catholic doctors, for example, the Association of Doctors for Life, to demand from the FDA the testing and evaluation of all contraceptive drugs and devices, including those that are already being presently sold and made available to the public, as to whether they are safe, legal, and non-abortifacient.

7. When a health care worker who objects, on religious or moral grounds, to contraceptives is compelled by the law to refer the patient seeking information on modern reproductive health products and services to another who may be willing to supply such information or services, this obligation to refer already burdens the objector to do something that his conscience forbids him to do. The premise of this holding is the inviolability of the human conscience.
Put more directly, when a health-care worker, whether practicing on his own or as part of a public or private healthcare facility, objects, on the basis of conscience, to artificial contraception, such a health-worker is NOT OBLIGED AND MAY REFUSE to refer a patient to anyone else (health-care worker or facility) from where the contraceptives may be obtained.
The Supreme Court observes that “though it has been said that the act of referral is an opt-out clause, it is, however, a false compromise because it makes pro-life health providers complicit in the performance of an act that they find morally repugnant or offensive.”

8. The same rule therefore applies to non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious groups and health care service providers. While, originally, Section 24 compelled such institutions, under pain of penalty, to refer patients to facilities or institutions that can render contraceptive services, the Court struck down this COMPULSORY REFERRAL as UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

9. Section 5.24 of the RH – IRR reads: “Provided, that skilled health professionals such as provincial city or municipal health officers, chiefs of hospitals, head nurses, supervising midwives, among others who by virtue of their office are specifically charged with the duty to implement the provisions of the RPRH Act and these rules cannot be considered as conscientious objectors.”

THE COURT RULES THAT THIS SECTION OF THE IRR IS DISCRIMINATORY AND IN VIOLATION OF THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE of the Constitution. What this means therefore is that the right to conscientious objection can be claimed and exercised even by health-care workers in the employ of the government. Obviously, Catholics should not, on moral grounds, seek employment in the very government agencies that promote artificial contraception. But if circumstances compelled them to be employed in such agencies, or if they were already employees at the time the agencies adopted a pro-RH policy, said Catholics should be aware that they cannot be forced to promote, distribute or dispense artificial contraceptives against their religious or moral conviction.

10. The accommodation granted the conscientious objector, however, does not extend to emergency cases, as when the mother’s life is in danger. When a patient, for example, is rushed to the emergency room who has, with the help of a backstreet abortionist, commenced the abortion procedure that is botched, although the fetus has already been destroyed, with the result that she is bleeding profusely, the health-care providers cannot refuse intervention or treatment on the ground of conscientious objection but must take all steps necessary to save the life of the mother. This exception is based on natural law, which calls for the preservation of human life.

11. FAITHFUL TO THE STATE POLICY TO PROTECT THE FAMILY, the Court has ruled that when a married person seeks an irreversible form of contraception (vasectomy and tubal ligation provide the most ready examples), BOTH SPOUSES must give their consent, and when the spouses disagree, the procedure may not be performed. This is in marked contrast to the original provision of the law that would have allowed the choice of the person who was to undergo the procedure to make the final call. But this, the Supreme Court rightly rules, would have directly eroded family cohesion that the Constitution obligates the State to protect and to promote.

Delegates view posters of programs and concerns of colleagues and various groups in Asia during the 7th Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights in Manila on Jan. 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Delegates view posters of programs and concerns of colleagues and various groups in Asia during the 7th Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights in Manila on Jan. 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

12. The Court also emphatically holds that EVEN IF THE MINOR IS ALREADY A PARENT OR HAS HAD A MISCARRIAGE, she will still need the consent of her parents in order to receive surgical or non-surgical family planning services. The Court reasons that parental authority over the minor is not lost by the incidence of a miscarriage or premature parenthood.
“It is precisely in such situations when a minor parent needs the comfort, care, advice and guidance of her own parents. The State cannot replace her natural mother and father when it comes to providing her needs and comfort. To say that their consent is no longer relevant is clearly anti-family. It does not promote unity in the family. It is an affront to the constitutional mandate to protect and to strengthen the family as an inviolable social institution.”
By way of an exception, the Court upholds the right of the minor to receive information about family planning services, and to undergo emergency surgical procedures in life-threatening situations.

13. The Court recognizes the right of private educational institutions to be excluded from the mandatory reproductive health program under Section 14, on the ground of the recognition of the academic freedom of private educational institutions especially with respect to religious instruction. Our Catholic schools then are not obliged to propagate the reproductive health curriculum of the government, although, consistent with church teaching, they must prepare our youngsters to be responsible parents.

14. Our Catholic brethren employed in the different local government units and performing non-medical functions should also be informed that they have the right not to support or participate in the implementation of reproductive health program, based on religious or ethical ground. The Supreme Court has voided the provision in the RH Law that compels them to implement the Law regardless of their religious or ethical beliefs.

15. Significantly, the Court says: “Be that as it may, it bears reiterating that the RH Law is a mere compilation and enhancement of the prior existing contraceptive and reproductive health laws, but with coercive measures xxx All the same, the principle of ‘no abortion’ and ‘non-coercion’ in the adoption of any family planning method should be maintained.”
The salutary measures taken by the Supreme Court to strike down what it found to be the constitutionally infirm provisions of this dangerous law will be for naught unless we pass on this necessary information to our Catholic brethren who are impacted by the law.

It is therefore strongly suggested that each diocese organize seminars and symposia at which our Catholics employed or exercising their professions in hospitals, clinics and similar facilities, public or private, and those working in local government units whose functions may involve the implementation and promotion of the RH Law, are in attendance and where they may receive proper instruction on this important decision of the Supreme Court and their rights following from the said ruling.
It is good to keep in mind that the RH Law also mandates the government to promote and support Natural Family Planning, particularly if this is demanded by local communities.

The Episcopal Commission on Family and Life as well at the CBCP Legal Office will be available to give formation seminars in the various ecclesiastical circumscriptions upon the invitation of the bishops. May Mary Mother of Life guide our every step in protecting the dignity of human life and protecting every human life from harm! “Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps 127:3).

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP
July 7, 2014

Priests apologize for shaming of unwed mom

The priest who harangued and scolded an unwed teenage mother during the baptism of her baby has apologized and his religious order has promised to discipline the priest.

Screenshot of Fr. Obach's letter of apology.

Screenshot of Fr. Obach’s letter of apology.

The baby’s grandmother recorded the incident on her cellphone and later uploaded it to her Facebook page. She also wrote about the humiliation the priest subjected her daughter to.

Read full report

The baptizing priest, Father Romeo Obach belongs to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) – Cebu Province  which issued on July 8 its statement on Fr. Obach, CSsR

Following is the full text of the Redemptorists-Cebu statement :

CONGREGATIO SS. REDEMPTORIS
Provincial Superior
Cebu Province
Provincial Office
Don Ramon Aboitiz St.
6000 Cebu City, Philippines

1. We, the Redemptorists of the Province of Cebu are deeply saddened by the incident that happened on July 6, 2014 at the Sacred Heart Chaplaincy in Jagobiao, Mandaue City. The said incident involved one of our confreres, Fr. Romeo Obach, CSsR. We were made aware that the incident was videoed and uploaded on social media and has since gone viral.

As a religious community we DO NOT CONDONE such an UNACCEPTABLE ACT as it is contrary to the Charism and Mission for which our Congregation was founded – compassion especially to the poor and the most abandoned. We sincerely feel for the family and to them we extend our heartfelt apology.

2. An INTERNAL INVESTIGATION is underway. Rest assured that appropriate SANCTIONS on the part of the involved will be applied once the investigation is complete so that justice may prevail.

3. We will reach out the aggrieved family at the appropriate and most opportune time to address this particular matter. We respect their situation at the moment and sympathize with their hurt and anger over this matter.

4. The Redemptorist Community has always upheld the rights of the poor and disenfranchised since the first missionaries arrived here in Cebu in 1906. And this has been our conviction through the decades. It is but unfortunate that the incident involving Fr. Obach occurred, as he has been a good missionary for many years. He has served in many capacities and various places heeding the challenges of the congregation, yet he is also human and prone to lapse of judgment and imprudence.

5. We appeal for calm and sobriety from everyone even as we try to assess both the outcome of the investigation of our confrere and at the same time reach out to the family. We appreciate that if you have further concerns, address them to the SUPERIOR of the Redemptorists.

6. May this also serve as a reminder to us in the religious life and the clergy of our role as pastors: that we are called to serve and not be served and to offer our lives for all (cf. Mt. 20:28). On behalf of the Redemptorist Community of Cebu, we extend our sincere and humble apologies.

Fr. Alfonso Suico, Jr, C.Ss.R
Media Liaison

 

Catholic Bishops’ national body explains why it cannot protect accused scam mastermind

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) explained in a statement today why it cannot grant the request of accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet-Lim Napoles to be placed in their protective custody saying the CBCP is not qualified for the role under civil law.

“The CBCP appreciates the trust that Ms. Napoles has in the CBCP,” Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP said in a statement on the matter.

“We are not sure that under civil law we are qualified for such a role as Ms. Napoles would wish us to assume,” he added.

According to Villegas existing Church laws also do not allow an Episcopal conference to stand as guarantor before civil courts that the accused will not abscond and will be available at every trial date.

In early June, the office of the Ombudsman filed  charges of plunder against businesswoman Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the racket that involved the diversion of billions of pesos worth of livelihood projects and farm inputs intended for poor farmers into ghost NGOs and kickbacks. 

Thirty-seven others, including 3 senators and their staff, have been similarly charged before the anti-graft court.

Napoles had reportedly written a letter to the CBCP asking them to take her into its custody saying she believes she would be safer with clergy.

Following is Villegas’ full statement sent to Catholic in Asia titled, CBCP Reply to the REQUEST of Ms. Napoles for Custody Under CBCP:

The CBCP appreciates the trust that Ms. Napoles has in the CBCP.
 
With regard to her request that the CBCP take her under protective custody, we face obstacles from both Church and State laws.
 
Existing Church laws do not allow an episcopal conference to stand as guarantor before civil courts that the accused will not abscond and will be available at every trial date. Furthermore, we are not sure that under civil law we are qualified for such a role as Ms. Napoles would wish us to assume.
 
