Bishop in northern Sri Lanka, Tamil alliance protest postponement of war report

Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar on Tuesday (Feb 24) joined a demonstration led by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) against the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) decision to delay the release of a report on issues of accountability during the Tamil separatist war and the post-conflict period.

However, Bishop Thomas Savundranayagam of Jaffna where the protests were held refrained from joining the protest due to the participation of politicians in the event, Sri Lankan online newspaper, The Island, reported on Thursday. 

TNA (Tamil: தமிழ்த் தேசியக் கூட்டமைப்பு) is a political alliance in Sri Lanka composed of moderate Tamil parties as well as number of former rebel groups that has participated in elections since 2001.

Bishop Joseph meanwhile reportedly called the deferment of the report’s release as UNHRC’s deception of the Tamil people who have no faith in a domestic investigation of war crimes under any government. 

Read The Island’s full report

On the day of the protest, the Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) and the Welfare Organisation for the Forcibly Disappeared Persons also jointly decided in Jaffna not to appear and give evidence before the Presidential Commission to Investigate Complaints Regarding Missing Persons (PCICMP).

In their statement released Feb. 27 the forum convened by Bishop Joseph listed reasons why it is convinced that a credible inquiry is possible only through international means.

It noted that while the government has promised to create a credible domestic mechanism for probing alleged atrocities it “seems to continue with the approach adopted by the previous regime towards truth, justice and accountability of which your commission’s continuance is a prominent example.”

“We cannot afford to continue to appear before this commission giving it a stamp of legitimacy,” Task Force leaders wrote.

The UNHCR investigated allegations of war crimes following a resolution adopted last March, and planned to present its report during next month’s session. However the UN body announced it would issue its report in September instead after newly installed Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena assured that government would conduct an impartial and transparent domestic probe into allegations of atrocities. 

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister had reportedly asked the UN body to give the administration installed in January more time to establish a new judicial mechanism to deal with the fallout of the investigation.

Alleged war crimes include attacks on civilians and civilian buildings, and executions of combatants and prisoners by both the Sri Lankan military and Tamil Tigers  - the guerrilla organization established in 1976 that sought to establish an independent Tamil state of Eelam in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lankan military and paramilitary groups backed by them were also accused in enforced disappearances and acute shortages of food, medicine, and clean water for civilians trapped in the war zone. Tamil Tigers were allegedly recruiting children as fighters.

The group gained control of Jaffna Peninsula by 1985, two years after escalation of violence between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lanka military. It lost control of Jaffna in October 1987 to an Indian peacekeeping force that had been sent to Sri Lanka to assist in the implementation of a complete ceasefire.

However, following the withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990, the Tigers grew in strength and conducted several successful guerrilla operations and attacks around the country and in India.

Earlier in 1981, Pope John Paul II created Mannar diocese from territories formerly under the pastoral care of the Jaffna diocese.

 

Task Force Detainees awards honor rights defenders, Franciscan nun founder

Sr Mariani Dimaranan Award poster TFD Facebook

Sr Mariani Dimaranan, SFIC Award poster – TFD Facebook photo

Quezon City, Philippines -Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFD), a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) capped its 40th anniversary celebration with the First Sister Mariani Dimaranan, SFIC Human Rights Defenders Awards at University of the Philippines, Quezon City, on Tuesday (Feb. 24).

“Through the years, TFDP has worked with numerous persons and institutions that helped the organization in advancing the cause of human rights in the Philippines. As TFDP celebrates its 40th year, it wants to pay tribute to some of the individuals and organizations who have been part of TFDP in its beginning years,” Order of Carmelites Father Christian Buenafe, TFDP co-chairperson, said during the awards ceremony.

OCarm, Pauline, NJ Viehland Photos

Fr. Christian Buenafe, OCarm with Pauline nuns – NJ Viehland Photos

TFD cited: 

Religious of the Good Shepherd Sister Rosario Battung

* Lor Abrazado of Task Force Detainees 

* Retired Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen of Infanta, former chairman of Office of Human Development of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences

* AMRSP

* Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag)

* National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP NASSA)

* Amnesty International 

These people and institutions have dedicated “a substantial part” of their lives to human rights promotion, protection and defense, organizers explained in their announcement sent to Catholic in Asia. Awardees have shown selflessness, outstanding leadership and unfaltering commitment in furthering the cause of human rights. 

Their efforts have provided significant contribution to the promotion and defense of  human rights and their pioneering endeavors have helped in the progressive realization of human rights, the TFD awards announcement added.

The event – rescheduled from December – also opened the organization’s 17th National Convention.

See posters of human rights defenders on TFD’s Facebook account.

 

CBCP President on ongoing Mamasapano investigation

SEEKING TRUTH AND JUSTICE
PURSUING PEACE

CBCP Statement on the Ongoing Mamasapano Investigation

CBCP 2015 Archbishop Villegas NJ Viehland

CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan at the end of the bishops’ plenary assembly Jan. 2015 at Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

Congress has commenced its inquiry into that sad episode of our recent history — the slaughter of 44 gallant men of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police.  We note that the two chambers of the Legislature have opted to conduct separate investigations when a joint inquiry would have allowed for a more expeditious investigation and would have obviated the possibility of findings at loggerheads with each other.

Truth and Accountability

The President and his advisers must give a full and satisfactory accounting of their actions in respect to this tragic loss.  The targets of the SAF operations were characterized as “high value targets”.  If the police went after them, it can only be because they were ordered to do so.  Policemen do not order themselves, not even members of the Special Action Force.  Indeed, that is what corroborated statements now clearly establish: The decision was made on the highest levels to go after these “high value targets”.  The only thing that was awaited was “the window of opportunity”, a judgment that is made by people on the ground.

Questions call for unequivocal and truthful answers.  Lives were needlessly lost because in many ways the operation was covert.  Why, for one, were the highest-ranking official of the Philippine National Police and his civilian superior, the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, left out of the loop of information, consultation and command?  It seems that a suspended police officer played more than a merely advisory role.  Why should he have been giving orders?  And if he was in fact issuing orders and commands, should it not be clear that his authority to do so, precisely because he was laboring under a legitimate order of suspension, emanated from higher levels?

The concealment of truth or the foisting of deliberate falsehood even to shield one’s superiors from embarrassment or to spare them indictment is always a moral wrong, especially in the context of legal processes and under oath.  When one swears to tell the truth and invokes the help of God, one is morally obligated to speak the truth.  We therefore urge all witnesses and all those in possession of information material to the resolution of facts in issue to speak the truth at all times.

 Heroes Among Us

As we did almost immediately after being informed of the gallant deaths of our SAF men, the CBCP extols their courage, their heroism and their fidelity to the call to duty.  We understand the heartaches of the SAF men and women who rightly have reason to feel that our leaders failed them.  While it is true that every person who dons the uniform either as a police officer or as a soldier puts his life on the line in the performance of his sworn duties, it remains the solemn moral duty of the national leadership to protect them from needless harm and to uphold their interests as well.  The human person is never merely a means, no matter how glorious, noble or desirable the ends may be!

quevedo bday bishops mejia NJ Viehland

[from right] Bishops Leopoldo Tumulak of the Military Ordinariate, Mylo Vergara of Pasig and Father Marlon Mejia, CBCP Secretary General in Cotabato City, Philippines.- NJ Viehland Photos

The Peace Process

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines offers its assistance to the pursuit of lasting peace, a settlement of differences that will allow the people of Mindanao, Muslims and Christians alike including indigenous peoples to live in peace and as equals, citizens of one Republic, nationals of one country.  We hold it to be morally obligatory for the government and for the restive segments of Philippine society to search for the paths of peace.

It is of course true that peace cannot rest on deceit, the suppression of truth and subterfuge.  This is the reason that getting to the truth of the Mamasapano tragedy is of paramount importance.  In fact we should learn from Mamasapano for we paid a heavy price to learn its lessons.  We have painfully been shown the pitfalls and the traps, the gaps and the lacunae of deals we have thus far entered into.

The goal cannot be the cessation of hostilities at any cost, but a principled settlement of the dispute, and peace born out of truth, a commitment to social justice and adherence to the fundamental law of the land!

If anything at all, Mamasapano should instill in all, especially in our legislators, a sense of circumspection in respect to examining the first draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.  Let the document be assiduously studied, fully debated and exhaustively examined.

The Moral Requisites of a Just Settlement

There has to be SINCERITY on both sides — on the side of government forces and agents and on the side of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  Hostilities must cease while legal processes must be observed.  Officers pursuing fugitives from justice or identified terrorists can never be the legitimate objects of attack.  Similarly where a truce has been agreed on, it is incumbent on all parties to hold their fire.  The government must resolutely pursue its projects for the further development of Muslim Mindanao and for the speedy and lasting attainment of social justice so that our Muslim brothers and sisters may fully share in the resources of the country and in the strides it makes towards prosperity.

The MILF must surrender the culprits: those who cut down the SAF 44 in the prime of their youth and must not interfere with their prosecution and their trial. The video clip that went viral showing the merciless execution of SAF men who were wounded and helpless cannot and must not be shrugged off.

The CBCP stands with the widows and orphans of the fallen to demand Justice and the indictment of the culpable.  It must also explain satisfactorily why international terrorists were within the territory supposedly occupied by them.

Finally, the arms and ammunition captured from the SAF and from other lawful agents of the Republic of the Philippines must be returned.  Justice and peace demand restitution of what one has wrongfully taken.

Solidarity in Prayer

The CBCP remains one with the grieving families of our fallen SAF men, as well as with the families of all who lost loved ones in this armed encounter.  Whether Christian or Muslim, we believe in a God who does not allow those who remain faithful to him to be lost.  We turn now in this moment of grief to the One Father of us all for consolation, strength and hope.

Appeal for True Patriotism

This is not the time for political opportunism.  This is not the time for adventurism or grandstanding.

While resolute action is necessary on the part of all, precipitous action and recourse to extra-constitutional measures will only visit more harm and misery on our people.

 The CBCP cannot lend its support to any movement that may bring greater suffering for our people.  We would do well to join in the debate spiritedly, to be zealous in ferreting out the facts and to be unyielding in demanding accountability.  But it is also our moral duty to be law-abiding citizens, animated at all times by the Gospel that insists that we love even those who we may find difficult to love!

No Peace Without Humility

 The Kingdom of God is as much a gift as it is a project, for while only God can make his kingdom come among us, he calls us all not only to preach it but, by our deeds, to make its presence tangible and real for the world.  Peace is the mark of this kingdom, and so it is that for a Christian there is no other way but to work for peace.  But time and again we have been taught that clever calculation, crafty speech and pompously worded documents never bring lasting peace.  It is when we humble ourselves and pray, and allow the Spirit to lead us that shall find that path of peace.

 The CBCP therefore invokes God’s Spirit even as it pledges that bishops individually and collectively will make themselves and their resources available for the demands of arriving at a lasting solution to the problem of turning swords into ploughshares.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Intramuros, Manila, February 16, 2015

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

Happy Lunar New Year of the Sheep, Asian families

Good Shepherd rice mural - NJ Viehland PhotosXuan Loc, VIETNAM – This mural of the Good Shepherd made of rice grains hung in the dining room of the Pastoral Complex of the Diocese of Xuan Loc, in Dong Nai, Vietnam, when the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) officials gathered there with delegates and resource persons from around east, south, southeast and central Asia on Dec. 2012 for the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly. 

This year’s celebration of Lunar New Year on Feb. 19 pulls the mural photo out of Catholic in Asia’s media library because the Chinese Zodiac sets the date as the start of the Year of the Sheep until Feb. 7, 2016, and sheep is one of the prominent symbols used in the Christian faith.

Some of the earliest depictions of Christ show him as the Good Shepherd. 

At the same time, lamb also represents Christ as sacrifice (Paschal Lamb) and also a symbol for Christians.

As Christ is Shepherd, Peter, as head of the Church, was told to “feed His sheep.”