Then too there is the important issue of establishing a precedent. Once we allow CBCP’s offices to take recognizance of Ms. Napoles, we must, to be fair, accept similar requests from all other accused. Not only would this strain CBCP’s resources. It would render impossible the discharge of its principal functions.
 
We shall however continue to be vigilant that the rights of Ms. Napoles, as of all accused, are respected and safeguarded; in the same measure that we urge government prosecutors to be resolute and non-selective in the indictment of offenders and in holding them accountable for all their actions.
 
From the CBCP, Manila, July 8, 2014
 
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
   Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

Napoles was reported to be close to clergy and supportive of Church projects and programs.

In May retired Manila priest Father Josefino Ramirez also issued the following statement sent to Catholic in Asia about a newspaper report whose headline claimed “priests got pork manna”:

May 22, 2014 

STATEMENT OF MSGR. JOSEFINO S. RAMIREZ ON ARTICLE,  “Priests Got Pork Manna”, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 22, 2014

            This refers to the article written by Nancy C. Carvajal entitled “Priests got pork manna” published on 22 May 2014 by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The article alleges that Ms. Janet Lim-Napoles “handed out generous donations to priests and nuns using allocations from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) [as shown by the] digital records of her former finance officer, [Mr. Benhur Luy].”

            The article further states that I received the following from Ms. Napoles:

  1. P2.5M through a Metrobank check (per entry in the records of Benhur Luy for May 10, 2007);
  2. P434,451 for travel to Europe (per entry for October 16, 2008);
  3. P800,000.00 for donations on several occasions;
  4. P310,550 for my birthday party;
  5. P9,000.00 for “guard of Monsi for Jollibee”; and
  6. Stipends totaling P344,000 on several occasions for “priests/nuns, deacons” from 2004 to 2010.

            For clarity, please allow me to state the following:

            a.         The Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation in the service of the Divine Mercy was established by the children of Magdalena Luy Lim in memory of their deceased mother.  During her lifetime, Magdalena Luy Lim, a Chinese, was an ardent devotee of the Divine Mercy. She used to help my charities since 2004, most especially the apostolate for China because this is the only way that she can thank the Lord for the gift of her Catholic faith as a Chinese.

             b.         Before she died, Magalena Luy Lim requested her children to continue helping the apostolate projects of the Divine Mercy in the Philippines and in China, through the Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation.

             c.         Hence, donations were made by the Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation for the various projects of the Divine Mercy in the Philippines and in China.

            d.         As Coordinator for Divine Mercy, Asia, appointed by the Church, I received the donations of the Foundation as well as from other donors with the sole intention of using the same for the projects of the Divine Mercy.The donations were received in utmost good faith and without any knowledge as to the source of the funds.

            Herein below are my comments on the allegations made in the article published by the Inquirer today:

Amounts Received PerInquirer Article Comment
1. P2.5M through a Metrobank check (per entry in the records of Benhur Luy for May 10, 2007); The amount of P2M, not P2.5M, was donated by Mrs. Napoles to the CARITAS SALVE Savings and Livelihood with Values Education Credit, a micro-finance program under Caritas Manila.
2. P434,451 for travel to Europe (per entry for October 16, 2008) The amount was donated for my airplane ticket as the Coordinator of the Divine Mercy for Asia, and the plane tickets of 4 Chinese priests representing China to theWorld Apostolate Congress of Mercy (WACOM) in Rome.
3. P800,000.00 for donations on several occasions The amount was spent for the following expenses incurred by 14 batches of Chinese priests and nuns taking Church renewal courses in the Philippines from Dec 2011 – Aug 2013.a. Food Expenses in  the amount of P57,143.00/month for each batch consisting of 20 priests and nuns;b. Honorarium for Lecturers; andc. Electricity and Water Expenses.
4. P310,550 for my birthday party The Napoles Family hosted a surprised birthday party for me and invited approximately 300 friends and former parishioners as guests. I have no knowledge of the exact amount spent for the said party.
5. P9,000.00 for “guard of Monsi for Jollibee” Food/meals from Jollibee were purchased by the host for the drivers of the guests who attended the party. I have no knowledge of the exact amount spent for the said foods/meals for the drivers.
6. Stipends totaling P344,000 on several occasions for “priests/nuns, deacons” from 2004 to 2010.  Since I met Ms. Napoles only in 2007, I can only attest to the fact that from 2007-2010, stipends were given to priests and nuns invited during special occasions, such as office anniversaries, the funeral Mass of Mrs. Magdalena Luy Lim, her death anniversary and other memorable occasions The priests, who were friends of Napoles family, and nuns were invited from various provinces and congregations. They were given stipends for their Charities and transportation.

 

            I hope that I have clarified the matters stated in the article published by the Inquirer.

            Thank you.

                                                Very truly yours,           

                                                 (SIGNED)      MONSIGNOR JOSEFINO S. RAMIREZ

In May, Villegas, visited  Napoles when she was confined in Ospital ng Makati. “The family of Mrs. Janet Napoles requested for prayers and blessings for fast recovery. As a priest I went there,” Villegas said.

He said he reminded the accused woman that “the blessing [would] only give healing if she [told] the whole truth without being selective.” 

END

CBCP Document : Pastoral Letter to Prepare for 2015 Papal Visit

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

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines officially announced Pope Francis’ visit to the country next year and recommended ways for Filipinos to prepare for the visit spiritually and socially, in the spirit of “mercy and compassion” underlying the visit.

Following is the full text of the document issued July 7 in Manila …

 

A Nation of Mercy and Compassion

Miserando atque Eligendo (Lowly but Chosen)

Pastoral Letter to Prepare the People of God for the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis

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

MY dear people of God:

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Philippines officially announces the visit of the Holy Father, Pope Francis to the Philippines, God willing at the beginning of next year, 2015. His visit carries a message of pastoral love, mercy and compassion from a Pope with the scent of a Good Shepherd (cf. John 10). Even though, this will be the fourth papal visit to our nation, for Pope Francis he will be the third Pope to visit our country. As the Successor to the Chair of Peter, the Holy Father is coming to strengthen his brothers and sisters (cf. Luke 22:32).

The underlying spirit of this Papal visit is the theme of “mercy and compassion” the cherished ideals of Jesus. In this regard, Matthew 9:36 tells us that Jesus “seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” In this context, Pope Francis comes to revive our “drooping spirit” and to lead us to greener pastures (cf. Psalm 23). Hence, he is bringing to us “the joy of the gospel” enshrined in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

Usually, our first reaction to the news of a papal visit is understandably one of euphoria and thanksgiving. The excitement of seeing Pope Francis in the Philippines is rising as the year 2015 gets nearer. However, we must prepare the nation to receive the Holy Father by setting our minds and hearts in communion with our dear Pope Francis, the messenger of peace, love, and the apostle of the poor. Our compassionate shepherd comes to show his deep concern for our people who have gone through devastating calamities, especially in the Visayas. He comes to confirm us in our faith as we face the challenges of witnessing to the Joy of the Gospel in the midst of our trials.

This is an eloquent way of showing mercy and compassion. Accordingly, in his Apostolic Exhortation, he has already voiced this concern in these words: “some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting” (Evangelii Gaudium 54). And the Pope comes to bring hope to our excluded Philippines. He brings a message to the poor among us.

A PEOPLE EAGER TO WELCOME

Let us allow Pope Francis himself to prepare us for his visit. How? The guiding motto of our dear Pope Francis is Miserando atque eligendo (meaning ‘lowly but chosen’). The literal translation from Latin is ‘by having mercy, by choosing him’. We can equally adapt this to be the motto of our nation as well. Though we are lowly among the nations, yet we have been chosen to receive the blessings of the Vicar of Christ. In this regard, Pope Francis reminds us that “the Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium 114).

Consistent with this, the Holy Father has clearly laid out his wish that the main objective of his visit is to bring Christ’s compassion for our suffering people still struggling to rise from the devastations wrought by the earthquake and typhoon that hit the Visayas.

This demand of Pope Francis is also consistent with Daniel 4:24 (NAB) which says: “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” Accordingly, it is not the logistics, security and infrastructure that best prepare us for the papal visit. Let us be like Pope Francis in his humility and his compassion. Let us make his apostolic journey of mercy to be ours even before he arrives.

A POPE RICH IN MERCY

In connection with the recent canonization of Saint John Paul II, and the remarkable emphasis Pope Francis has been giving to this particular element in Christian life, may we choose MERCY, incarnated, embodied, symbolized in the poor amongst us, to be placed at the center of this spiritual preparation for the papal visit.

It was Saint John Paul II who wrote deeply and movingly of God Our Father as “Dives in Misericordia”. In that profound encyclical, “mercy” was his name for God. Pope Francis, from the first days of his pontificate, has been preaching insistently and passionately on God’s constant and untiring mercy, and on the primacy of the Church’s mission of mercy and compassion in the world of our time.

It is noteworthy that perhaps the first major doctrinal-spiritual book of Pope Francis, which has been published in English bears the title, “The Church of Mercy”. The book “presents the heart of his teaching on the most fundamental themes of his vision of a new way of being Church.”

In it, the Holy Father asks: “Are we a Church that really calls and welcomes sinners with open arms, that gives courage and hope, or are we a Church closed in on herself? … Are we a Church which is a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by God’s love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost? … Are we a Church where the face of God dwells, where one cares for the other, where one prays for the other?”

EMBRACING THE MERCY OF GOD

From Pope Francis’ teaching, two aspects of mercy may be singled out.

First, the mercy and the patience of God toward sinners are made manifest in Jesus. Jesus is “the visible face of the mercy of God.” As the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, “God is there always, always waiting for us; he never grows tired. Jesus shows us the merciful patience of God.” And “this patience of God calls forth in us the courage to return to him, however many the sins and mistakes there may be in our lives.” Like Thomas in the gospel, “we too can enter into the wounds of Jesus; we can actually touch him. This happens every time we receive the sacraments with faith.” “It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his Heart.”

Secondly, we encounter Jesus in living out his own compassion and mercy towards our bothers and sisters in need and poverty, in suffering, loneliness, in hopelessness. “To meet the living God we must tenderly kiss the wounds of Jesus in our hungry people, in the sick and in imprisoned brothers and sisters. Study, meditation and mortification are not enough to have us encounter the living Christ. Like the apostle Thomas, our life will only be changed when we touch Christ’s wounds present in the poor, the sick and the needy. The path to our encounter with Jesus is his wounds. There is no other.” (Pope Francis, 3 July 2013)

A question then arises. In our Christian lives, where may we in fact draw the profound spirituality of mercy that can truly help us prepare spiritually for the papal visit? “They will look upon him whom they have pierced” (John 19: 37, NAB). The Fourth Gospel, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote, sums up the whole Christian spirituality. In this great image we see the whole story of our salvation in Jesus. We see God’s faithful love and mercy shining forth from the Cross. And we see the human response to that merciful love also in the pierced Heart of Christ.

A PEOPLE RICH IN MERCY

The most distinctive way to prepare spiritually for the coming of Pope Francis is for the Philippines to become a people rich in mercy. Let us make mercy our national identity. Trust in God’s mercy is part and parcel of our traditional Filipino Christian culture. Let us make the practice of mercy our gift to the Pope when he comes to visit us.

Concretely, in this period of preparation for the visit of Pope Francis, we are bidden to turn to the fountain of all mercy, Jesus, and encounter the Divine Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And having received such mercy we in turn practice acts of mercy.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbour in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all of these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.” (CCC 2447)

At the societal level, let us also not forget to address justice and mercy issues in the root causes of poverty and inequality in our country – such as the protection of the environment, the completion of agrarian reform, and the continuing challenges of good governance, peace-building, and inclusive growth for all.

A PREPARATION RICH IN MERCY

Mother sleeps with her toddler during a break from selling outside the convent of Sisters of St. Claire in Quezon City. NJ Viehland Photos

Mother sleeps with her toddler during a break from selling outside the convent of Sisters of St. Claire in Quezon City. NJ Viehland Photos

We encourage you our dear people to resolve to make an act of mercy every day.

You can reach out to a lonely stranger. You can tell the story of Jesus to a child eager to understand and feel the love of God. You can advise a confused co-worker. You can forgive someone who has wronged you.

You can give food to a hungry beggar. You can contribute to building homes for the typhoon victims. You can visit those in jail or prison. You can visit the charity ward of hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, homes for the elderly and orphanages. You can condole with the grieving families whose loved ones just died. You can give alms to the poor.

You can show mercy by making it a habit to say “please”, “thank you” or a kind word of appreciation. Refraining from cursing and using hurting words is an act of mercy. Being polite to the children and infants, to the sick and the elderly are great acts of mercy.

As we prepare for the coming of the Pope we are asked to have more access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and encourage our priests to increase their availability and visibility at the confessional, and turn earnestly to fervent participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice and even spend more time in Eucharistic adoration and to zealously be involved in making our Basic Ecclesial Communities and other faith-communities as venues for mercy and reconciliation. Let us prepare to see the Pope by reviving personal and family prayer. Pope Francis has challenged us to restore family prayer and devotion in our homes.

All of this opens to, nourishes, and sustains in our lives the gift of Mercy from the Heart of Jesus! May our Shrines of Divine Mercy be the source of inspiration and strength for our families.

When the Pope comes, he will bring with him the message of the mercy and compassion of God. When he meets us, may he see in us a people touched by the mercy of God, living out the compassion of God, a people truly rich in mercy and compassion and grateful to those who have shown mercy to us especially after various calamities hit our country.

May Mary, Our Mother of Mercy prepare us to meet Jesus in Pope Francis!

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, July 7, 2014

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President
7 July 2014

CBCP mourns student death in hazing, stresses challenge to Catholic educators

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued July 6 its Letter on the practice of violent initiations (hazing) that has led to deaths of students seeking membership in school-based fraternities.

At the time the Letter was released, Philippine National Police and Philippine National Bureau of Investigation were probing the death of 18 year-old Guillo Cesar Servando on June 28,  due to hazing. Three other students suffered bruises and other injuries in the hazing incident in connection with their application for membership in Tau Gamma Phi-College of St. Benilde Chapter.

St. Benilde is a college of De La Salle University owned and administered by Brothers of the Christian Schools.  

Following is CBCP’s Letter to Catholic Colleges and Universities on fraternity hazing sent to Catholic in Asia …

“Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Gen 4:10) 

LETTER
TO OUR CATHOLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
ON THE PRACTICE OF HAZING
IN SCHOOL BASED FRATERNITIES
 
My brothers and sisters in Christ in our Catholic schools:
 
Once more we must, as a nation, mourn the demise of a student of a Catholic school who lost his life at the hands of his supposed ‘brothers’ in a fraternity.  After Cain had lifted his hand against his brother, Abel, God called out to the murderer: The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. It is one of the most detestable ironies of our time that we must so often real from the devastation of brother killing brother in clandestine organizations like many fraternities are!
 
If, as the Church has always insisted, our Catholic schools are to be heralds of the saving news, there is nothing more contradictory to the message our schools exist to teach than the senseless loss of young lives because of ‘initiation rites’.  We therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms all officers, members and abettors of fraternities and sororities — and other organizations by whatever name they may call themselves — that, with disordered reason, believe that violent initiation rites assure loyalty and solidarity!  To incur this moral culpability, it is not necessary to have actually hurt, maimed or killed anyone.  The preparedness and willingness to participate in violent rites of initiation is in itself already a moral wrong!
 
Aside from the vigilance that is incumbent on all schools, however, it is important to understand somehow why youngsters seek membership in clandestine organizations.  Often students who find themselves adrift in our campuses, or lost in their new environments will seek the assurance of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ who will be there for them — to protect and to aid them in time of need.  They become easy prey for recruiters of fraternities and sororities. 
 
What this should tell our Catholic school administrators is that the licit organizations and recognized affiliations that we presently offer them are not interesting enough and do not give them that sense of security and solidarity that fraternities and like organizations seem to offer.  The Catholic school itself ought to be the community where each member finds the welcome, acceptance, affirmation and empowerment that we all need.  And the school must nurture those forms of association that strengthen bonds of friendship and love, mutual support and care, among members, so that none in the academic community may be lured to seek acceptance in shady societies.
 
The challenge therefore to our Catholic school administrators is to foster those organizations where there is genuine care, where the charity of Christ truly prevails, and where each is concerned that none is in want of anything that can be supplied!  The success of our World Youth Day celebrations amply demonstrates that such youth organizations inspired and founded on the Gospel and its values are possible.
 
But the hazing phenomenon has yet another ugly facet: the delight in the exercise of raw power.  Even the title by which some of the overlords of clandestine organizations — Master — are called already suggests that it is the unprincipled arrogation of power that leads to such condemnable displays of ascendancy over others as the violence that comes with many initiation rites.  All teachers and professors who recruit students for secret societies that include violence of any form in their initiation rites should be dismissed from our Catholic schools, after observing the demands of due process.  A Catholic school ought to be a basic ecclesial community.  But whoever has murder, injury or indignity in his heart for his brothers or sisters has thereby severed himself from such a community!  It is not acceptable for school administrators and faculty members to be members, much less officers, of societies that practice violence — especially when this is known to their students.  Not only does such membership lend a semblance of legitimacy to clandestine organizations; it is also a counter-sign of the evangelical values that ought to manifest themselves in the conduct and deportment of our Catholic school teachers who are called to be “salt of the earth, light of the world”.
 
“I no longer call your servants but friends…” and if we are friends of the Lord Jesus, we cannot but be friends towards each other, and one never kills or hurts or maims a friend!
 
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.
 
From the CBCP, Intramuros, Manila, July 6, 2014
 
 
 
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
   Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
   CBCP President

Will Pope Francis meet with ‘comfort women’ during his Aug. trip to Korea?

Korean news agencies citing an announcement by the Korean papal preparatory committee are reporting that women forced to work at Japanese military brothels during World War II have been invited to a Mass that Pope Francis will celebrate on Aug. 18 during his planned visit to South Korea.

Addressing the “comfort women” – and possibly meeting with them – could have international implications, as the issue remains highly charged in Asia,  a National Catholic Reporter blog says.

Around 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also from Philippines, China, Taiwan and Indonesia among others, were forced into sexual slavery for imperial troops as Japan stormed across Asia before and during World War II.

 

CBCP Document: Our Moral Response to the Unconstitutionality of DAP

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 addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

The Supreme Court has ruled that many government acts under the Development Acceleration Program (DAP) are without constitutional authority. Earlier, it ruled the Priority Assistant Development Fund (PDAF), more popularly known as the ‘pork-barrel fund’ also unconstitutional.

Why this Statement

The just distribution of the resources of the nation in accordance with the prescriptions of law and the tenets of morality is an issue of social justice. It is therefore a concern of the CBCP — and of the entire Church in the Philippines — as well.

Both DAP and PDAF involve enormous sums and while it is claimed by the government officials involved that these went into projects that benefited the people, there are serious allegations that we cannot summarily dismiss and ignore. Three senators have been charged, together with others, for the illegal use of pork-barrel funds. It is claimed that a considerable part went into ghost NGOs set up precisely to facilitate the conversion of public funds for personal and other illegal and immoral uses.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica's College museum.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica’s College museum.

Communal Guilt

But there is no reason to direct our ire only at the three senators, nor at those presently accused, for we must humbly recognize that the propensity to make use of what is not ours to better the lives of our families or to gain access to luxuries that would otherwise be beyond us will be found in all of us.

We are all guilty by attitude and by our disposition.

We renew our call for national conversion — the conversion not only of individuals but of institutions as well! It will be well for us to remember that conversion is our response to the ceaseless call of Love Incarnate, Jesus, to ‘turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel’.

We must pray together for the grace of conversion, because the prosecution and punishment of a few will not rid the nation of the propensity to corruption that is found in us all!

Appeal to Government

We call on the Commission on Audit and on the Office of the Ombudsman to tell the nation where DAP funds went. While, indeed, in many cases, it would be impractical, unhelpful even, to undo every project funded by what the High Court has ruled to be unconstitutional means, we must nevertheless know how these monies were used, for where there was illegal and immoral application of funds, there must be restitution.

There must be accountability.

We reiterate our position that investigation and inquest cannot and must not be selective, for public perception that some are shielded while others are persecuted detracts from the confidence people must repose in their institutions.

A government that professes to tread the straight path must remain true to that profession and must be willing to let go of the corrupt in its own ranks! We in the Church will do the same.