For example: 

Jesus gave Peter a three-fold command to “feed my sheep” in John 21:15-17. Each time Jesus said, “Feed my sheep,” it was in response to Peter’s three-fold declaration of love for Jesus. 

The three commands, although often translated the same way, are subtly different. The first time Jesus says it, the Greek means literally “pasture (tend) the lambs” (v. 15). The Greek word for “pasture” is in the present tense, denoting a continual action of tending, feeding and caring for animals. Believers are referred to as sheep throughout Scripture. “For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:7). Jesus is both our Good Shepherd (John 10:11) and the Door of the sheepfold (John 10:9). By describing His people as lambs, He is emphasizing their nature as immature and vulnerable and in need of tending and care.

The second time, the literal meaning is “tend My sheep” (v. 16). In this exchange, Jesus was emphasizing tending the sheep in a supervisory capacity, not only feeding but ruling over them. This expresses the full scope of pastoral oversight, both in Peter’s future and in all those who would follow him in pastoral ministry. Peter follows Jesus’ example and repeats this same Greek word poimaino in his first pastoral letter to the elders of the churches of Asia Minor: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers” (1 Peter 5:2).

The third time, the literal translation is “pasture (tend) the sheep” (v. 17). Here Jesus combines the different Greek words to make clear the job of the shepherd of the flock of God. They are to tend, care for, and provide spiritual food for God’s people, from the youngest lambs to the full-grown sheep, in continual action to nourish and care for their souls, bringing them into the fullness of spiritual maturity. The totality of the task set before Peter, and all shepherds, is made clear by Jesus’ three-fold command and the words He chooses.

from http://rosemarieberger.com/2014/11/07/pope-francis-the-holy-people-of-god-living-on-the-peripheries-of-history/

from rosemarieberger.com click photo for full blog post

Pope Francis has also used the symbol of shepherd on various occasions. At his first Chrism Mass in 2013, he used the imagery to stress the need for priests to go out of themselves, reach out to their people in the name of Jesus, and also to allow their people to be media through which Jesus can touch and teach priests.

Pope Francis said:

A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, become sad priests, lose heart and become in some sense collectors of antiques or novelties – instead of being shepherds living with “the smell of the sheep”, shepherds in the midst of their flock, fishers of men.

And so it is along these lines of Scripture and Pope Francis’ message to priests that we wish families in and from Asia celebrating Lunar New Year of the Sheep : may prosperity, peace and justice reign in everyone’s lives and in the world through our sacrifices, mercy, compassion and full pastoral care from our Church.

Five wounds of the Church today [Invitation to Lenten reflection]

Five wounds of the Church ISA Pilipinas

“Free detained women, punish torturers” – rights NGO

SFIC,NJ Viehland

Agta women and children at Commission on Human Rights dialogue in Manila. NJ Viehland Photos

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) has called for the immediate release of the two indigenous Agta women that a Department of Justice resolution said were illegally arrested, immediate implementation justice Secretary Leila De Lima’s order for a reinvestigation of the arrest, detention and alleged psychological torture of the women living in the northern Philippine Prelature of Infanta.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in January said the arrest of Marites Marquez, 43, and her cousin, Rosario Loreto, 37, was illegal because of procedural lapses, including the absence of a warrant.

Policemen and soldiers arrested Marquez and Loreto of the Agta community working with the prelature’s apostolate to indigenous people in the Sierra Madre mountains in Quezon province last September, shortly after the New People’s Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines abducted a retired army soldier in the province.

Fr Pete Montallana OFM FB photo

A copy of the DOJ order given to the Inquirer by Fr. Pete Montallana, Infanta prelature’s apostolate coordinator showed De Lima ordered on Jan. 7  the “complete record” of the arrest of the two Agta women “returned to the office of origin for the conduct of a reinvestigation in light of the illegality of the arrests of the respondents

 TFDP is a mission partner of the Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), a voluntary association of heads of some 400 congregations and groups of consecrated men and women serving in the Philippines, former association Executive Secretary Father Marlon Lacal of the Order of Carmelites Philippines told Catholic in Asia.

 

 

 

 

 

Will Pope Francis’ visits awaken the Asian Church? – Commentary

By: Hector Welgampola

Within the first 22 months of his papacy, Pope Francis has gone on pilgrimage to the Churches in three Asian countries: South Korea, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. As part of a fast awakening vast continent, these countries represent three religio-cultural streams and three varied socio-political realities.

Over recent months, and especially since his return form Colombo and Manila, the Holy Father’s words and actions have evidenced the impact of such exposure to vignettes of Asia’s rich plurality. More than any of the three predecessors who went on pilgrimage to Churches worldwide, Pope Francis keeps recapping and interpreting such pastoral experiences. Just as Saint John wrote the Apocalypse to the Churches in Asia, Pope Francis is using the Asian revelation to enunciate his Francisocalypse.

While enhancing the catholicity of papal teaching with Assisian aura, his spontaneity and off-the-cuff theologizing continue to endear him today to a broader church beyond traditional borders. No wonder, while on pilgrimage, often he went beyond limits set by tour planners as much as he ignored the drafts of papal speechwriters. More important than scheduled speeches were hisfrom-the-heart interventions. Far more significant than diplomacy-imposed hobnobbing with politicians and fraternizing with prelates were his Jesus-like skirmishes “into the multitude.” Quite unsurprisingly, they all jived together as a passionate pastoral embrace of the needy and the suffering.

Pope Francis korea

He first visited Asia to attend the 6th Asian Youth Day in Daejeon, South Korea. And while there, he brought alive the theology of Eucharistic sharing and solidarity by grieving with Koreans mourning youths killed in the 2014 ferry disaster.

During his visit to Sri Lanka, he travelled to Madhu Marian Shrine on the Northern border to pray with and console survivors and mourners deeply affected by the country’s 30-year ethnic war. On the Philippine pilgrimage, the Holy Father braved very stormy weather to visit and embrace Tacloban residents grieving the impact of Typhoon Yolanda. His outreach of pastoral presence radiated Jesus.

Papal Visit pope with Anak children press release

Contributed photo of Pope Francis with street children at Anak-TNK center.

Such intimate encounters and empathy with the suffering and afflicted endure in people’s memory as a fatherly outreach. Their healing impact may even wipe out bad memories of papal galas or exorcising handshakes with corrupt politicians. And it was encouraging to read that Asian Church leaders have learned from the example set by the Holy Father.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias,of Mumbai led the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences in Vietnam Dec. 2012, NJ Viehland Photos

According to a media report, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias has admitted that the papal visits to Asia have given a big boost to the “self-confidence” of the Asian Church. The cardinal, president of the Asian bishops’ federation, has said that the pope’s example will encourage the Asian Church to take forward the mission to the poor. Such enthusiasm rekindles hope of a renewed outreach to people harried by multiple forms of poverty and deprivation.

HFSB, Sorsogon,contributed

Sri Lankan Sr. Bernie De Silva, HFSB, leads seminar for fishermen in Sorsogon [contributed photo, HFSB]

In fact, just like Pope Francis’ own home Church in Latin America, the Asian Church used to be a pioneer in social apostolate and outreach to the poor, a few decades ago. Committed social apostles such as Japanese Cardinal Fumio Hamao, Korean Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, Filipino Bishops Julio Labayen and Francisco Claver and Japanese Sister Filo Hirota were among stalwarts of the Asian bishops’ Office of Human Development (OHD). A few still survive in ecclesiastical backwoods. Although that office is struggling for survival today, hopefully, the grace of papal visits may herald a new springtime!

May the pope’s Gospel witness be a new Revelation even to latter-day Church leaders dismissive of pro-poor movements such as OHD and shift focus from regional commitment by withdrawing into juridical ghettos. The lived witness of the pope’s Asian pilgrimages is further affirmed by his Lenten message 2015, which urges Christians to overcome the scandal of globalized indifference. Time to live that message!

END

Hector Welgampola
welgampo@gmail.com

Hector Welgampola

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

 

CBCP Document : Pastoral Statement on the Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

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

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

GUIDE OUR FEET INTO THE WAY OF PEACE (Lk. 1:79)

Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference
of the Philippines on the Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

To All People of Good Will:

Peace be with you! With this greeting of peace we as religious leaders share with you our thoughts on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Our Perspective as Religious Leaders

Our first stance is to listen and discern. We will especially listen to those who are directly affected by the BBL, those living in the Bangsamoro, the Muslim majority and non-Muslim minorities. We will listen to those who support the BBL and to those who oppose it. We will listen to those who believe that there has been a lack of consultation. Further, we will listen to those outside the proposed Bangsamoro territory — Muslims, Christians, Indigenous Peoples, peoples of other religious persuasions. What we receive we shall present to officials concerned.

Our overriding concern is the common good of all Filipinos. We believe that concern for the common good is also that of the negotiating panels, MILF and government. After so many years of grave discussions replete with turns and stops, they have finally reached an agreement which they believe is the basis of a just and lasting peace. We do not propose any specific political or ideological blueprint for peace.

We are not political negotiators or political officials. We are not constitutionalists or lawyers. We refrain from delving into the constitutional issues raised by many. We leave those to constitutional experts to argue and to the Supreme Court to decide.

Our mandate as religious leaders is altogether different. Ours is to proclaim, as Jesus did (Eph. 2:16), “glad tidings of peace.” Our specific concerns are the religious and moral imperatives of peace. That perspective is as always our viewpoint as religious and moral teachers.

Peace is God’s Gift

And this is the most fundamental religious teaching about peace that we share with you. Peace is God’s gift. It is given to those “among whom his favour rests” (see Lk. 2:14). It is “through the tender mercy of God” that we are led to peace by “the dawn from on high” (see Lk. 1:78=79). And Jesus himself said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (Jn. 14:27).

Because peace is God’s gift, we need constantly to pray for peace, the peace that God desires for all of us, the peace that reconciles us with one another, with God, and with all His creation. This is the kind of peace that we wish and pray for when we greet one another: Peace be with you. Salaam. Shalom.

Peace is in and of the Heart, Peace is Harmony

Peace is fundamentally in the heart, of the heart. Peace is harmony. Peace is unity. Peace is reconciliation. Peace is mutual forgiveness among peoples.

A peace agreement may be signed between the government and the Moro *(Islamic) Liberation Front (MILF). Armed conflicts may cease. But if hatred or desire for revenge or dislike or aversion consumes the heart, if deep historic biases and prejudices remain, the eruption of violent conflict is simply simmering below the surface of apparently peaceful co-existence.

Peace Comes with Justice

Peace is not the fruit of a mere handshake or an embrace. Peace comes with justice. Peace is the assurance of respect for fundamental human dignity and human rights. For the Bangsamoro, justice means the recognition of their centuries-old aspiration for self-determination, their right to chart their own destiny in dignity and freedom. For the whole country justice requires the acceptance of the overarching right of national sovereignty and national territorial integrity. For Indigenous Peoples in the Bangsamoro, justice means respect for and protection of their right to their ancestral domain already officially recognized by the Indigenous Peoples Right Acts (IPRA). For non-Muslim and nonindigenous inhabitants in the Bangsamoro, justice is a recognition and protection of their fundamental human rights, such as religious freedom and property rights. Pope Francis in his message at Malacanang emphasized this when he said: “I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.”

Some Concerns of Justice

Some of these rights may be inadequately or inappropriately articulated in the BBL. Many believe, for instance, that a time-free 10% requirement to have a referendum for inclusion into the Bangsamoro will effectively expand the Bangsamoro territory through the years because of the sheer force of population immigration. Others see the need for a clear elaboration of the Bangsamoro exclusive right over education so as not to endanger the nature and purpose of Christian religious educational institutions. Still others are concerned about the ambiguous concept of contiguity by water, and see dangers of a Bangsamoro territory slowly expanding through time.