Many of our bishops have already established systems for the accountability of our pastors and parish leaders. We have issued guidelines so that we may be more vigilant about the provenance of donations and grants. This way, we in the Church strive to respond to the demands of honesty and fairness.

Let us restore integrity in our land.

From the Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila, July 4, 2014

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

Pope Francis appoints Filipino as new Vatican rep to the UN

MANILA, PHILIPPINES Pope Francis has appointed Filipino Archbishop Bernardito Cleopas Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, as the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York.

Read full report, photo

India diocese withdraws ad for larger families

Thiruvananthapuram: A Catholic diocese in Kerala, India, has withdrawn an advertisement in local media to encourage its people to raise large families, the India news service mattersindia.com reported.

Irinjalakuda diocese in Thrissur district has withdrawn its announcement of  a reward of 1,000 rupees (US$ 17)  for the fourth child in a family. The diocese would pay the amount until the child reaches 20 years. Church-managed institutions would sponsor the child’s education.

Read full report

Conference of European Bishops Condemns Crucifixions in Syria

Eight rebel fighters were crucified in Syria by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) because they were considered too moderate, Rome-based Zenit news agency reported on Monday, citing reports of a monitoring group Syrian Observatory for human Rights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on contacts on the ground in Syria, said the men were crucified on Saturday and that their corpses were still on view. The crucifixions took place in the town square of Deir Hafer in eastern Aleppo and will be left there for three days, it said.

Read full report

 

CBCP Document: THE CBCP and the Proposed Restoration of the Death Penalty

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 addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Although appalled by the spate of killings and other heinous crimes in the country, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday rejected calls to revive the death penalty.

Following is the full text of the bishops’ statement issued yesterday by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, CBCP President…

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine has been informed of attempts by advocacy groups to lobby the Legislature for the restoration of the death penalty.

The CBCP must, with full voice, express its position FOR LIFE and AGAINST DEATH. “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Our posture cannot be otherwise. The Gospel we preach is a Gospel of Life, but the position we take is defensible even on non-religious grounds.

AIM OF JUSTICE

Justice DOES NOT DEMAND the death penalty. A mature sense of justice steers as far as possible from retribution in the realization that visiting on an offender the same injury he inflicted on his victim makes matters no better at all for anyone! The aim of justice is the restoration of broken relations and the ruptured social coherence that follow from crime. Executing a human person does not contribute to any of these goals of justice. Neither can it be argued that the supreme penalty is necessary to vindicate a legal order. In fact, it is a weak and retrogressive legal order that calls for the execution of offenders for its vindication!

There is something terribly self-contradictory about the death penalty, for it is inflicted precisely in social retaliation to the violence unlawfully wielded by offenders. But in carrying out the death penalty, the State assumes the very posture of violence that it condemns!

CRUEL AND INHUMANE

Death penalty is cruel and inhumane in two senses.

 First, the terrible anxiety and psychological distress that come on one who awaits the moment of execution constitute the cruel and inhuman punishment that most legal systems today proscribe, including the Constitution of our country. It has been rightly said that the anticipation of impending death is more terrible a torture than suffering death itself!

Second, the members of the family of the condemned persons, many times including children, are, for their life-times, stigmatized as members of the family of an executed person, bearing with them the price of a crime they never committed.

 IMPERFECT JUSTICE SYSTEM

A most important consideration is the imperfection of our judicial system. While the CBCP has every respect for respectable judges, the fact is that the judicial system — including the process of evaluating and weighing evidence — is, like all human systems, liable to error. But the death penalty, once executed, is irreversible and no repentance or regret can ever make up for the horrible injustice of a person wrongfully executed. There is furthermore the sadder fact that some judges, betraying the dignity and nobility of their calling, allow extra-legal considerations to taint their judgments, rendering judicial disposition of cases less reliable still. Once more, we must make clear that the CBCP does not by any means intend to cast aspersions on the judiciary of our country and in fact calls on all our people to turn to the courts for the redress of grievances.

INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENT

Finally, the Philippines is a State-Party of the Second Optional Protocol of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the principal obligation we assumed under this international agreement is to abolish the death penalty. We cannot and should not renege on our international obligations, especially when these are not only lawful but moral. Pacta sunt servanda is not only a legal principle. It is key ethical imperative as well!

 From Betania Retreat House, Tagaytay City, July 2, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP

 

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist-Muslim clashes reveal the evil of politicising religion, Hector Welgampola

In mid-June, Sri Lankan Buddhists observed Poson, the festival marking the arrival of Buddhism from India. At June end, the country’s Muslims began Ramadan, their month-long fasting season. In between these religious observances, some members of the two groups were engaged in violent confrontation.

Long before the country fell under Western rule in 1505, Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese and Tamils had lived in peace with descendants of visiting Arab traders since the 12th century. The pacific lifestyle of the native peoples had offered an oasis for the Islamic traders from the arid climes. The only prior confrontation between Buddhists and Muslim had been in 1915. If those riots led to more deaths and destruction, the magnanimity of naive leaders helped heal inter-ethnic wounds and even pave the way for the country’s freedom struggle against British rule.

Still fresh after the yet-unresolved outcome of the 30-year war in the North, the recent Buddhist-Muslim clashes in the South raise a familiar question once more. Has political freedom equipped Sri Lankans with the moral calibre to forge inter-ethnic unity from the embers of strife? The debate is still open. As yet, much is being said about seemingly sudden provocations that lit the powder keg of ethno-religious attacks and destruction. Some trace it to the harassment of a Buddhist monk by a Saudi-returned Islamic youth. Others blame it on the demagogy of a Norway-visiting Buddhist monk. However, the hate war was more than a random event.

As above allegations infer, the impact of international elements may not be discounted. In recent decades, many local Muslims and non-Muslims migrated to West Asia in search of petrodollars. Trade and tourism drew West Asians to the country. A new power equation emerged, particularly during the 30-year war with Tiger rebels. When money spoke the language of power, rulers tolerated the influx of Wahabism and even jihadism.

While echoes of the Arab spring empowered some local Muslims, the rise of militarism alongside the ethnic war in the North, did not go unnoticed. Some of them found support in the patronage of West Asian powers, even more openly than Tamil Tigers had enjoyed India’s favor under the Gandhis.

Meanwhile, the war as well as post-war victory parades entrenched a war psychosis among some Southern Sinhalese. Instead of extending the hand of peace to fellow citizens of the war-ravaged North, rulers let racism thrive in the guise of patriotism. Extremist lobbies were quick to grasp the message, just as rulers had been to benefit from the war chest of defeated rebels. Opportunism is the refuge of political ambition.

In the absence of a magnanimous patriotic upswell or a Marshal Plan for nation-building, opportunism became an easy path for the establishment’s survival. Momentarily, it tolerated the anti-minorities stance of a few zealots who seemed to capture the momentum of chauvinist Sinhala-Buddhist political groups. Unsurprisingly, their first targets were Evangelical Christian communities. But in the face of international reaction to such arson and plunder, political godfathers changed strategy.

The revised master plan was to kill two birds with one stroke! Ambitious godfathers had watched the collapse of the Norwegian government which once supported the Tamil Tigers. Reportedly, Norway’s new rulers were lobbied to counter their predecessors’ support for the Tigers by backing the Southern ethno-religious surge. It worked. The key Buddhist monk who engaged with Norway became the firebrand of new-born Bodu Bala Sena (BBS, army of Buddhist power). Like India’s Shiv Sena (army of god Shiva) which had attacked Ayodya’s Babri Mosque, BBS led sporadic anti-Islamic campaigns in various parts of the country before the mid-June clash in Southern Sri Lanka.

And now, weeks after that wave of death and destruction, there has been no end to the gimmicks of spin doctors of all political parties seeking to get as much mileage as possible from that disaster. Their ultimate aim is to exploit it to enhance their power base for the elections due in 2015. Goons responsible for the mayhem are blamed or defended with that goal in view. It is not mere politicisation, it is vicious political exploitation. Amid such mean power games, possible economic pressure from 14 Islamic nations adds to the threatened loss of employment to a million locals working there. And instead of getting trapped in such exploitative power play, local or foreign, all religions should rally to rescue people from further abuse. Religious leaders must exit comfort zones of political privilege, and fearlessly champion moral integrity. Otherwise, the future could be far more dismal than during the ethnic conflagration that raged for three decades.

In particular, Christians have a moral duty at a time when the future of the nation is threatened. This season sacred to both Buddhists and Muslims, is also sacred to Christians as the season of Corpus Christi. The festival of fellowship obligates Christians to promote justice, peace and moral uplift, not to connive in exploitative politics. It obligates mutual empowerment with moral integrity – sustenance for the long march of nation-building.

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 retired as 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

Cardinal Ranjith: Protect Sri Lanka as one family

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka [Wikimedia commons}

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka [Wikimedia commons}

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, in a press release on recent clashes and riots at Aluthgama, says all those who foster divisive thinking should be punished and all such thoughts of hegemony or separatism should not be encouraged anywhere in their country, a photo story posted on the official website of the Archdiocese of Colombo reported.

The report quotes Cardinal Ranjith’s appeal for protection and preservation of the diversity of the various ethnic and religious groups and for fostering unity.

The cardinal also reportedly called upon government officials to “do their utmost to ensure that discipline, rule of law and harmony exists among all groups. “

 

Read the full statement

Related report

Do more to stop anti-Muslim riots, Islamic nation reps to Sri Lanka president

 

 

 

Cardinal Tagle: Upcoming synod will reflect clear picture of families

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of the Synod on the Family, at the June 10 press conference on the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress discussed the synod in his response to National Catholic Reporter's question: What can Catholics who are not allowed to receive the Eucharist hope for in the upcoming synod. - NJ Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of the Synod on the Family, at the June 10 press conference on the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress discussed the synod in his response to National Catholic Reporter’s question: What can Catholics who are not allowed to receive the Eucharist hope for in the upcoming synod. – NJ Viehland Photo

For Philippines Cardinal Luis Tagle, the two stages of the Synod of Bishops on the family that Pope Francis will convene in Rome are “hopeful signs” that the Church is willing to listen not only to the success stories and joys of families, but also to the difficulties families experience worldwide.

At a June 10 press conference in Manila, Cardinal Tagle pointed out various reasons why Filipino spouses separate, some of them because of marital problems, but many others “because of poverty that leads to forced migration.” He described the latter as “separation because they love.” 

Daniel and Evita Licardo (seated) celebrated their silver wedding anniversary with their daughters, relatives and friends grateful for "blessings" they received especially while Daniel was away, working in Kuwait since one year after they were married. - Photo by Noriza Licardo published with permission.

Daniel and Evita Licardo (seated) celebrated their silver wedding anniversary with their daughters, relatives and friends grateful for “blessings” they received especially while Daniel was away, working in Kuwait since one year after they were married. – Photo by Noriza Licardo published with permission.

 

Cardindal Tagle said Pope Francis wants various voices on the matter of separation of spouses to be heard.

Read full report

 

Message to Youth of Asia ahead of Asian Youth Day – FABC office member

Screenshot of the message of Bishop Joel Baylon, member of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences Office of laity and Family, to the youth of Asia preparing for Asian Youth Day in Korea in August that Pope Francis will be addressing.

Screenshot of the message of Bishop Joel Baylon, member of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences Office of laity and Family, to the youth of Asia preparing for Asian Youth Day in Daejeon, South Korea in August 10-17  that Pope Francis will be addressing.

Bishop Joel Baylon message Asian Youth Day zoom in

Related reports

Pope Francis Korean trip themes: youth, martyrs, peace

Papal visit to Korea motto and logo released

 

 

Ecumenical gestures alongside peace-prayer for Jesus’ homeland – Hector Welgampola

Pope Francis first met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in the Holy Land on May 25. That encounter in the region of Jesus’ birth also paved the way for the two heirs of Peter and Andrew to pray in the Vatican for peace between Israel and Palestine. Spirit-led gestures!

Some observers were cynical that the two Christian leaders met with Israel’s Jewish President Shimon Peres and Palestine’s Muslim President Mahmoud Abbas only to pray separately, not together. Nonetheless, their June 8 peace prayers were addressed to the same God, God is one, though invoked by varied names. And the four believers prayed for peace. As admitted by President Peres, “The two peoples – Israelis and Palestinians – still are aching for peace.” President Abbas reciprocated by praying that the Holy Land be made “a secure land for all believers.”

In addition to his own prayer and words of welcome, Pope Francis thanked the Eastern Church leader, Patriarch Bartholomew, for attending the prayer event at the seat of the Western Church. On the next day, in an interview with the Spanish-language “La Vanguardia,” the pope spoke of the momentum of ecumenism. “Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has made efforts to become closer and the Orthodox Church has done the same,” he explained. “It is not conceivable that we Christians are divided, it’s a historical sin that we have to repair,” he added.

The focus on the “historical sin” of division came up again in papal discourse just one week later. This time, the pope was meeting with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, who was in Rome for an event marking Anglican-Catholic collaboration. The head of the worldwide Anglican communion expressed a desire for full communion between the two Churches. The pope spoke of their shared history, which includes, not only cooperation, but also division. “We cannot claim that our division is anything less than a scandal and an obstacle to our proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the world,” the pope said after the two men prayed in silence.
“Our vision,” he further noted, “is often blurred by the cumulative burden of our divisions and our will is not always free of that human ambition which can accompany even our desire to preach the Gospel as the Lord commanded.”

The encounter echoed a similar event in the Vatican, way back in 1960. It was a historic meeting between the predecessors of Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby. Pope Saint John XXIII was meeting then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Geoffey Fisher. It was the first time the world’s Catholic leader met with the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

“John XXIII, the Official Biography,” says that the Vatican’s overcautious L’Osservatore Romano newspaper had used the smallest possible print type to downplay Dr. Fisher’s visit. Enduring curial fears with great charity, the pope had said, “Not everyone here understands these things: they want perfection or nothing!” According to Archbishop Fisher’s taped biography, the pope had shown even greater magnanimity as he listened to the Anglican leader. Quoting from his 1959 encyclical, “Ad Petri Cathedram” (toward the See of Peter) the pope had exclaimed how he looked forward to the time “when our separated brethren would return to the Church.”

“Not return, Your Holiness,” the Anglican head had interjected.

“Not return? Why not?” the pope queried, reportedly.

“None of us can go backwards,” said Archbishop Fisher, adding, “we are all running on a parallel course, but we are looking forward until in God’s good time our two courses come and meet.”

While we continue to live in such hope, November 21, 2014, will mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism and the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches. Yet, “God’s ‘s good time” still continues to be “blurred” by what Pope Francis called “the cumulative burden of our divisions.” And as the pope very realistically noted, human ambition seems to thwart God’s good time too, just as it thwarts the peace that humans long for.
It all calls for prayer, more prayer and togetherness in prayerful action as we await the Lord’s healing manna of consociation.
END

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.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka is a 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, and authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary & Stylebook http://books.google.com/books/about/Asian_Church_Glossary_Stylebook.html?id+uAFZQwAACAAJ

 

Do more to stop “anti-Muslim” riots- Islamic nation reps to Sri Lanka president

Ambassadors and Heads of Mission and High Commissioners representing Muslim nations in Sri Lanka reportedly met with Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees and declared that all Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhists will stand to lose their jobs in their nations and other barriers would be place on Sri Lanka immediately due to government’s failure to stop “anti-Muslim” sentiments and violence spreading nationwide.

Officials at the meeting reportedly represented governments of Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The report cites the UAE Ambassador saying that his government believes the president’s brother and Defense Secretary Gothabhaya Rajapaksa and the military’s links to the anti-Muslim sentiments and violence.

Officials at the meeting reportedly gathered by Cabinet Minister Rauf Hakeem expressed dissatisfaction and warned Rajapaksa that if the anti-Muslim riots and attacks around the island are not stopped, there will be “severe repercussions” on him and his government diplomatically and economically.

Violence persists even after the Sinhalese who comprise 74 percent of Sri Lanka’s population celebrated victory in May 2009 against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who fought a bloody 26-year separatist war.

This time police are pointing the finger at a Buddhist extremist group called Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) – meaning the army of the Buddhist power – led by ethno-fascist monks as leading the riots last week that left 4 people dead, 80 wounded and hundreds of homes and shops destroyed.

Since the outburst of riots last week, all Arab and Islamic countries have placed an indefinite travel ban on Sri Lanka. This has reportedly significantly contributed to Sri Lanka’s tourism revenue the last two years.

Sri Lanka’s highest foreign exchange earner is also reportedly from expatriate labor remittances from the Middle East and other Muslim countries, which has been the sole provider for Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves.

Imposing restrictions on Sri Lankan labour in the Middle East and Muslim countries, could send the country’s economy plunging overnight, the report said.

Last year alone, these nations provided almost US$ 2 billion in grant aid to Sri Lanka for development projects in education, medical and health care, the report added.

If Islamic countries restrict oil supplying, Sri lanka will be compelled to import from Russia at three times the price per barrel of crude oil.

 

 

Gov’t hosts meeting for Pope Francis’ Visit to Sri Lanka, ahead of PH

Sri Lanka’s Inter-Ministerial Task Force preparing for Pope Francis’ “state visit” from January 13 to 15 next year gathered together  public, civic, private business and Church leaders for the first time June 24 at the External Affairs Ministry, its Daily News national newspaper reported.

Sri Lankan unofficial source for dates of the papal visit to the south Asian country has also been cited saying the pope would arrive in the Philippines from Sri Lanka on January 15 in a report which the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news website  and Facebook account cited.

For the Sri Lanka visit, External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris welcomed Archbishop of Colombo His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Apostolic Nuncio Nguyen Van Tot, Bishop of Chilaw Most Rev. Valence Mendis, Bishop of Galle Most Rev. Raymond Wickramasinghe, Bishop of Kurunegala Most Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony Perera, Defence and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Law and Order Ministry Secretary Major General Nanda Mallawarachchi, Mass Media and Information Ministry Secretary Dr. Charitha Herath, Chief of Defence Staff General Jagath Jayasuriya, Army Commander Lt. General R.M.D. Ratnayake, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Air Force Commander Air Marshal K.A. Gunathilake, Inspector General of Police N.K. Illangakoon and representatives of other stakeholder institutions including the Public Administration and Home Affairs Ministry, the Highways Ministry, Airport and Aviation Services Ltd., SriLankan Airlines, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Immigration and Emigration Department and the Colombo Municipal Council.

All arrangements regarding the State Visit of His Holiness the Pope were discussed comprehensively at this meeting.

It was agreed that a further discussion would take place with the advance team from the Vatican due to visit Sri Lanka next week.

Read report, view meeting photos 

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis would be travelling to Korea from August 14 to August 18 this year during which he will visit with and address young people from around the region gathered for Asian Youth Day, persons with disabilities, leaders of religious and lay groups. The pope will also hold private meetings with South Korean president and public officials as well as Catholic bishops of Korea.

No formal announcement has come from the Vatican concerning exact dates of Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, which the pope told an inflight press conference would be on January.

Sri Lanka media, quoting Cardinal Ranjith reported the January 13 – January 15 visit to their south Asian country. Catholic News Agency report later cited Monsignor Nevin Perera, coordinator of Sri Lankan migrants in Italy, saying that Pope Francis will leave Sri Lanka for Manila on the morning of January 15.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle also expressed confidence that the papal visit will push through. In an early June press conference on the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress attended by CiA, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo told reporters a Vatican representative is expected to attend the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines July plenary assembly to discuss the pope’s visit to the Philippines.

Palo Archbishop John Du, said the papal visit would boost the morale of ‘Yolanda’ (super typhoon Haiyan) survivors, especially those who are still struggling to rebuild their lives.

He said the typhoon survivors in Leyte await the pope’s visit and anticipate eagerly Pope Francis’ arrival in their province.

“The pope’s visit is another big blessing. We are happy for the blessing that come to us– the pope is coming, the people’s solidarity and the overwhelming generosity of the people,” Du said.

According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which reports worldwide church figures as of Dec. 31, 2011, the increase in the number of Catholics in Africa (4.3 percent) and Asia (2 percent) greatly outpaced their regions’ population growth, which was 2.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

 

.