Many are also disturbed that there is a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation with regard to certain provisions of the BBL, as for instance, the provisions on land. Presently attempts to grab land or drive away their lawful owners by force of arms and even by murder, under the pretext of ancestral domain, are creating fear and tension, among certain communities in the Bangsamoro. The reported rise of shadowy civilian militias for self-protection recalls the tragic past of “Ilagas” and “Blackshirts” in the 1970s. This is totally unproductive and ironic when we understand the BBL as a promise of peace and harmony.

Such concerns we bring to the attention of MILF and government peace negotiators, as well as of legislators who are tasked with refining the draft BBL.

Peace Comes with Fairness and Equity

We all desire that the provisions of the BBL express fairness and equity. For this reason we hope that the BBL will ensure equal opportunity for integral human development for all the peoples in the Bangsmoro. We desire a BBL that will respect various cultures, religious beliefs and traditions. We wish to be assured that the BBL will provide equal access to educational, economic, political benefits and resources.

It would be a travesty of fairness and equity if, for instance, jobs are denied to capable persons simply because of ethnic, cultural, religious or gender considerations. Discrimination would be a direct contradiction to the fundamental Bangsamoro aspiration for self-determination that responds to deep feelings of neglect and marginalization.

Peace is Unity through Dialogue

Isaiah the Prophet spoke of a messianic time when the Word of the Lord shall come to the people. “They will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Is. 2:4).

We are at the cusp of a new Mindanao history when arms of destruction are replaced by productive tools for human development, when men trained for war are trained for wise and prudent governance. In some countries innocent civilians are persecuted or even killed, their homes devastated, places of worship destroyed. May this not be so in our country.

We, therefore, commend the consensus decision of both negotiating sides for the decommissioning of military forces and arms. We also pray that the form of government in the Bangsamoro will unite the different cultures together for the common good. We appeal to emerging political parties that they effectively remove the neglect and isolation of the poor from decision-making and make them active partners for their integral development. We ask legislators to ensure that the provisions of the BBL as well as their implementation will be forces of solidarity and not of division.

We make a special appeal to all sectors, groups, and political movements of the Bangsamoro to come together in dialogue towards a consensus position on the BBL.

Dialogue is the way to peace, not the use of arms. This has been the experience of successive negotiating panels on both the MILF side and the government’s. From hostility to openness, from aggressive onesidedness to mutual respect and understanding, from contestation to trust and friendship – this is the road of authentic dialogue. When the encounter of persons from opposite sides is authentically human, it is the Spirit of the Lord that draws them together finally as friends. And friendship is an expression of love — “the common word” for Muslims Christians, and peoples of other religions.

Final Pastoral Observations and Recommendations

In the light of the above moral and religious considerations:

1. We commend the perseverance of the negotiating panels of both the government and the MILF that, even with changes of key personnel through the years, persevered in the peace process, changing the nature of tense and troubled negotiations into trustful dialogue for peace.

2. We commend the realism of the MILF vision to dialogue towards self-determination while respecting and preserving national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

3. We appeal to Congress to sift objectively and wisely through the results of their Mindanao-wide consultation and ensure that the fundamental Bangsamoro aspiration for self-determination be effectively enshrined in the final BBL, together with the twin national principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

4. We strongly recommend that the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the non-Muslim peoples in the Bangsamoro – Christians, peoples of other faiths, and Indigenous peoples — be respected and promoted as already enshrined in existing laws, such as property rights and the IP ancestral domain.

5. We recommend the inclusion of a provision in the BBL that would make it impossible in the future for any radical extremist group to exploit or change the democratic framework of the Bangsamoro government so as to deny both the doctrine and practice of religious freedom.

6. We pray to our Lord God for wisdom for our legislators so that they would keep in mind the good of the Bangsamoro and the common good of all Filipinos.

Conclusion

We believe that regarding the centuries-old conflict in Mindanao we are, with a significantly improved BBL, truly at the threshold of a just and lasting peace. We place our concerns of peace in the hands of our Blessed Mother Mary, the Queen of Peace, so that through her maternal intercession her Son, Jesus who is himself our “Peace” (Eph. 2: 14), may always be with us “to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan January 22, 2015

*reprinted from CBCP News, with correction

Document: CBCP Pastoral Exhortation in the Year of Consecrated Life

AMOR, N.J. Viehland

AMOR, N.J. Viehland

As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Col 2:6-7)

Our Holy Father Pope Francis has dedicated the year 2015 for Consecrated Life. This special Church event started on the First Sunday of Advent and will end on February 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life. The purpose of this event according to the Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinal Joao Braz De Aviz, is to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past while embracing the future with hope.”

The year 2015 also marks the fiftieth anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, the Vatican II Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life.

Concurrent with the aforementioned events is our observance in the Philippine Church of the Year of the Poor as part of our nine-year preparation for the Great Jubilee 2021. Thus, our observance of the Year of Consecrated Life and the Year of the Poor in 2015 serves as our ecclesial horizon in our “grateful remembrance of the past and hopeful embrace of the future”.

Paco, NJ Viehland

Paco, NJ Viehland

GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE

In the middle of our nine year preparation for the Great Jubilee 2021 celebrating the first Mass and first baptism in the Philippines, we invite you to celebrate kaplag, the discovery on April 29, 1565 of the image of the Santo Niño in an abandoned house in Cebu. The finding occurred just a day after the arrival of the Legazpi-Urdaneta expedition inCebu, and was greeted as a marvelous portent of the success of the missionary endeavor. Effectively, this day marked the formal beginning of the continuous proclamation of the Gospel to us Filipinos.

Pit Señor!

It must be noted that when the Santo Niño was found, there were evidences that it had been treated as an object of veneration. Its original garments had been replaced by local material; it had a necklace of peculiar make, but with a cross probably also from Magellan; flowers were found before the image. The Cebuanos had made sacrifices in front of the image and had anointed it with oil. This image of the Santo Niño is believed to be the same one given by Magellan to the native queen who was baptized Juana in 1521. Thus seven years from now we shall be celebrating the five hundredth anniversary of the first recorded Mass and baptism in thePhilippines.

 The First Missionaries

Our Christian faith was brought to our shores by selfless men and women from many countries. During the first three centuries they came initially from Spainand Mexico, but also from Italy, Germany, and Central Europe. They were formed and sent by religious Orders, which at that time were the most organized to send missionaries. They braved the seas in ships, with each batch or shipload called abarcada (whence the popular name for our peer groups). It pleases us to recall their institutions in anhonor roll, in their order of arrival:

In the first century of evangelization these were: the Augustinians (OSA), 1565; the Franciscans (OFM), 1578; the Jesuits (SJ), 1581; the Dominicans (OP), 1587; the Japanese beatas, 1602; the Augustinian Recollects (OAR), 1606; the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God (OH), 1611; and the Poor Clares (OFM), 1621.

Members of the Third Orders for women of these congregations, now called the Lay Orders, also formed their own institutions of consecrated life in thePhilippines. In order of their foundation, these were: the beatas of Bolinao, 1659; the Dominican Tertiaries (OP), 1682 and 1750; the beatas de la Compañia, ancestors of the RVM sisters, 1684; the beatas of Babuyanes, 1719; the Augustinian Recollect Tertiaries (OAR), 1719; and the Augustinian Tertiaries, ancestor of the ASOLC sisters, 1740.

In the second half of the 19th century came more congregations: the Vincentian Fathers (CM) and Daughters of Charity (DC), 1862; the Augustinian Tertiary Sisters from Barcelona (OSA), 1883; the Capuchin Friars (OFM Cap), 1886; the Assumption Sisters (RA), 1892; and the Benedictines (OSB), 1895.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo with RVM nuns NJ Viehland Photo

During this same time religious groups of women were also formed: the Hermanitas de la Madre de Dios, Cebu, 1877; the beatas de Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, 1880; and the beatas de Santa Maria Magdalena, La Paz, Iloilo, 1887.

The critical condition of the Philippine Church at the beginning of the 20th century in the light of the Philippine revolution against Spain and the Philippine-American War led the bishops to call for other congregations. First to respond were the Sisters of St Paul of Chartres (SPC), 1904. From here up to the convening of the First National Eucharistic Congress in Manila on 11-15 December 1929, there arrived the Redemptorists (CSsR), 1906; the Mill Hill Missionaries (MHM), 1906; the Benedictine Sisters (OSB), 1906; the Fathers of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM), 1907; the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC), 1908; the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD), 1909; the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM), 1910; the Brothers of the Christian Schools (FSC), 1911; the Franciscan Missionariers of Mary (FMM), 1912; the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS), 1912; the Holy Spirit Sisters (SSpS), 1912; the Oblates of St Joseph (OSJ), 1915; the Pink Sisters (SSsPAP), 1923; the Discalced Carmelite Nuns (OCD), 1923; the Maryknoll Sisters (MM), 1925; the Maryknoll Fathers (MM), 1926; the Columbans, 1929; and the Franciscan Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (now SFIC), 1929. During this period another congregation for local women was also established, the Dominican Sisters of Molo (OP Molo), 1925. In the ensuing decades up to the present, many more congregations of men and women, local and international, have come to assist in the continuing evangelization of the Church in the Philippines.

They Lived Christ and Shared Christ

Quezon City,NJ Viehland

Quezon City,NJ Viehland

To each and every one of these men and women, “known or unknown,” the Papal Legate Cardinal Ildebrando Antoniutti said, “the Church devotes a grateful and heartfelt thought, as does also the fatherland which they helped to establish.”

Apart from the obvious apostolic work such as catechizing, preaching, and building churches, these men and women lived their religious lives in community.

The legacy of these religious congregations to Philippine life is staggering. Histories of peoples were written down or may be gleaned through neatly kept canonical books, records of income and expenses, and inventories of church goods and property, all of which were dutifully turned over by every incoming and outgoing personnel and kept in archives and libraries. Members of religious congregations were sent as emissaries to foreign countries such asJapan,China,Cambodia, andSiam. They contributed to the defence of the islands against pirates and slave-raiders, helped in pacifying revolts, and extended assistance during natural calamities such as famines, wars, plagues, floods, earthquakes, and typhoons.

The Promotion of Filipino Culture

Manila,NJ Viehland

Manila Cathedral,,NJ Viehland

The arts and sciences flourished under their care. In terms of cultural heritage alone, the country is the richer not just for solid and artistic churches and conventos but also schools, hospitals, orphanages, leprosaria, dams, fortresses, watchtowers streets, bridges, plazas, and even marketplaces like the market of Baclayon, Bohol and town halls like the tribunal of Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

Philippine languages were preserved in grammars and dictionaries. Local plants were documented and promoted for their medicinal and economic value. The Augustinians introduced the European-style weaving loom, and brought in trapiches from Mexico to extract sugar. As early as 1669, the Franciscans had introduced a hemp-stripping machine in Bacon, Sorsogon which presaged Bicol’s abaca industry[i].

Explorations of new territory were preserved in maps, duly printed in the presses which the religious orders established. The Villaverde Trail opened a route that connected Pangasinan with Nueva Vizcaya via the Caraballo mountains (1890s). The most famous Philippine map is that by the Jesuit Pedro Murillo Velarde, printed by Filipino engravers inManilain 1734. The Dominicans established a printing press in 1593, the present UST Publishing House, possibly the second oldest running publishing house in the world.

The Jesuit Meteorological Observatory established in 1869 pioneered in predicting tropical disturbances. In Minuluan (now Talisay) Negros Occidental, Fr Fernando Cuenca OAR promoted the sugar industry by inventing the hydraulic pressing machine for milling cane in 1872[ii]. Electricity and Edison’s phonograph were introduced through the University of Santo Tomas in 1880[iii]. Fr Felix Huerta OFM facilitated the realization of the water supply forManila in 1882.

Pope Francis in his homily at the Manila Cathedral rightly said: “As the Church in the Philippines looks to the fifth centenary of its evangelization, we feel gratitude for the legacy left by so many bishops, priests and religious of past generations. They labored not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Church in this country, but also to forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good.”