Photo archive – Cardinal Tagle and Mother Mila blowing cake, video

Mrs. Milagros Gokim-Tagle (in red) helped Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila blow the candle on his cake on June 21, 2012, his first birthday anniversary after being appointed archbishop of Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Mrs. Milagros Gokim-Tagle (in red) helped Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila blow the candle on his cake on June 21, 2012, his first birthday anniversary after being appointed archbishop of Manila. – NJ Viehland Photo

What did it take for a woman to raise a son like Luis Antonio Tagle, now cardinal of Manila?
What was the role of Milagros Gokim-Tagle in the growth of her son’s priestly vocation?
How did she support him and what role does she play now that he is a bishop?

Milagros Tagle, “Nanay Mila” to family, friends and the public, spoke to Family Rosary Crusade TV’s “Church Alive” program about what it is like to be a bishop’s mother. The video was recorded two years before Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Tagle, then bishop of his home Diocese of Imus, Cavite, south of Manila, as Archbishop of Manila in 2011 and three years before the pope created him a cardinal in the Nov. 2012 consistory in Rome.

Speaking her own views in Tagalog, “Nanay” (mother) Mila talked about Cardinal Tagle’s wish to be a doctor, and how her sibling who was a doctor turned over to the Cardinal his medical books in case they would prove useful to him.Â

However, his priest friends accompanied him to take the entrance test in the Jesuit Ateneo University, and he passed.
His mother told Church Alive program  with her son already a bishop, he still follows their advice on certain personal matters  especially regarding care for his health.

She said as a bishop, her son does not dictate to her. He advises on people approaching them to bring matters to the cardinal.
“We advise people to write a letter and give to his (cardinal’s) secretary. Everything goes through his secretary,” Nanay Mila said.

Concerning her role as Cardinal Tagle’s mother, she sees this as just a way that God is using her as instrument of his will.
“It’s just like Jesus. Mary did not know that the child she was going to give birth to is the son of God,” the bishop’s mother said.

The slogan popularized by Congregation of Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton, the Irish-born priest who started Family Crusade in the Phiippines, “The family that prays together stays together,” is this still relevant today?

Nanay Mila says even if they are separated, families could pray wherever they are. “It is my weapon. That is what I tell my fellow mothers and my friends who have changed religion. You don’t know, it’s a weapon? No matter where you go, you will be safe from harm.”

Nanay Mila as a mother would look in on her children when they went to bed and again in the morning before the get up. She believes mothers should be able to do the same to their children and laments that women have to go abroad to earn a living.

The summary is based on summary of unofficial translations of the interview.

View full Family Rosary TV video of the interview  with Nanay Mila in Tagalog.

E ND

 

Interview: Franciscan Sister Crecensia Lucero, human rights defender

[updated June 21, 4:21 a.m.]

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (left) marched to campaign for protection of human rights to avoid repetition of abuses during and around the martial law period 1972-1981. Photo Courtesy of Philippine Center for Human Rights/Task Force Detainees https://www.facebook.com/TaskForceDetaineesofthePhilippines

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (left) marched to campaign for protection of human rights to avoid repetition of abuses during and around the martial law period 1972-1981. Photo Courtesy of Philippine Center for Human Rights/Task Force Detainees https://www.facebook.com/TaskForceDetaineesofthePhilippines

Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Sister Crecensia Lucero reflected on her ministry with victims of human rights violations spanning more than 40 years. The journey she traced is marked by work she and young sisters and lay partners did to serve needs of political prisoners and their families during years when the country was placed under military rule (1972-1981) and years of “restored democracy” that followed. The road has brought her to an expanded ministry thriving in  partnerships with farmers struggling to transform exploitative systems, indigenous peoples and members of other sectors collaborating to end people’s suffering due to various forms of “injustice ” around Asia.

In an interview with Global Sisters Report (GSR), Sister Lucero explained challenges, successes and “heartaches” in the history of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFD). As co-chair, she describes how evolving challenges are impacting perspectives and strategies of her social justice ministry and the charism and mission of her congregation. Beyond words and ideas, however, she demonstrated these concepts and strategies in various dialogues and training seminars GSR covered earlier in the year.

A fact-finding mission representing Christian groups visited the site of an attack on the convent of Father Jose Francisco Talaban of Infanta Prelature in June 2010 presented to the Commission on Human Rights and human rights advocates, including Sr. Cresencia Lucero initial information they gained from probing groups and individuals in Casiguran town, Aurora province where some indigenous people and other groups are opposing the development of an economic zone. NJ Viehland Photos

A fact-finding mission representing Christian groups visited the site of an attack on the convent of Father Jose Francisco Talaban of Infanta Prelature in June 2010 presented to the Commission on Human Rights and human rights advocates, including Sr. Cresencia Lucero initial information they gained from probing groups and individuals in Casiguran town, Aurora province where some indigenous people and other groups are opposing the development of an economic zone. NJ Viehland Photos

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (right, in habit) witnessed the presentation last year of report of an ecumenical fact finding mission on residents' opposition to the planned APECO export processing zone development project in Casiguran, Quezon to the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. By NJ Viehland

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (right, in habit) witnessed the presentation last year of report of an ecumenical fact finding mission on residents’ opposition to the planned APECO export processing zone development project in Casiguran, Quezon to the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. By NJ Viehland

Read full interview published by GSR. GSR is a project of National Catholic Reporter that reports how consecrated women participate in the mission of the Church.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) established TFD in 1974 to assist political prisoners when the “dictatorship” of the late President Ferdinand Marcos banned organizations. TFD provided moral spiritual, legal and material support to prisoners and their families. Franciscan Sister Mariani Dimaranan, an ex-political detainee, directed the organization until 1989, when Lucero took over as director. Sister  Dimaranan continued as chair until her death in 2005 at the age of 81 years.

In 2012, Sister Lucero was again nominated co-chair of the Task Force’s Board of Trustees with Order of Carmelites Philippines Father Christian “Toots” Buenafe up to this year.

 

Cambodian migrants return empty-handed from Thailand – Channel News Asia

Fearing arrest by Thailand’s new army rulers, tens of thousands of Cambodian migrant workers have fled the country. But many of them are returning home to bleak work prospects and an uncertain future.

Read this story of migration and Asian families

Catholic bishops launch preparations for Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka –

Bishops of Sri Lanka met with priests and the apostolic nuncio in Colombo on June 17 to begin preparations for the announced visit of Pope Francis to their country in January, a priest reported on the official website of the Archdiocese of Colombo.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka and nuncio Archbishop Nguyen Van Tot presided at the Central Committee Meeting at the Bishops’ Conference hall, Borella, Colombo, reported Fr.Sunil De Silva. 

Bishops and priests at the meeting reportedly discussed possible sites for papal visits and formed committees that would prepare for Pope Francis’ visit next year. 

Cardinal Ranjith is cited as saying he had received information saying the “tentative dates” of the pope’s visit to Sri Lanka would be on January 13, 14 and 15, 2015. A delegation from the Vatican is reportedly expected to arrive to discuss the papal visit.

See the meeting in pictures via the Archdiocese of Colombo

Pope Francis also told a news conference during his flight from the Holy Land to Rome in May he would visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January.

Philippines Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato also told Manila reporters last week after a press conference on the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress that a representative from the Vatican would be arriving around the time of this July’s plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to discuss arrangements for Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines after his trip to Sri Lanka.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

End

 

 

 

Pope Francis Korean trip themes: youth, martyrs, peace

Korean boys, among tens of thousands of Korean students in the Philippines, attend Mass at St Vincent Korean Catholic Community center in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, northeast of Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Korean boys, among tens of thousands of Korean students in the Philippines, attend Mass at St Vincent Korean Catholic Community center in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, northeast of Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

Statue and dedication stone of St. Kim Dae Gun at the Korean Personal Parish in Taguig, Pasig diocese, east of Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Statue and dedication stone of St. Kim Dae Gun at the Korean Personal Parish in Taguig, Pasig diocese, east of Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

 

The Vatican Wednesday released details of Pope Francis’ upcoming mid-August trip South Korea, saying the trip’s major themes will be: youth, martyrs and peace.

Read Pope Francis’ Aug. 14-Aug.18 program of activities in Korea

Sectarian violence in southern Sri Lanka, off limits to media – RWB

The Sri Lankan authorities asked the local media not to cover the clashes between Buddhists and Moslems that erupted in the southern region of Aluthgama on the night of 15 June, Reporters Without Borders reported.  A curfew was also imposed in an attempt to contain a situation described by the government as “tense.”

Read Reporters Without Borders’ full report

Sri Lanka bishops’ conference president: Pope Francis to visit Jan. 13-15

Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

Archdiocese of Colombo website, citing remarks attributed to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, reports that Pope Francis is expected to visit Sri Lanka on Jan. 13, 14 and 15. 

The pope has announced he would visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January, but did not give the exact dates.

Read the full Archdiocese of Colombo report 

 Related reports

Gifts Sri Lanka bishops asked from Pope Francis

South Asian Jesuits conduct special prayers for abducted confrere – Matters India

New Delhi: More than 4,000 Jesuits in South Asia have been praying for the release of a confrere who was abducted in Afghanistan nearly two weeks ago.

“There is growing frustration as there has been no progress in the case,” Father Joy Karayampura, spokesperson for the South Asian Assistancy of the Society of Jesus told Matters India Friday.

Jesuit Father Alexius Prem Kumar was abducted by suspected Islamic militants Taliban from Sohadat village, 25 km from Herat province of Afghanistan, on March 2. The 47-year-old priest, a member of the Madurai Jesuit province, is the country head of the Jesuit Relief Service (JRS), an international NGO.

Read full story 

Will Pope Francis come to the Philippines for the Eucharistic Congress?

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. - NJ Viehland Photos

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. – NJ Viehland Photos

This is question #14 in Frequently Asked Questions {FAQ) on the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) scheduled to be held in Cebu on Jan. 24-30, 2016.

Traditionally, the Pope doesn’t attend International Eucharistic Congresses, and sends instead a Papal Legate to represent him in this gathering, the printed FAQ handed out at the June 10 press conference in Manila says.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI's video message announcing last year the 51st International Eucharistic Congress venue would be in Cebu was screened at the June 10 press con in Arzobispado de Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s video message announcing last year the 51st International Eucharistic Congress venue would be in Cebu was screened at the June 10 press con in Arzobispado de Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

IEC is a Church event where people from different parts of the world gather together to celebrate the Eucharist; to reflect the richness of the Eucharist and to pray before the Eucharist, organizers explained.

Eucharist is the Sacrament in which Jesus Christ gives himself – his body and blood – for us, so that we too might give ourselves to Him in love and be united with him in Holy Communion (YOUCAT, 208)

The first time delegates came to Asia for an IEC was for the 1937 congress held in Manila.

Philippines' most senior cardinal amused guests at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros, with stories of his first communion at 6 years old during the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress in Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Philippines’ most senior cardinal amused guests at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros, with stories of his first communion at 6 years old during the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress in Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, 57, said he had no personal experience to share about the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress when his parents were only 7 years old. He shared instead his reflections on the theme of the 51st IEC, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, 57, said he had no personal experience to share about the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress when his parents were only 7 years old. He shared instead his reflections on the theme of the 51st IEC, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – NJ Viehland Photos

"Eucharist is the unique prayer of Jesus, he is just taking us along. It is the 'ruruk' (summit) of our Christianity," retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales explained, teaching some a new Tagalog word. - NJ Viehland photos

“Eucharist is the unique prayer of Jesus, he is just taking us along. It is the ‘ruruk’ (summit) of our Christianity,” retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales explained, teaching some a new Tagalog word. – NJ Viehland photos

At the press con to formally present the IEC to media, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, Congress chairman replied to a request for confirmation of Pope Francis’ attendance at the congress:

 “We have heard of reports he’s coming next year, we pray he will come to the Eucharistic Congress, but until we have definite word he is coming we are not sure.

  “Meantime we can pray because we believe the holy father loves us. The fact is he has sent many cardinals to come over to manifest his love for the people especially those affected by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)…

Meanwhile, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato said:

“If the holy father is coming to visit disaster areas, there are two kinds of disaster – natural and man-made. I hope…I wish that he will also visit the disaster area called Central Mindanao. But that will depend on the nuncio, the pope, Archbishop (Socrates) Villegas (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president), perhaps the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

After the press conference Cardinal Quevedo explained:

“I was simply wishing that perhaps for the Holy Father when he comes to the Philippines to visit Yolanda victims he can have a side trip if his time allows to go to Cotabato City and perhaps push the peace process there.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato summarizes CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas' letter as Bishop Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao and retired Cardinal Vidal listen to him answer a reporter's question on the pork barrel controversy. - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato summarizes CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ letter as Bishop Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao and retired Cardinal Vidal listen to him answer a reporter’s question on the pork barrel controversy. – NJ Viehland Photos

Dulce and her son sang the International Eucharistic Congress theme song at the June 10 press conference at Arzobispado - NJ Viehland Photos

Dulce and her son sang the International Eucharistic Congress theme song at the June 10 press conference at Arzobispado – NJ Viehland Photos

 

(more)

 

Cardinal Lourdusamy, “bridge between India and Rome”

Lourdusamy to Puducherry The Hindu

The remains of Cardinal Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy now rest in his home diocese where Catholic and political leaders paid their respects to the first cardinal of Asia outside the Middle East to be appointed to serve in the Roman curia.

Cardinal Lourdusamy,‎ former prefect of the ‎Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches and former Archbishop of ‎Bangalore, passed away June 2 morning in a Rome clinic where he ‎had been hospitalized due to failing health, the Vatican announced. He was 90.

Father Albert Thambidurai, director of Pondicherry Multipurpose Social Service Society recognized Cardinal Lourdusamy’s participation in the Second Vatican Council  (Vatican II), the assembly convened by St. John XXIII that gathered more than 2,000 bishops, clergy, religious and lay people from around the world in Rome for discussions between 1962-1965 to settle doctrinal issues.

Through Cardinal Lourdusamy’s work, “He became a bridge between Rome and India,” The Hindu newspaper quotes Father Thambidurai.

Read full report here

Social dev’t. movement anniversary shines spotlight on charcoal making project

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle discusses with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, his predecessor as archbishop of Manila in the sidelines of a plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in Manila / Dave Viehland Photo published with permission.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle discusses with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, his predecessor as archbishop of Manila in the sidelines of a plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in Manila / Dave Viehland Photo published with permission.

            Pondo ng Pinoy the movement began by Manila Archbishop Emeritus Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales in the Archdiocese of Manila marks its 10th year by showcasing the Eco-Uling project that gives livelihood to persons with disability and that promotes the environment. The project produces charcoal briquette from a combination of water lily, coconut husk and shell.
 
            The celebration for its 10th year on June 12, 2014 will be held at the community where the Eco-Uling project is located in Taguig City. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle leads visitors at the project site where there will be a demonstration of how the unique charcoal briquettes are produced starting at 8 a.m., followed by a program at the Ed Carlos Property, C6 Road, Brgy. Calsada, Taguig City. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle will celebrate the Mass at 11 a.m.  About one thousand delegates from 21 Pondo ng Pinoy member diocses are expected to attend the celebration.
Charcoal maker in small home industry in San Isidro Parish, Bagong Silangan, Novaliches diocese on Good Friday 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Charcoal maker in small home industry in San Isidro Parish, Bagong Silangan, Novaliches diocese on Good Friday 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

 
            Some 20 persons with disability and their young Muslim friends run the project, from the gathering of the materials, to the technical production and marketing. With this project, Pondo ng Pinoy has enabled the disabled persons to earn a living by themselves. Also, the project is able to utilize water lily which causes problems in the waterways because of its proliferation that leads to clogging and flooding especially during the rainy season.
 
            Pondo ng Pinoy initially granted the project Php300,000 (US$6,880) and gave an additional Php280,000 to expand the operation.
 
            Cardinal Rosales saw in Pondo ng Pinoy a way by which every person, “no matter how poor, no matter how humble, the freedom to give, to help and live fully.” This is because Pondo ng Pinoy aims to cultivate the culture of giving and helping another, through saving as little as 25 centavos a day as an act of love for the poor and as symbol of one’s good works. The money, Cardinal Rosales said, would be meaningless without the love that is generated from saving it. Cardinal Rosales summed up the Pondo ng Pinoy principle in this motto, “Anumang magaling kahit maliit basta’t malimit ay patungong langit.” That is, small ordinary acts can accomplish great things if done or given by many, frequently and consistently pooled together for a common vision.
A March 27-30 nationwide survey of the Social Weather Stations found that 17.8% of the respondents -- equivalent to an estimated 3.9 million families -- claimed to have experienced having nothing to eat in the past three months. - Ed Gerlock photo, published with permission.

A March 27-30 nationwide survey of the Social Weather Stations found that 17.8% of the respondents — equivalent to an estimated 3.9 million families — claimed to have experienced having nothing to eat in the past three months. – Ed Gerlock photo, published with permission.

 
            To date Pondo ng Pinoy has sponsored more than 300 projects on health, livelihood and development, alternative learning, housing, and Hapag-Asa (subsidy) feeding program, amounting to more 200 million.
 
            Pondo ng Pinoy movement operates through the Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation. It has as members, aside from the Archdiocese of Manila, 18 dioceses, two apostolic vicariates, and the Military Ordinariate. 

Thy will be done…even on The Voice!

N.J. Viehland:

Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia’s success in The Voice certainly breaks stereotypes, including,
nun = spinster (to borrow from Pope Francis’ message to some 800 women religious representing International Union of Superiors General (UISG in May 2013)

 

Originally posted on CNS Blog:

ROME — Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia’s landslide victory on The Voice of Italy last night wasn’t as big a surprise as much as what she did with her winner’s platform.

prize

She thanked everyone on the talent show for their help and support, but left her highest praise for God.

“My final and most important thanks go to the one who is up there,” she said to applause.

thank him

She said her presence on The Voice wasn’t to walk away a winner or a music star, but to show people a different kind of victory:

“My dream is to recite the Our Father together, maybe we can all hold each other’s hands and pray. I want Jesus to come right here inside!”

It left most people perplexed and unsure, but Sister Cristina was in charge, telling the band to strike up a soft melody to set the mood.

Half-joking, the MC said…

View original 408 more words

CiA Document : Moral Ethical Dimensions of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform

Farmer beneficiaries of Land reform in Cabuyao, Laguna, south of Manila tell visitors how they banded together in Casile-Guinting Upland Marketing Cooperative (CGUMC) to support each other in developing and improving productivity and hold a strong bargaining position in the business of farming. - NJ Viehland Photos

Farmer beneficiaries of Land reform in Cabuyao, Laguna, south of Manila tell visitors how they banded together in Casile-Guinting Upland Marketing Cooperative (CGUMC) to support each other in developing and improving productivity and hold a strong bargaining position in the business of farming. – NJ Viehland Photos

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform will expire on June 30.

Where do we go from here?  We cannot remain oblivious to the plight of the poor famers.  It is useful to review some of the guiding principles that come from the treasury of Church social teaching.

 Basic Principles

First, capital (including land) exists for the sake of labour, because the human person is a ‘labouring being’ who fulfills his vocation in the dignity of human labour.

Second, the human person is more important than material things. Human beings must not be placed second to the land that they till.

Third, the private ownership of the world’s resources cannot and should not be the reason that God’s sons and daughters are denied access to these resources for the achievement of their full stature as human persons.  In other words, in the ethical order, the right to use precedes the right to own and private ownership is justified only to the extent that it allows for the more efficient use of the world’s resources.

 The Situation

The hard facts are disturbing.  In 2011, the Agrarian Reform Communities Level Development Assessment (ALDA) showed that 54% of households among agrarian-reform beneficiaries fell below the poverty line.  Due to this, we now have a class of newly-landed Filipinos, the majority live below the poverty-line.  This is what prompts observers to recognize a new class of farmers: “the landed poor“.

What is clear is that distributing expropriated land to beneficiaries and leaving them to their own resources does not serve the purpose of agrarian reform, for it is very well possible that the beneficiaries, lacking the wherewithal and the skills render of their new holdings that were hitherto productive now unproductive.  The generous allocation of funds for farm inputs, unless accompanied by an uncompromisingly rigid system of accounting and transparency, will only line the pockets of those who have remorselessly profited from public funds!

In this respect, the Church will do its share, and dioceses and other ecclesiastical jurisdictions are urged to activate their social action commissions to police, observe and report on the allocation, distribution and application of public monies and funds targeting farm productivity.  