EMBRACING THE FUTURE WITH HOPE

Hail Our Valiant Religious Men and Women

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro from FaceBook

The commemoration of the discovery of the Santo Niño leads us to embrace the future with hope as we observe a truthful review of the contribution of the religious orders and congregations. We are called forth to a renewed commitment of their following of Christ through the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. May every religious be led to a joyful response with the people of God in the work of evangelization today!

First, a truthful review should be based on historical evidence of the religious groups who came to thePhilippines, especially the friar orders of the Spanish colonial period. The ghosts of the Black Legend and even of our own Propaganda Movement and its supporters have conditioned our thinking towards these friars, with the backlash that the key to the understanding of so many sources to our history—our knowledge of the Spanish language—has unfortunately deteriorated. Unfamiliarity with primary sources has led significant sectors of the Philippine Church—hierarchy and seminary professors included—to regard the role of the religious in the Spanish colonial chapter of Philippine church history in a negative light. Shadows there were aplenty, for sure, but these seem to obscure the lights that are so much more illuminating.

Second, the call to follow Christ through the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience must be renewed and deepened in religious life. As described in the Essential Elements of Religious Life, living the evangelical counsel of chastity is their testimony to hope since it is “a sign of the future life and a source of abundant fruitfulness in an undivided heart for the Kingdom of God”.[iv] The evangelical counsel of poverty, in imitation of Christ who lived a life of poverty and who showed preferential love for the poor, invites those in consecrated life to a deeper integration of how they embody this vow in fact and in spirit as religious during this Year of the Poor. The evangelical counsel of obedience calls them to pattern their lives after Christ who surrendered His whole life following the will of the Father until death. Thus, the evangelical counsels express not only their public consecration in the Church, but also form their identity, lifestyle and mission as religious today.

 A Joyful Response

Zambales, NJ Viehland

Sr Mary Francis Borje, SFIC, Zambales, NJ Viehland

Third, a joyful response with other Church groups in the work of evangelization must characterize religious life. Pope Francis observed that “wherever there are consecrated people, seminarians, men and women religious, young people, there is joy, there is always joy! It is the joy of freshness, the joy of following Jesus; the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us, not the joy of the world.”[v] This joy which sustained our missionaries in the past continues to this day as our religious participate in the ministries of the various dioceses: schools, parishes, orphanages, hospitals, youth centers, catechetical centers, etc. The religious in our country are not only active in the administration of the various spiritual and corporal acts of mercy but are courageous in defending human rights, as their predecessors did before them. Increasing number of religious are now sent as missionaries to other countries, including places where their institutions were born in Europe and the Americas.

Fourthly, an important service of consecrated people to the church is their witness to the importance of Christ in our life as based in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. May all the faithful be challenged by the religious that Christ can fill up our life with joy and he is the reason of service to the world.

So as we remember with gratitude the past and embrace the future with hope, we look toward Mary, model of consecrated life who remembered the great acts of salvation and who always hoped in God’s gracious providence in her heart. May she who gave birth to the Holy Child Jesus (the Santo Niño) in Bethlehem and who followed Jesus to Calvary be the constant inspiration and guide of our men and women in consecrated life as they live out joyfully their religious consecration in the Church today!

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of thePhilippines, January 22, 2015

CBCP 2015 Archbishop Villegas NJ Viehland

(SGD)+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan

CBCP President

 [i] Fernandez 1979, Chapters 25, 26, and 27.
[ii] Simonena 1974.
[iii] Villarroel 1984, p.74. Electric lighting for the Ateneo and the Escuela Normal also enhanced the Golden Jubilee of Leo XIII in 1888. Another Edison’s grafófono was bought fromChicago and introduced to the Ateneo in 1894 (de la Costa 1997).
[iv] Essential Elements in the Church’s Teaching on Religious Life as Applied to Institutes dedicated to Works of the Apostolate, Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, May 31, 1983).
[v] Pope Francis, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices,Rome, 6 July 2013.

Pope Francis appoints Quevedo papal envoy in Japan ‘hidden Christians’ anniversary

 NJ Viehland Photos

NJ Viehland Photos

Vatican City, 17 January – Pope Francis has appointed Filipino Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato, as his special envoy to the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the “hidden Christians of Japan”, to be held in Nagasaki March 14-17, Vatican Information Service reported.

Catholic missionaries St. Francis Xavier of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)  with Cosme de Torres and John Fernandes  arrived in Kagoshima, Japan in 1549, to spread the word of God. Eventually, the number of Christians rose to about 300,000 including members of the aristocracy, but by the beginning of the next century, Christianity was banned in the country and in 1612, the faithful were forced into practicing their beliefs in hiding. 

The “hidden Christians” are locally known as Kakure Kirishitan.

Today, about half a million Japanese identify as Catholics; roughly 0.5% of the population. There are 16 dioceses around the country. 

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo wrote last year about his church’s plan for the March anniversary celebration. Archbishop Okada said the existence of these Christians who kept their faith under severe persecution was revealed at Oura Catholic Church in Nagasaki. He expressed his hope that Pope Francis would join the commemoration.

“We would be deeply grateful if Pope Francis would encourage us in deepening our faith and conveying widely the message of faith to others. We also expect that a visit by the pope would be an occasion for promoting and advancing inter-religious dialogue in Japan,” Archbishop Okada added.

The pope would be just coming from pastoral visits to Sri Lanka and the Philippines by the time of the Japan event. He chose to send Cardinal Quevedo as his representative .

The 75 year-old cardinal has been called a “powerful voice for inter religious dialogue” between Muslims and Christians especially those in Mindanao where an autonomous region with predominantly Muslim populations sits.

Quevedo also headed the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) from 2005-2011. The Japan bishops’ conferences is a member of the voluntary association of bishops’ conferences in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary: The courage of Sri Lanka’s first saint challenges today’s Church

Joseph Vaz devotion card

     The courage of Sri Lanka’s first saint challenges today’s Church

The  eyes of the faithful saw the saint in Joseph Vaz during his lifetime. But he had to wait 303 years after death for official acclaim of his sanctity. And now, will his canonization just niche him away on church walls or inspire emulation of his pastoral courage?

For many years, Church historians, pious groups in Goa and Sri Lanka’s Joseph Vaz National Secretariat kept the Vaz saga of sanctity alive. As secretariat chair and ordinary of Vaz’ final resting place, Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy harnessed people’s enthusiasm for the Vaz cause. Soon after Vaz was beatified in 1995, nine Lankan dioceses built 23 churches/chapels in his honor. At some 10 venues, devotees hold public prayer to seek his intercession.

Even before official approval of public veneration for the country’s first saint, in 1983 Archbishop Nicholas Marcus Fernando of Colombo pioneered a project to focus laity attention on a vital aspect of Vaz’ ministry. He founded Joseph Vaz Deva Dharma Niketanaya to teach theology in the Sinhala language. Now affiliated to Rome’s Urban University, the theologate has campuses in three other dioceses as well.

Up until now, this network has helped train catechists and lay cadres for apostolates. Hopefully, the Jan. 14 canonization should enthuse these campuses to take a lead in deeper study and wider sharing of hitherto unexplored lessons of the Vaz mission methods.

The life and mission of Sri Lanka’s first saint was uniquely heroic and prophetic in many ways. His own priestly zeal led him there in 1687 to serve Catholics abandoned by Portuguese colonizers and their clergy. After the Apostles of Jesus, he is the first known Asian missioner to have evangelized an Asian country. And he did it with the help of a few fellow-Indian priests. That is why Pope John Paul II named him the greatest missioner in Asia since Francis Xavier.

From the ruins of a Lusitanized Church deserted by the Portuguese, the Brahmin priest began to build a truly native Church. After studying the local language and culture, his pastoral team introduced indigenized para-liturgies to meet people’s spiritual needs. He set apart teams of writers to provide Catholic literature in Sinhala and Tamil. Though he led a minuscule religious community, Father Vaz intervened for the public good when floods and plagues hit the country. If the essence of his pastoral style became a guide to later European missioners to Lanka, it froze in a cultural winter. His vibrant witness to interreligious harmony and interethnic amity ended up fossilized.

Three centuries after Father Vaz’ death, the better method of celebrating his canonization would be to discern his message for today, not to blindly mimic his pastoral methods. Just as he set apart personnel for contextual apostolates such as writing and healing, will today’s Church prioritize current apostolic needs and pastoral challenges?

More importantly, will the example of his personal holiness and commitment challenge Catholics and their pastors to holiness of prophetic witness, the essence of our Christian faith? Just the way the Vaz team ministered to smallpox victims, there is a need for pastoral teams to speak up for victims of today’s bigger-pox: injustice, oppression and corruption.

Some Sri Lankan dioceses are so blessed with a glut of priests that seniors may opt to make way for younger clergy. In such a scenario, let volunteers go on Vaz-style mission to needy regions and apostolates.

Maybe, the new Asian theological institute to be blessed by Pope Francis in Negombo could be the nucleus for an Asian program of reverse mission of prophetic social ministry. Such emulation of the great missioner’s pastoral vision and style will be the better way of bringing alive his canonization. It will also resonate the challenge to “apostolic courage to come out of itself” that Cardinal Bergoglio presented to the Church, just before he was elected pope.

Hector Welgampola

welgampo@gmail.com

Hector Welgampola

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

LEAVE THE RABBITS IN PEACE!! – CBCP President on Pope Francis interview

The Pope NEVER made the rather unseemly remark that Catholics breed like rabbits. Everyone is encouraged to read both on print and on social media the transcript of the Papal interview aboard Philippine Airlines that flew the Holy Father back to Rome.

What the Pope DID SAY was that some Catholics mistakenly believe that to be Catholic, we ought to breed like rabbits — and prior to using that simile, he knew that it was harsh and so said “excuse the expression” — but it was apt and it brought home the point. And the point is that the Church has always taught that it is a Catholic obligation to be RESPONSIBLE about parenthood. Births should be planned rationally by both parents who must always remain open to new life, but who must also take into consideration their physical, financial and emotional capacity to raise children. It is not correct for a Catholic to assume the attitude: “Come what may!” This is traditional Church teaching that the Pope was reiterating, and it should be especially relevant to us Filipinos who are grappling with population issues.

It will also be important to go back to the Pope’s words at his meeting with families at MOA. There he said that Blessed Paul VI in his much-maligned Humanae Vitae prophetically understood that nations would be impoverished in the measure that they assume an anti-birth stance. The experience of aging nations with only a handful of youngsters to take on the jobs necessary for a country’s survival and growth has proved Blessed Paul VI right. At the same time, Paul VI urged PASTORS to be sensitive to PARTICULAR CASES, referring to cases that called to carefully balanced, prayerfully calibrated solutions in accordance with a well-formed conscience and in the context of the guidance received from the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

And this is certainly significant teaching for our time.

Let us leave the rabbits in peace!

Pope Francis visits ANAK-TNK children’s home

Papal Visit pope with Anak children press release

Pope Francis with children in institution who sent their invitation through Cardinal Tagle. Photo release

Pope Francis visited children in an NGO-run institution that invited him last year through Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila.

 

 

In Manila: Filipinos waited to greet Pope Francis

Papal Visit Men Women rush NJ Viehland

Men, women rush to get a spot on an empty truck to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis as he goes from Villamor Airbase to the nunciature in Taft Avenue. NJ Viehland Photos

MANILA, PHILIPPINES Filipinos came in droves to line streets of Manila, where Pope Francis’ motorcade breezed through the 14 miles from Villamor Air Base to the nunciature on Taft Avenue.
The sidewalks beyond the barricades from the corner of Taft near the nuncio’s residence down Roxas Boulevard were teeming with people hours before the expected 5:45 p.m. landing of the plane that carried him from Sri Lanka.

Some people, like Gladys Silvano, told NCR she arrived at 3 a.m. It was her day off as a cashier in a restaurant, and she wanted to make sure she found a spot that would give her clear view.

There were no video screens installed in this part of the motorcade. See what they did in NCR Photo blog: Crowds greet Pope Francis in Manila  N.J. Viehland | Jan. 15, 2015

Quevedo: Dialogue in Asia and Francis’ dialogue

 NJ Viehland Photos

Former officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao greeted Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato at a dinner celebration in Cotabato of his birthday and creation as cardinal. NJ Viehland Photos

MANILA, PHILIPPINES
It is very encouraging that we are on the right track — that we are not a church apart that thinks differently from the pope, from the universal church – Orlando Quevedo.
Full report Quevedo: Francis’, Asian church’s definitions of dialogue are the same N.J. Viehland  |  Jan. 14, 2015
Asian Family buddhist hindu catholic NJ Viehland

Congress on Asian Family with Buddhist monk, Hindu mother and Catholic evangelist Bo Sanchez. NJ Viehland Photos

Pope Francis in Asia – Asians look forward to Pope Francis’ visit, healing

Papal Visit 2015 Letran NJ Viehland Photos

Children playing street ball said they will watch Pope Francis ride around nearby Manila Cathedral on Jan. 16

 

MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Pope Francis returns to Asia this week, where crises are priming the ground for the kind of church he is working to grow.

“Francis’ dream of a church that is bruised and wounded and muddied is what the church in Asia wishes to be,” said Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Philippines, who for years led the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, or FABC, and who was named a cardinal by Pope Francis last year.

Read full report 

Sri Lanka Church announces post-election Papal Visit schedule

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Newly installed President Maithripala Sirisena and his First Lady followed by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith will greet Pope Francis when he arrives in Colombo from Rome tomorrow Jan 13, Sri Lanka’s Sunday Observer online newspaper reported.

More on the post-election papal visit schedule published here

 

 

Sri Lanka election over but political war awaits – Hector Welgampola

Sri Lanka's new President Maithripala Sirisena screenshot Sri Lanka Mirror Facebook

Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena screenshot Sri Lanka Mirror Facebook

Commentary: Lanka’s new president won the electoral battle, but the political war awaits

By: Hector Welgampola

With political alacrity, Sri Lankans have voted in a new president thwarting an incumbent’s plan for an unprecedented third term seen as a move to further entrench dynastic power. The cosmic speed of behind-the-scene events before and after the Jan. 8 election took many by surprise.

Was President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to quit midway through vote-counting a final act of magnanimity or a crafty move to ensure his political future? Where does it leave the kitchen cabinet of siblings and son, who continue to hold office? Before returning to his native village, Rajapaksa had a final tete-a-tete with soon-to-be prime minster Ranil Wickremesinghe, a longtime friend, though vintage political antagonist. What transpired remains unknown. Only history or future political memoirs will divulge the mystery of the Rajapaksa exit.

Some insights may be discerned from newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena’s speedy decision to be sworn-in within hours of his victory. The ceremony was simple but rich in symbolism. In order to counter witness to the lavish presidential lifestyle of the past, the Gandhian new president had instructed his staff to restrict his inauguration expenses to fifty dollars. He took the oath of office in the presence of a Tamil judge of the Supreme Court, not in the presence of the country’s chief justice, Mohan Pieris, the Catholic appointee promoted by Rajapaksa after impeaching Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike.

Reportedly, the installation was unduly speeded up partly to relieve the public regarding fears of an alleged military intervention. Two days before the Jan. 8 election, a Muslim citizen wrote a 13-point open letter to the army commander deploring politicization of the military. All armed forces are under the defense secretary, Rajapaksa sibling Gotabhaya. Social media too reported that even before President Sirisena swore him in as prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe had private discussions with military leaders to assuage army fears of counter politicization, as well as to allay public fears.

Social peace and stability will be essential if the new president is to implement his 100-day program of constitutional reform and return to a just and equitable system of governance. He heads a rather loose coalition of disparate political elements, some of whose retinue may be nursing hopes of political perks and rewards. But the new president’s greatest asset is public confidence and hope for a return to an era of peace and social justice based on the equality of all citizens irrespective of race, religion or political persuasion. He received the unprecedented support of all ethnic groups. His highest percentage of votes came from the Tamil-speaking northern and eastern regions.

After a decade of discrimination, partisan politics, nepotism and corruption, the ethnically and economically fractured nation of 21 million will have thousands of grievances. The religious sector has the unenviable role of soothing their anxieties and championing their just causes. Religious leaders must heed the chiding by the nation and recommit themselves to guiding rulers with diligence and not pandering to their weaknesses. Much fallout of this period of transition could be contained if Church leaders act as Romeros, not as Richelieus.

In a statement to Fides news agency, Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy, has already welcomed the election of Sirisena. The country’s senior bishop expressed hope that the new president would implement the program of anti-corruption, good governance, commitment to development and reconciliation he placed before the country’s bishops.

Hector Welgampola

welgampo@gmail.com

Hector Welgampola

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

After 10 years, Sri Lanka elects new president

Sri Lanka Maithri screen shot Manifesto

Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisana screen shot of Manifesto from ground views.org/wp

President Maithripala Sirisena, 63,  took his oath of office as the 6th Executive President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka before Supreme Court Judge K. Sri Pawan at the Independence Square in Colombo Friday evening, Jan. 9, the Sri Lankan online newspaper Daily Mirror reported.

Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat in this morning’s polls ending his 10-year rule, which he tried to extend by removing the constitutional term limit for the presidency. He called elections two years ahead of schedule and was reportedly widely predicted to win before his party mate and health minister defected from the party to run against him.

Around the time Rajapaksa conceded defeat, the Department of Elections said it had counted 56.5 percent of the votes in favor of Sirisena while Rajapaksa garnered 42 percent.

Analysts say aside from winning votes of Tamil and Muslim electors in the countryside, Sirisena, a Sinhala Buddhist, also split votes of southern Sinhalese electors that traditionally backed Rajapaksa who led the government when it defeated Tamil militants in 2009.

Recently, however, Rajapaksa, 69, has been criticized for his authoritarian leadership and appointing family members to key positions in government.

Sirisena raised these issues in his campaign and promised to fight corruption and bring constitutional reforms to weaken the power of the presidency. His platform of government or “Manifesto”  promises he would work for genuine democracy by amending the constitution, review economic and development ventures and policies, promote a moral society, food security and sustainable agriculture, provide healthcare for all Sri Lankans, reform education, among others.

The elections were conducted just 5 days before Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to Sri Lanka to canonize its first saint and pray with pilgrims at the Marian Shrine in Madhu in a northern district heavily affected by the civil war.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith had said the candidates pledged at a meeting with bishops they would work for a “peaceful atmosphere” during Pope Francis’ visit to their country Jan. 13-15. Since Rajapaksa invited the pope for a state visit, the defeated president “gave his personal assurance that … he will not allow anything untoward to happen during the Papal Visit,” Cardinal Ranjith added in an interview in mid-December.

 

Philippines Church ready for Pope Francis

 

Fr Mario Francisco, SJ reviews Tagalog language lyrics he composed for the public Mass of Pope Francis at Rizal Park (Luneta) Jan. 18./ NJ Viehland Photos

Fr Mario Francisco, SJ reviews Tagalog language lyrics he composed for the public Mass of Pope Francis at Rizal Park (Luneta) Jan. 18./ NJ Viehland Photos

… But this is the Philippines, where “the Christian story and Christian symbols have played a very important role in everyday life,” said Jesuit Fr. Jose Mario Francisco, who teaches contextual theology at Loyola School of Theology in Quezon City.

“Even when the percentage of people who have regular contact with the church through Mass and activities may be much smaller than the 80 percent who are Catholic or the 90 percent who are Christian,” Francisco said, “the influence of Christianity in the Philippines remains very strong through devotions, worship, music and other symbols.”

He cited Haiyan survivors who were photographed fleeing…

Read full report

 

 

 

New Year’s letter: Peace And Fraternity—The Road Map For A New Myanmar

By Charles Bo, SDB, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar

Happy New Year to all of you!

Today is the Day of Peace. For the citizens of Myanmar this is a day of a common dream, a common hope. I wish each one of you a blessed and peace-filled new year.

As we prepare for the dawn of a New Year, so too in Myanmar we are preparing for the dawn of a new era. A new era of freedom, democracy, justice, peace and hope. A new era of fraternity among the diverse peoples of our beautiful nation. There is much to be grateful for.  There is much to be hoped for.  We stand at that blessed and challenging juncture in history. We are just at the very beginning of a new chapter in Myanmar’s story. Over the past two years, the doors of our nation have opened to the world. There are many reasons for hope. In the past two years, restrictions on freedom of expression have been relaxed, there is more space for civil society, the media and political actors, there have been preliminary steps towards peace in the ethnic states, and many political prisoners have been released. After many years under house arrest, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been elected to Parliament, along with her colleagues in the National League for Democracy. These steps encourage us to see the prospect of a new dawn.

For the first time in more than fifty years, there are reasons to be hopeful for Myanmar. And all these came because some of our brothers and sisters, from 1988 onwards refused to accept the powers of darkness. Some of them were willing to lay down their lives on the altar of supreme sacrifice. They gave their yesterday so that our today may be free and the tomorrow of Myanmar may be justice oriented. Yet we must remember that this is just the very beginning of the beginning. As some political prisoners have been released, others have been arrested. As talks about peace take place, military attacks against civilians in Kachin State continue. And as we begin to enjoy more freedom of speech, some have used this to preach hatred and incite violence against our Muslim brothers and sisters. So there is a very long way still to go, there are many grave challenges to be addressed, and on the horizon alongside the sunshine of hope and a new dawn sit storm clouds of suffering and strife. Myanmar will never be truly free and at peace until all the peoples of Myanmar can live in freedom and peace. Democratic reforms in the cities will not, by themselves, end decades of conflict. It is often said that genuine peace will only be achieved through a peace process, not simply ceasefires, and that such a peace process must involve a political dialogue leading to a political settlement for Myanmar’s ethnic nationalities.

This is true. However, real, true peace can only be achieved through a revolution in our hearts, a renewal of our minds and a rediscovery of the value of fraternity. Peace, Pope Paul VI warned, is not the absence of War.  Once again he guided the nations:  If you want Peace, work for Justice.  No Justice No Peace. Catholic Social tradition struggles for this noble concept: Peace that is born of Justice. As Pope Francis says in his New Year’s message for this World Day of Peace, “in the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.”

For six decades the country was suffocated by an inhuman dictatorship. You and I and every human being were suffering in our long night of silent tears.  And after all those tears and brokenness, after darkness of merciless persecutions, dawn arrives and we seek light.  But suddenly there seems to be darkness at the midday.  I refer to the interreligious conflicts that has brought sorrow, stigma to the young nation. Do we deserve this. Over the past eighteen months, a wave of hatred and violence  that included violence towards our Muslim brothers and sisters has been unleashed, wreaking destruction and death across Rakhine State, Meikhtila, Oakkan, Lashio and some other parts of our country. This hatred and violence led not only to the deaths of many people and the destruction of homes and shops, but to the death of fraternity and the destruction of brotherhood. Our country’s good name was tarnished world over.  The senseless acts of few brought grief to many.  All communities suffered.

Our task is to rebuild not only the destroyed buildings, but destroyed relationships. Our task, individually and in community, is to rebuild our hearts. The Holy Father says that “without fraternity, it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace”. Whatever our religion, we need to refocus our minds on our common humanity and our fraternity as peoples of Myanmar. The Pope says “in the dynamics of history, and in the diversity of ethnic groups, societies and cultures, we see the seeds of a vocation to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.” We need to rediscover the value of “unity in diversity”. Myanmar is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, rich in ethnic and religious diversity. This diversity is something to celebrate. After the storms, when the sun comes out, we should be able to see that we are a nation of many colours.  