Regrettably, some farmer-beneficiaries of agrarian reform have had recourse to the subterfuge of alienating their newly-acquired property in the underground market in an attempt to make quick money, frustrating the very purposes of land distribution.  In this respect, legal reform towards allowing farmer-beneficiaries to lease or mortgage their property when such contracts should hold out the promise of higher productivity for the land and higher standards of living for our farmer-beneficiaries must receive serious study.  But we, your pastors, must warn against every scheme that would have land that has already been distributed, gathered in the hands of those would once more amass tracts of land in contravention of the equitable purpose of land-distribution.  What this problem points to is the importance of the formation of our farmer-beneficiaries, including their Christian formation as ‘stewards’ of this world’s resources, particularly land.  

And where a farmer-beneficiary regrettably chooses to leave his holding idle, to abandon it or to leave it unproductive, there has to be some legal mechanism by which the land reverts to the scheme of re-distribution so that it may be awarded to farmer-beneficiaries who have the willingness and capacity to render it more productive and to serve the common good.

There is finally, the problem that 70% of Certificates of Land Ownership Awards issued are, thus far, collective.  These involve one million farmers and two million hectares.  In effect, the legal rights of the individual beneficiary are not yet settled.  Consigned to a state of uncertainty, this acreage cannot be productive, nor can the supposed beneficiaries enjoy the rights that the law intends them to have.  This is a matter to which the Department of Agrarian Reform must turn, with urgency and resoluteness.

 The Moral Reponse

In summary, while the task of re-distribution is apparently done, the government’s efforts — in tandem with the initiatives to the private sector, particularly our Catholic laity — should go into rendering these new holdings productive.  A more responsible system of allocating, distributing and applying government funds and resources towards farm productivity must be set in place coupled with people’s efforts at rendering transactions transparent and responsible officials, accountable.  Where legislative reform is necessary to enable leases and mortgages of acquisitions towards higher levels of productivity and a rise in the living standards of farmer-beneficiaries, these must be enacted.  But the Philippine Church must, with all haste and diligence, involve itself in the formation of our farmer-beneficiaries so that rather than devising ways of circumventing the law by alienating their holdings and contradicting the purposes of land-distribution, they may be true stewards of this world’s goods.

From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, June 6, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.
   Archbishop of Lingayan-Dagupan
   President, CBCP

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Kodaikanal tribals pray for abducted Jesuit’s release – Matters India

Matters India photo published with permission
Matters India photo published with permission

A group of tribals joined NGO workers in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, to pray for the  release of a Jesuit priest who was abducted in Afghanistan.

Fr Alexis Prem Kumar, who is suspected to be in Taliban custody, had earlier worked in Kodaikanal to spread education among tribal people, reported mattersindia.com .  Unidentified gunmen took him into custody when he had gone to visit a school in Herat region of Afghanistan.

Volunteers at the mass prayer fondly remembered the 47-year-old priest’s dedication and commitment for the advancement of poor tribal people. The prayer was held at the unorganized sector workers’ union office in the hill station on Wednesday.

Read full report 

Kodaikanal is a city in the hills of the Dindigul district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India 

Father Kumar reportedly visited tribal communities there. Members of a settlement of about 40 families in Lower Kodaikanal spoke to Times of India about their shock over the news of abduction of  the  priest who has helped them.

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Cardinal Lourdusamy’s Indianness enhanced Church’s catholicity – Hector Welgampola

Duraisamy Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, Feb. 5, 1924 - June 2, 2014.  Facebook Profile photo https://www.facebook.com/pages/Duraisamy-Simon-Cardinal-Lourdusamy/176416629127257?fref=photo

Duraisamy Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, Feb. 5, 1924 – June 2, 2014.
Facebook Profile photo https://www.facebook.com/pages/Duraisamy-Simon-Cardinal-Lourdusamy/176416629127257?fref=photo

Hector Welgampola, veteran journalist specializing in Church in Asia, on the eve of the funeral service for Cardinal Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy in Rome, reflects on the contributions of the late cardinal to the development of the Church in Asia and in the world.

Cardinal Lourdusamy, 90, died on Monday in a Rome clinic where he had been hospitalized due to failing health, the Vatican announced. 

Pope Francis in a message issued the same day expressed sadness over the death of the former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches and former Archbishop of Bangalore. The pope will conclude the last rites at St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Cardinal Lourdusamy’s remains will be brought to India for rites and a funeral ceremony that will “most probably take place next Monday (June 9) or Tuesday (June 10) at Pondicherry,” Daijiworld news service in Bangalore reported.

Following is the commentary of Welgampola, who knew the cardinal in the prime of his life:

As we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, it is timely to recall how the Second Vatican Council brought into limelight several new leaders including some recent popes, bishops and theologians. Deceased Cardinal Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy was one of the first Asians among them. He attended the council fresh after episcopal ordination for India’s Vatican, Bangalore archdiocese.

The Tamil bishop was one of the youngest Council Fathers. Yet, he stood out among some 60 Indian participants by pleading for the holistic welfare of God’s poor. Jesuit Father Norman Tanner’s book “The Church in Council” cites how the Indian bishop urged that international aid be more than mere material aid. He said :

     * international support should push for “emotional integration, unity and equality among all poor people.”

Rescuers help villagers evacuate in Provident Villages during Habagat flooding with help from American donors. NJ Viehland Photos.

Rescuers help villagers evacuate in Provident Villages during Habagat flooding with help from American donors. NJ Viehland Photos.

     * He defined aid as “help that comes from the heart and goes to the heart,” the book claimed as if prophetically missioning a mandate for the then unborn Caritas.

Caritas Manila presentation at Manila archdiocese chancery. - NJ Viehland Photos

Caritas Manila presentation at Manila archdiocese chancery. – NJ Viehland Photos

It was a vision he had pushed as editor of the Tamil Catholic weekly of his native diocese, then named Pondicherry.

The young archbishop’s passionate call against discrimination, brought back to my mind what his brother, the late Father Simon Amalorpavadas, had told me about their own difficult path to the priesthood. But the new winds of the council boosted their spirits in their new home diocese in Karnataka. Together the two brothers helped make Bangalore archdiocese a regional venue for Church renewal. They set up the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre. It was a hub of inspiration for all of South Asia. But as Archbishop Lourdusamy continued to be hassled by Bangalore’s unceasing language problems, providence led him where the council beckoned.

Conciliar thinking had already moved Pope Paul VI to reorganize the curia. Some of these innovative trends had already been explained during the 1969 All India Seminar by Archbishop Sergio Pignedoli, secretary of Propaganda Fide. The pope’s energetic emissary was scouting for fresh talent. Before long, this congregation’s responsibilities for the missions were entrusted to three prelates from the Third World – Latin American Cardinal A. Rossi, African Archbishop B. Gantin and Asian Archbishop D. S. Lourdusamy.

As the first Asian to hold curial office, the Indian prelate rose high in the service of the Holy See. After serving over a decade as secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, he was made a cardinal in 1985. A new appointment followed. Cardinal Lourdusamy was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

The Oriental congregation’s conciliar mandate regarding relations with the Eastern Churches was clear. But the new prefect had to work around the strong native Slavic sentiments of Saint John Paul II. The Vatican’s haste to make inroads into jurisdictions of Orthodox Churches in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse dampened their enthusiasm for dialogue. The temptation to saddle Eastern Churches with Latin-Church discipline was another attitudinal problem. For example, the move to impose the age 75 retirement rule on a Ukranian-Rite bishop became a sore point.

In such a scenario, as head of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Lourdusamy tended to begin from his own home turf. By boosting and upbuilding relations with the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches, he was able to make a unique contribution to the Indian Catholic community. His pioneer move restored the country’s native Syrian Catholic Churches to their rightful place.

Every forward move evokes criticism. Some Latin-Church leaders tended to see his focus on the Syrian Churches as divisiveness to avenge past grievances. Eyes rolled when his friend the Latin-rite Bishop Anthony Padiyara of Ooctamund was invited to return home to head the Syro-Malabar Church. However, it was welcome as a wise move, when the genial Syrian-cum-Latin-experienced prelate was installed later as the first Major Archbishop of that Church.

In a message to the Constitution and Directives of the Missionary Society of Saint Thomas the Apostle, Cardinal Lourdusamy encouraged that Church’s missionary activities. He lived to see the native Church very successfully serve its followers scattered in about a dozen dioceses throughout India in addition to sending missioners to Western countries. That service to the universal Church has been Cardinal Lourdusamy’s enduring legacy.

Before making his peace with the Lord on June 2, the illustrious Indian cardinal lived to see the final approval of canonization process for two more Syrian Church members – Blessed Euphrasia and Blessed Kuriakose Chavara. They would have joined Saints Alphonsa and Garcia to welcome home their compatriot, Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy.

May his moksha (liberation) lead to the plenitude of beatific bliss.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would  work together primarily to produce top quality content. 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.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would work together primarily to produce top quality content. 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.

 

Afghanistan ‘sui iuris’ head appeals for silence, prayers for kidnapped Jesuit

Fr Alexis Prem Kumar, a 47 year-old Jesuit priest from Tamil Nadu, Southern India, was abducted by armed men in Sohadat village, outside Herat,  when he was on a visit to a school for Afghan returnee children managed by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). - Matters India June 3, 2014 Newsletter photo, published with permission. http://mattersindia.com/

Fr Alexis Prem Kumar, a 47 year-old Jesuit priest from Tamil Nadu, Southern India, was abducted by armed men in Sohadat village, outside Herat, when he was on a visit to a school for Afghan returnee children managed by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). – Matters India June 3, 2014 Newsletter photo, published with permission. http://mattersindia.com/

The superior of the church mission of Afghanistan (sui iuris) has appealed for “silent prayer” for the resolution of yesterday’s kidnapping of the priest who heads Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the country.

Unidentified gunmen seized Father Alexis Prem Kumar on Monday afternoon in Sohadat village outside Herat province when he visited a school there for Afghan returnee children managed by JRS.

JRS South Asia Regional Director Jesuit Father Stan Fernandes in a statement to independent news service Matters India, yesterday described the kidnapping and explained the mission of JRS and Father Kumar’s involvement in the Catholic organization and the Society of Jesus.

It said the Afghan National Security and Afghan Police are conducting intensive search operations for Kumar.

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