A rainbow nation. We must build a nation in which every person born on Myanmar’s soil feels at home, has a stake in the country’s future, is treated with equal respect and equal rights, and is accepted and cared for by their neighbours. A nation where the histories, languages, customs and religions of all are respected and celebrated. There must be no second-class people. As Pope Francis says, “in many parts of the world, there seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom.” This is true in our corner of the world. Even as talks continue in Kachin State, we hear reports of attacks on villages, looting of churches, and the rape of women and girls. In other parts of our country, we hear of mosques destroyed. We hear of the tragedy of an entire people, known as ‘Rohingyas’, treated as if they were not human, consigned to dire conditions in displacement camps or forced to flee the country in boats, embarking on a precarious escape across the seas.

The cause of Rohingya is highly contested. Every human being, Christianity believes, is created in the image of God.  All of us belong to God’s immeasurable embrace of dignity reaches all. The Myanmar government and the International community need to settle citizenship issues. But as a people, as a nation that has taken Karuna and Metta  as the guiding principles, we should not allow a fringe to stain a nation known for its forbearance through random violence. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, says Martin Luther King Jr.. We know that many of the Rohingya people have lived in Myanmar for generations, yet they are not accepted as citizens and are rendered stateless. This misery cannot be allowed to continue. Every person born in Myanmar should be recognized as a citizen of Myanmar. While wars and interreligious conflicts go on, a much under reported human agony unfolds elsewhere which affect all communities. Those agonies are much more deeply wounding the nation.  But sadly attention is wanting in these day to day issues that affect millions in our country.

We hear of human trafficking of women and children, as well as more subtle abuses, such as land confiscation or discrimination against religious minorities in business and government employment. The Pope notes: “The tragic phenomenon of human trafficking, in which the unscrupulous prey on the lives and the desperation of others, is but one unsettling example … Alongside overt armed conflicts are less visible but no less cruel wars fought in the economic and financial sectors with means which are equally destructive of lives, families and businesses.” Those words speak to our situation in Myanmar today and remind us of the challenges we must face. A nation that successfully conducted the SEA games deserves a great praise.  When needed, the Myanmar as a nation and people can rise up to any challenge. The same spirit is needed to fight chronic wars  that bleed the nation. We refer to the absolute poverty of 40 percent of our people. We refer to the millions, languishing in the hell of Malaysia, Thailand, victims of human trafficking, the modern day slaves. The multiple faces of poverty is a pestering wound in the soul of the nation. The great challenge is poverty.

The Holy Father says that fraternity is “a prerequisite for fighting poverty”. We must put richness of heart first, if we are to end material poverty. In Pope Francis’ words, “This means not being guided by a ‘desire for profit’ or a ‘thirst for power’. What is needed is the willingness to ‘lose ourselves’ for the sake of others rather than exploiting them, and to ‘serve them’ instead of oppressing them. The ‘other’ – whether a person, a people or a nation – is to be seen … as our ‘neighbour’.” He continues: “Christian solidarity presumes that our neighbour is loved not only as ‘a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but as the living image of God’.” And so as we begin a New Year and move towards a new era, I echo Pope Francis’ words on behalf of the Church, to all who are suffering the consequences of hatred and war: “To all those who live in lands where weapons impose terror and destruction, I assure you of my personal closeness and that of the whole Church, whose mission is to bring Christ’s love to the defenseless victims of forgotten wars through her prayers for peace, her service to the wounded, the starving, refugees, the displaced and all who live in fear.

The Church also speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights. For this reason, I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”

I wish all my brothers and sisters, of all religions and ethnicities, throughout our nation a truly happy and blessed New Year. Let’s join hands together to build a new rainbow nation in Myanmar. Let 2014 mark a new era not only of greater freedom, but of fraternity, throughout Myanmar, and in growing in fraternity, we can secure lasting peace and prosperity. A new Myanmar is possible My brothers and Sisters.  That Myanmar will be born   through Peace that comes through Justice. That Myanmar that will make poverty history That Myanmar that will celebrate unity in diversity A free Myanmar freed from hatred is possible. Let us echo with Tagore the great Poet and Nobel Laureate :  Into that land of freedom and prosperity,  My Father, Let my Country Awake.

*Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, of Yangon, Myanmar was among 15 cardinal electors Pope Francis is to create in February.

From Radio Veritas Asia, Quezon City, Philippines

 

Three Asians among new cardinals

Rome: Three Asians are among 20 new cardinals Pope Francis will create during a Feb. 14 consistory in the Vatican, Matters India reported.

One of the pope’s nominees is Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Southeast Asian nation has a small but vibrant Catholic community and is one of the few countries with which the Holy See doesn’t have diplomatic relations. However, relations have warmed notably in recent years and some expect full ties to be restored in the near future.

welcome FABC Vietnam N J Viehland photo go

Vietnam Catholics and government officials welcome FABC assembly delegates to Xuan Loc, NJ Viehland Photos

The Pope also nominated Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok and Archbishop Charles Maung Bo in Myanmar.

They are among new cardinals from 14 countries in total: five are from Europe, three each from Asia and Latin America, and two each from Africa and Oceania.

Fifteen men are under the age of 80, which makes them eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a future pope. The group of cardinals is the second appointed by Pope Francis, who will have chosen nearly a quarter of voting-age cardinals once they are elevated during a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Feb. 14.

For the second time, the pope chose no new American cardinals. And his nominees in the rich world reflect his preference to focus on smaller cities. For instance, he chose Msgr. Ricardo Blazquez Perez, archbishop of Valladolid, Spain.

Referring to the Vatican, Pope Francis told faithful in St Peter’s Square that the churchmen come “from every continent” and “show the indelible tie with the church of Rome to churches in the world.”

In addition to the 15 new cardinals who are under 80 and thus eligible to vote for the next pope, Francis bestowed the honor on five churchmen older than that.

He said they distinguished themselves for their work in the Vatican bureaucracy, in diplomatic service in giving witness to their love of Christ and God’s people. Those included men from Peru and Mozambique.

Speaking from a Vatican window to a crowd in St Peter’s Square, Francis made another surprise announcement. He said that on February 12-13, he will lead of meeting of all cardinals to “reflect on the orientations and proposals for the reform of the Roman Curia,” the Vatican’s administrative bureaucracy.

Read full report

Novena for Pope Francis’ safety and security, Papal Visit PH

 Paco, NJ Viehland

NJ Viehland Photos

January 2, 2015

First Friday of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Circular 2015-2

RE: Obligatory Novena Holy Hour for the Papal Visit 

My dear people of God:

As the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis approaches, we are being asked to mobilize our Catholic faithful in our parishes to pray for the safety and security of the Holy Father while His Holiness is in the Philippines. Unable to use the regular security precautions like bullet proof vehicles and armed security men, we turn to the Lord and ask Him to keep the Holy Father safe from all harm. If we come together in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we claim the Lord’s blessings of security and peace and order. God is our refuge; in His love we are secure.

The format Holy Hour that you are encouraged to use in all parishes, religious communities and schools may be downloaded from www. lingayen-dagupan.org

The novena for the safety of Pope Francis during his Apostolic Visit must be prayed in the entire Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan from January 6 to 14, 2015 at a time when most of the parishioners can participate. This is an OBLIGATORY NOVENA in the Archdiocese.

I trust that you understand the urgency of the situation and the invaluable recourse to simultaneous prayer nationwide.

Thank you in advance for this spiritual support.

 

Sincerely yours,

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

Priests in the Year of the Poor – Archbishop Villegas circular to priests

children watch priests march Ed Gerlock

children watch priests’ in anti-US military bases march Ed Gerlock

January 1, 2015

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

Circular 2015-1: The PRIESTS IN THE YEAR OF THE POOR

My brother priests:

2015 is Year of the Poor. It is also Year of Consecrated Life for the universal Church as willed by Pope Francis. As our year opens, I wish to offer you some thoughts on living out the call to simplicity so that the Gospel to the poor may better glow through us priests.

From Pope Francis

Addressing the Curia, the Holy Father laid out his thoughts on the danger of avarice and greed and materialism in our vocation. He said one of the maladies of ecclesiastics is the sickness of accumulating: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential void in his heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but only to feel secure.

In reality, we can take nothing material with us because “the shroud does not have pockets” and all our earthly treasures – also if they are gifts – will never be able to fill that void, in fact, they will render it ever more exacting and more profound.

 To these persons, the Lord repeats: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked … Therefore, be zealous and be converted” (Revelation 3:17-19).

Accumulation only weighs down and slows the inexorable journey! And I think of an anecdote: one time the Spanish Jesuits described the Society of Jesus as the “light cavalry of the Church.” I remember the transfer of a young Jesuit that while loading his many belongings on a truck: bags, books, objects and gifts, heard an old Jesuit who was observing him say, with a wise smile: Is this the Church’s “light cavalry”?! Our transfers give a sign of this sickness. (December 23, 2014)

Father's Embrace: Then-Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle [wearing the miter] embraced Father Mark Anthony Reyes and four other seminarians during their priestly ordination for the Diocese of Imus on the bishop's last ordination ceremony Dec. 6, 2011, before he was installed as Archbishop of Manila that same month and elevated to the College of Cardinals on Nov. 24, 2012. [N.J. Viehland Photo]

Bishop embraces newly ordained priests. NJ Viehland photo From Our Vocation

From our vocation

Let us return to our original reason for desiring to be a priest. We were trained for a difficult life in the seminary. We seemed to be in a perennial food lack; remember those days? We deprived ourselves of the warmth of family life and contented ourselves with living together with the brother seminarians. We cleaned the seminary ourselves, maintained the garden and observed the rules. We wanted to be priests hence nothing was unbearable.

The ordination was our turning point. The Church entrusted her mission to our hands. We also received in trust the money of the faithful believing that priests help so many poor people. They gave us money to send poor children to school, to feed the malnourished, to help the sick receive medication, to defray the cost of burying the poor and so many more duties.

Accumulation, Comfort and Security

And the sickness of accumulating possessed us so quickly. Money got stuck in our hands instead of sliding to the needy. The car became a status symbol even for the newly ordained when the chrism of anointing had hardly dried. The recreation became more sophisticated to expensive tourist sites unreached by the working class. We were no longer lacking in food; we were now choosing our food after being initiated into the palate of the filthy wealthy.

It is bad for a priest to fall in love with a woman. It is worse if he falls in love with money. Ordination gave us access to church money but that money is not ours to enjoy.

Our ordination gave us powers. In a manner of speaking, the ordained are supermen. But the awesome plan of God cannot be restored by a Church that is more concerned about power than of service, more interested in convenience than sacrifice. A Church that is so focused on the powers of supermen clerics will hardly inspire hearts for renewal. We priests can start touching hearts again if we talk less about our powers and instead expose ourselves more to the power of Christ to change us. When we demand integrity from public officials, can we humbly say like Saint Paul “imitate me because I imitate Christ”? In this Year of the Poor self accusation must precede prophetic denunciation of social corruption.

Materialism and Clericalism

If our youth and children see shepherds who are more concerned about imitation than money we will see them staying with God. If we would be more focused on imitation of Christ before imposing fixed rates for the sacraments, we would see renewal. These times call for imitation before proclamation, imitation before teaching, imitation before mission, imitation fund raising. Imitation of Christ before all else! Our confused flock, like everyone else, listen only to life examples. The best fund raiser is the holy priest because he is credible. People know his hands are slippery when he touches money. The donations always end in the tables of the poor.

Clericalism speaks of privilege, prerogatives, entitlement and special treatment. Clericalism prefers sacristies to the slums. Clericalism is more concerned with embroidered vestments than reconciled souls. When we look back at the history of the Church, Church reform always started with clergy reform. As the shepherds go so the sheep follow.

When we lose humility, we lose perspective. When we lose perspective, we also become too reactive. When we become too reactive and possessive and materialistic, we become less effective and less credible as pastors. The loss of humility and the sickness of accumulation in Church ministry can be very costly. With materialistic clericalism laid aside, and Gospel empowered humble shepherding taking its place, we might be able to see the rainbow of hope in the Year of the Poor.

Clerical accumulation injures the idealism of our seminarians, hurts the sensibilities of the youth and confuses many of the faithful who know that Christ lived as a poor man and His disciples cannot be anybody less than that.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. – NJ Viehland Photos

Signs of Simplicity

As a brother in the vocation whose mission is to bring the Good News to the poor, let us impose on ourselves strict discipline in the following areas of priestly life:

Avoid as much as you can foreign travels and frequent recreation in expensive tourist destinations. Even if such are paid for by friends and family, it is best to decline and choose austerity and simplicity. Rest is important but luxurious recreation is disrespectful for the poor who cannot even take a rest from their backbreaking jobs. Be more sensitive.

High end cars and expensive vehicles smack of vainglory and luxuryespecially in a province like ours where there are so many who are poor who cannot afford a tricycle ride. There is no excuse for any priest to have such high end vehicles. We need vehicles to reach the poor barangays and bring them the blessings of God. Expensive cars alienate the poor from the Church. We smell differently from the sheep.

We need to return to the clerical attire or clerical cross in public places as a form of witnessing to the poverty of Christ. Loud colored signature shirts and pants are fashionable but we cannot let Christ glow unless we let our glamour go. To be simple is to be great in the eyes of God. The poor priest does not need to dress sloppy. We must give dignity to our vocation.

It is a serious sin of omission for a priest not to have a regular poor person to help whether for education, health or livelihood. While it is morally acceptable to set aside some savings for future needs, it must be done with prudence. The money spent for the poor on earth are savings in the heavenly kingdom. It is a scandal for a priest to die a rich man. We bring to heaven only what we give away on earth.

We must be honest in reporting to the Curia the true financial condition of the parish or school. There are no fixed rates of offerings for the celebration of Masses, for confirmations, for funerals, for weddings and other sacramentals in our archdiocese as we agreed on. What the archdiocese forbids, the parish priest must not circumvent. We are only temporary stewards not chief executive officers. Our goal is ministry not revenue upgrade.

We need to re examine what we keep in our bedrooms. A priest’s room and a bachelor’s pad are exact opposites. Is the Lord our only companion in this sacred space of the rectory? “The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry: the clothing you shut away belongs to the naked” (Saint Thomas Aquinas)

Always give alms to the poor who come to you. Do not be afraid to be fooled nor turn them away empty. Do not be afraid to pamper the beggars. They have no one to help them. If you have to make a mistake, make a mistake in being too charitable, in being too kind. There is no excess in kindness. We cannot outdo Christ in kindness.

There is much to be done in the Year of the Poor but the first in the list is the simplification of priestly lifestyle. The renewal of the Church begins with the renewal of the priests. Let us take the lead in embracing the poverty of Jesus on the Cross.

I impose all these challenges on myself first before inviting you to embrace them too. Let us look at Jesus. Let us look at Him and let us be like Him. That is our only duty—to be Jesus and to give Jesus who alone is our treasure.

Sincerely yours,

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

Also published in http://rcald.org/

Papal Visit 2015 Sri Lanka: Pope Francis will be there – Cardinal Ranjith

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Preparations continue, and the Papal visit will take place, despite the doubts that clouded the event in the last months. The Sri-Lankan Church confirms Pope Francis’ pilgrimage from the 13th to the 15th of January; but President Mahinda Rajapaksa also confirms presidential elections on the 8th of January. In this state of affairs, the Pope is, whether he wants to or not, one of the deciding factors in the electoral campaign, in a contest between two candidates that promises to be very balanced. And, hopefully, it will be ‘free from any violence’ as the two candidates wished together in a public statement.

The first unavoidable aspect is exploitation…

Read full report ,La Stampa

West Asia 2014 : Upheaval, suffering millions in the Middle East

Global call to prayer for Syria Iraq FB photo

The story of the Middle East in 2014 is one of war and displacement, broken families and tireless aid workers, and the rise of a new group one scholar referred to as “al-Qaida on steroids,” Catholic News Service reports.

It’s a story of populations stretched to the limit, but still welcoming more refugees as neighbors. And it’s a tale of religious leaders calling for prayer, meeting for dialogue and urging an end to the violence.The continuing civil war in Syria created what Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, called “the defining humanitarian challenge of our times.”
Read full CNS Mid-East round-up In Middle East, a year marked by upheaval leaves millions suffering

ABS CBN media network pulls out “Pope Francis” shirt after CBCP warning on error

 

papal visit tshirt for sale pull out screen shotABS-CBN media network apologized Monday for offending people with a Papal Visit 2015 commemorative shirt it is selling on its online store and other retail shops.

In its statement, the mixed media network’s spokesman said it would pull out from shops the design that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) criticized.

“ABS-CBN assures the public that there was no intent to deceive or mislead the public through the commemorative shirt that carry statements inspired by Pope Francis’ message of love, openness, and humility,” ABS-CBN spokesman Bong Osorio said.

“We apologize if a particular statement shirt offended anyone. We are pulling out the item from our online shop and all retail partner stores,” he added.

Papal Visit tshirt warning screen shot

The recalled shirts carried the slogan “No race, no religion.” It is one of four designs for commemorative shirts produced and sold by ABS CBN in celebration of Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines on Jan. 15 to 19.

CBCP in a statement on Monday warned the public about t-shirts printed with words it said are “misleading” and “erroneous” in suggesting Pope Francis pronounced those words.

CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan urged Catholics not to patronize the shirt with the words: “No race. No religion.”

The other designs include “Ganito Ako. Ganyan Ka (This is how I am. That is how you are. Who Am I To Judge,” “Thank You sa Malasakit (thank you for your compassion). Pope Francis sa Pilipinas (Pope Francis in the Philippines.”

CBCP News reports that Catholics want the “Who am I to judge?” design pulled out also. The report quotes the warning of Catholic lawyer and lay preacher Marwil N. Llasos of the Company of St. Dominic (CSD)  that the design “grossly distorts” Pope Francis’ views on gay people who seek God, and implies that the pope espouses “beliefs and principles that directly violate official Church teachings.”

 

Gov’t-Communist Party Christmas ceasefire “welcome” but… – peace advocates

Star hangs in Vietnam diocesan complex hosting FABC assembly

Vietnam diocesan complex, Xuan Loc, Vietnam / NJ Viehland Photos

 

STATEMENT ON CHRISTMAS CEASEFIRE 2014

December 20, 2014

May the Christmas ceasefire bring the gift of peace!

As citizens longing for lasting peace, we welcome the respective announcements by the Government and by the Communist Party of the Philippines of limited ceasefires for the Christmas period that covers the Papal Visit. We pray that there will be good will and effective compliance by the parties.

Indeed the visit of Pope Francis is an important event for many Filipinos that we hope will inspire them to live humbly and justly, to serve others and respect all creation.

We also urge the parties to consider the possibility of a humanitarian pause beyond the Papal visit, to give respite to victims of humanitarian disasters in different parts of the country, and to encourage the country as a whole to refocus thoughts on healing and on rebuilding vulnerable communities.

Our sincere wish is that this interval from armed confrontations can build confidence for the resumption for formal peace negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP at the soonest time, towards the forging of a just and enduring peace.

We believe that the peace negotiations will be sustained and less fragile if priority will be given to improving the situation of human rights, particularly of communities in conflict areas including those of indigenous peoples. Far too many indigenous people continue to become victims of extra-legal killings, harassment and other human rights violations.

The peace negotiations should be boosted by more concrete socio-economic reform efforts that make a difference in the lives of rural and urban poor communities. Electoral and political reforms must also be undertaken to ensure meaningful participation of people and the practice of good governance.

The public constituency will broaden around peace negotiations that can provide safety and security to communities by effectively reducing the violence on the ground. 

As citizen peace advocates, we commit to do our part by renewing and re-energizing our engagement with the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations. We will try to bring timely inputs of more stakeholders to the peace table. We will create other tables so that more voices of those directly affected by the protracted conflict can be heard.

Again, we are truly thankful to the Government and to the Communist Party of the Philippines for the gift of a Christmas ceasefire. May it establish a good beginning, a season of peace and grace in the New Year!

Signatories:

Center for Peace Education – Miriam College * Generation Peace Youth Network * GZO Peace Institute * Initiatives for International Dialogue * Koalisyon ng Mamamayan para sa Reporma *Pax Christi Institute *Philippine Council for Peace and Global Education * Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. * Waging Peace Philippines

Manila, screen shot

Manila, screen shot

Government announces unilateral ceasefire on holidays, Pope Francis visit

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Dec. 15 announced a month-long unilateral truce with the communist New People’s Army, as it usually did during the Christmas and New Year’s season.

Key points of the ceasefire:

* starts midnight of Dec. 18 and will last until the midnight of Jan. 19.

* recommended by the military, concurred by the Philippine National Police, endorsed by the Department of National Defense to Malacanang, approved by President Benigno Aquino III
* Longer than usual truce lasts until Jan. 15 in keeping with the agreement reached by government and communist negotiators during a meeting in Netherlands.
* Authorities will continue serving arrest warrants against NPA rebels during the truce period. They said they are liable to courts that issued the warrants of arrest. – Catapang
*Military operations against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters will continue during the holiday season – Catapang
PEPP photo release

PEPP photo release

Ceasefire Declaration for traditional holidays, Communist Party of the Philippines anniversary, Pope Francis’ visit
By CPP Central Committee
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) hereby issues this ceasefire declaration to all commands and units of the New People’s Army (NPA) and people’s militia to take effect during the following periods:
12:01 am of December 24, 2014 to 11:59 pm of December 26, 2014;
12:01 am of December 31, 2014 to 11:59 pm of January 1, 2015; and
12:01 am of January 15, 2015 to 11:59 pm of January 19, 2015
During the aforementioned days, all units of the New People’s Army and people’s militia are ordered to desist from carrying out offensive operations against units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the various armed paramilitary groups attached to the Government of the Philippines (GPH).
This declaration is being issued in solidarity with the Filipino people in their observance of traditional holidays which coincides with the CPP anniversary celebrations on December 26.
This ceasefire declaration is also being issued in deference to the upcoming visit of Roman Catholic patriarch Pope Francis which the Filipino people look forward to as an opportunity for religious celebration and to raise outstanding issues …
 
[The full text of the CPP announcement was posted on the website of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines information office.]

Cardinal Tagle: Christmas Message 2014

By Ed Gerlock

contributed by Ed Gerlock edgerlock@yahoo.com.ph

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the name of the Archdiocese of Manila, I extend to all of you, especially to your families my prayerful wishes of a Blessed Christmas. For the Church in the Philippines, November 2104 up to November 2015 has been designated as the Year of the Poor. So Christmas 2014 falls within this most important event centered on the poor of the land and of the world.

Jesus, though truly Son of God, emptied himself of his glory and prerogatives and became human, one of us. This is the mystery of Christmas: God becomes poor and lowly so that we could become rich in God’s life. By becoming human, Jesus has identified himself with every human being, especially the poor whose only strength is God. Christmas is never truly Christmas if we do not accept and imitate Jesus’ self-emptying poverty. Christmas is a season to shed off illusions of grandeur, pretensions to self-importance, and the wickedness of self-interest. Christmas is never truly Christmas if we do not practice Jesus’ solidarity with the poor, the weak, and the neglected. Christmas is a season to see our own poverty, to see a companion in every person who suffers and to see Jesus in a needy brother or sister. Christmas frees the poor from inhumanity and degradation. Christmas proclaims the good news that the poor are loved by God, that they possess the dignity that has its source in God, that they could take their rightful place in shaping society as protagonists. May Christmas 2014 give us greater zeal to combat trafficking in human persons, new forms of slavery, neglect and abuse of children and violence against the helpless!

As we also prepare to welcome Pope Francis with his message of mercy and compassion, we pray that the celebration of Jesus’ birth bring much love and peace, especially to the poor of the land.

+ Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle

Archbishop of Manila  

Cardinal Tagle: Mary, truly a woman of our time, FABC papers no.134

Magnificat sign language YouTube

Magnificat song sign language demonstration, YouTube

Today’s Gospel story of the Annunciation when Angel Gabriel tells Mary she would be the mother of Jesus reminds me of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s talk to East Asia bishops, clergy, religious and laity gathered for the Institute on Lay Apostolate on Women II organized four years ago by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

Our priest’s homily today focused on the important virtues of purity and obedience. In Cardinal Tagle’s reflection titled “Mary Truly a Woman of Our Times,” he reviews Biblical stories of Mary that show Mary’s courage and many other virtues that underscore her relevance to women and men today.

Cardinal Tagle’s theological reflections touch on:

1. Mary as a youthful disciple

2. Mary as a traveling woman

3. Mary as pregnant woman

4. Mary as oppressed and refugee woman

5. Mary as married woman

6. Mary as woman of celebration

7. Mary as the victim mother

8. Mary as prayerful community disciple waiting for the Holy Spirit

Cardinal Tagle’s talk on Mary, Truly a Woman of Our Time is published as FABC Papers no. 134

 

Students taught their parents, teachers to play music [video]

Students taught their parents and teachers how to play their instruments. 

Christmas orchestra parents teachers CBCP YouTube

This was the result!

Gearing up for Papal Visit 2015, Bl. Vaz canonization – pastoral letter

WELCOMING THE VICAR OF CHRIST ON THE OCCASION OF THE CANONIZATION OF BLESSED JOSEPH VAZ

PASTORAL LETTER ISSUED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lanka, screen shot

We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of His Holiness Pope Francis on our soil on January 13, 2015 as the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Peter. It is with great joy that we welcome our Holy Father into our midst.

Already by the simplicity of his life, his sense of evangelical poverty and Christ like compassionate love, specially for the poor and the suffering, the Holy Father has become a much revered and loved spiritual leader of the whole world. The Pope’s visit therefore, is a great blessing not only to the Church in Sri Lanka but also to the whole Nation. All preparations are underway and are progressing smoothly to welcome the Holy Father.

The Holy Father will arrive on January 13, 2015 at 9.00 am at Bandaranaike International Airport and after the preliminary State Welcome, the Holy Father will proceed to the Archbishop’s House for a meeting with the Bishops. On the 13th at 5.00 pm, His Holiness will pay a courtesy call on the President of the country and at 6.00 pm the Holy Father will meet Religious Leaders of all faiths, at the BMICH. The highlight of the Holy Father’s visit undoubtedly will be the Canonization of our Beloved Apostle, at a Holy Mass to be presided over by the Supreme Pontiff, at Galle Face Esplanade on January 14, 2015 at 8.30 am. The same afternoon His Holiness will proceed to the Hallowed Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, for a prayer service. The following morning. after a short visit to the Chapel of Our Lady of Lanka at the Benedict XVIth Institute at Bolawalana, Negombo, the Holy Father will leave our shores at 9.00 am.

We, therefore, exhort all our faithful, Clergy and Religious, to flock to Galle Face Esplanade for the Holy Mass, during which we shall receive the First Saint of Mother Lanka, on January 14, 2015 in large numbers, as this is a unique occasion for all of us.

Our Joy of the visit of the Universal Shepherd is further enhanced by the decision of the Holy Father to Canonise our beloved Apostle, Blessed Joseph Vaz.

Joseph Vaz devotion card

We have prayed earnestly and yearned for this day to dawn. We thank God our loving Father for His unfailing providential care in saving the faith of our forefathers through the indefatigable labours of this great missionary.

We are deeply indebted to Blessed Joseph Vaz for his zeal, heroic sanctity and unquenchable thirst for souls that made him to come to our land and to help our forefathers to be strengthened in their faith.

We, therefore, exhort all our faithful, Clergy and Religious, to flock to Galle Face Esplanade for the Holy Mass, during which we shall receive the first Saint of Mother Lanka, on January 14, 2015, in large numbers, as this is a unique occasion for all of us.

In the coming weeks, we exhort all our faithful, Clergy and Religious to embark on a program me of deep spiritual preparation for both events, namely the Canonisation and the Papal Visit. For this purpose, we urge that all our parishes and Catholic institutions organize programmes of spiritual preparation:

a. The special thanksgiving prayer to be recited in our Churches and Institutions, after the Holy Mass. (If you do not have sufficient number of prayer cards for this purpose, each parish is requested to get them printed in the relevant languages and distribute it to all the faithful).

b. Exhort the faithful to light the altar lamp in every home and after the Family Rosary for the intentions of the Holy Father, recite the prayer of thanksgiving and sing the hymn of Blessed Joseph Vaz.

c. Encourage and provide opportunities for all our faithful to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and make a good Confession before the Papal Visit and the Canonisation.

d. Organise an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on a chosen day of the week and urge the faithful to pray intensely for a deep renewal of our families and our Christian commitment to love, to serve and to proclaim the Lord by our lives and witness.

e. In the coming weeks in the Sunday homilies, make the faithful aware of the heroic sanctity and burning zeal and the life and ministry of the Apostle of Sri Lanka, Blessed Joseph Vaz.

f. During the period of preparation, encourage the faithful to visit the sick in the parish and pray with them and pay special attention to the poor and the marginalised. Let parishioners who can afford, assist financially those who have no
means to make the pilgrimage to Colombo on Januar 14.

g. Animate the faithful to be agents of peace and reconciliation in their own environment.

h. We exhort all our parishes to organise the joyous pealing of Church Bells in the whole Island, when the Holy Father makes the declaration of Canonisation during the Holy Mass.

i. Let us participate actively in the Holy Mass of Canonisation with great fervour and devotion by joining in the Mass prayers and the singing.

(Our spiritual preparation committee will be giving further directions for this purpose.)

The Assembly for the Holy Mass of canonization presided over by the Holy Father, would be a great manifestation of our gratitude to God Almighty and our profound gratitude to the Apostle of Sri Lanka, Blessed Joseph Vaz, who was sent to us by Our Loving Father through the intercession of Our Beloved Mother.

May this unique occasion draw down numerous blessings upon all of us and our families and our beloved Motherland by these precious events, which we eagerly await.

Signed

His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
President – CBCSL, Archbishop of Colombo.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph
Vice President – CBCSL, Bishop of Mannar.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Valence Mendis
Secretary General – CBCSL, Bishop of Chilaw.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. J. Kingsley Swampillai
Bishop of Trincomalee.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Savundranayagam
Bishop of Jaffna.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando
Bishop of Kandy.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. J. Winston S. Fernando, S.S.S
Bishop of Badulla.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Norbert M. Andradi, O.M.I
Bishop of Anuradhapura.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Harold A. Perera
Bishop of Kurunegala.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Cletus C. Perera, O.S.B
Bishop of Ratnapura.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Ponniah
Bishop of Batticaloa.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Raymond K. Wickramasinghe
Bishop of Galle.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Marius Peiris
Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. F. L. Emmanuel Fernando
Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Maxwell G. Silva
Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady 8th December 2014.

[text of pastoral letter reprinted raw from Messenger, Sri Lanka’s weekly Catholic Newspaper, Dec. 14, 2014 issue]

Sri Lanka politicians pledge peaceful polls and papal visit, cardinal

We need to have faith and believe in what they both told us - Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo was quoted in Messenger, Sri Lanka’s Catholic newspaper.

The cardinal was sharing what he felt about the assurance he said leading candidates – incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his health minister, Maithripala Sirisena, the common opposition candidate – gave Sri Lanka’s Catholic bishops that there would be no trouble after the Jan. 8 polls and that a peaceful atmosphere would prevail for the visit of the Holy Father.

Click image for full story on ncronline.org

NCR story Sri Lanka polls papal visit NJ Viehland

Related posts:

Sri Lanka Commentary: Blessed Joseph Vaz canonization

Faith in God for papal visit security in Sri Lanka – priest

Opinion : Sri Lanka polls and papal visit 2015 – Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando

Samar youth orchestra in papal Mass – built to “touch life through music”

CKY orchestra playing Carl Bordeos

Contributed photo of Christ the King College Youth Symphony Orchestra in concert. From Carl Bordeos

The coordinator of a youth symphony orchestra in Samar province, Central Philippines, northwest of where Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) first hit land last year says the young musicians are gearing up to play in Pope Francis’ Mass at Luneta Park on Jan. 18.

Carl Bordeos, coordinator of the 60-member Christ the King College Youth Symphony Orchestra, from Calbayog, Samar, said his group is scheduled to arrive in Manila by January 9, for the general rehearsal with the choir on the 10th & 17th.

In his story of the orchestra sent to Catholic in Asia, Bordeos called the young musicians “missionaries of classical music”. 

Read on to know about this section of the orchestra for the Papal Mass.

Young Musicians from Samar to perform during Pope Francis’ mass in Luneta

By: Carl Jamie Simple S. Bordeos

The 60-member CHRIST THE KING COLLEGE YOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (CKC YSO) from the City of Calbayog in Samar will join other instrumentalists from Manila to provide music in one of the Eucharistic Celebrations when Pope Francis visits the country come January 2015. These young musicians from Samar Island, given the special privilege to perform in the papal mass in Luneta, are high school & college students of the Christ the King College, a Franciscan educational institution.

IEC Palma crucifix NJ Viehland

Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu (left) / NJ Viehland Photos

Musical Journey & History

It was Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu Archdiocese who conceptualized the group when he was still bishop in the Diocese of Calbayog in 2005. Through the efforts of Fr. Prisco A. Cajes, OFM, the former CKC President, and the Calbayognons in the United States headed by Walter Rumohr and Tomas Gomez who donated most of the musical instruments, the CKC-YSO was inaugurated during the Solemnity of the Christ the King on November 25, 2007.

After a 5-month rigorous training of the first members by Fr. Marlowe A. Rosales, OFM, its Music Director and Conductor, the first concert was launched at the Poor Clare Monastery in Calbayog City. Since then, it has developed into a dynamic group performing in different places in the country. To date, it has performed at the SM Mall of Asia (MOA); New Port Mall of Resorts World Manila; Century Park Hotel; Concert at the Park at the Open-air Auditorium, Rizal Park-Manila; Sabin Resort Hotel in Ormoc City; outreach concerts in far-flung barangays in Calbayog City; and at the Paco Catholic School for the Pondo ng Pinoy upon the invitation of His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, DD.

CKC Youth Orchestra mash up Carl Bordeos

Contributed by Carl Bordeos

Sharing the Gift of Music

Funds raised from the concerts have also financed the Share God’s Gift of Music Program, which comprises the scholarships, values formation and music training of the young-member musicians, upgrade and maintenance of the musical instruments, and outreach concerts in far-flung communities.

Since 2007 and up to the present, Fr. Marlowe seemed marvelous and successful in training the youth of Samar. In fact, two particular life stories of its members were featured in Mel and Joey of GMA-7 last December 12, 2010; an article ‘Youth and Music’ written by a Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist last December 13, 2009; ‘Trip to Samar’ written by a travel writer for an online website-based in California, USA; another article ‘Franciscan Friar honored for Music that touches lives’ featured in [CathNews Philippines].

Touching Lives Through Music

Two (2) inspiring stories of its members were featured on national TV: one, was about an orchestra member, who, because of one of CKC-YSO concerts in Manila, met her mom after 10 long years; and, an orchestra member who planned to stop his studies to work for a bakery store in Catbalogan, Samar. Because of the priest-missionary’s encouragement and help, the young man continues his studies. Fr. Marlowe promised to keep him as a student scholar of CKC-YSO.

Because of these as well as other inspiring stories of the orchestra members, the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP, city council) of Calbayog passed a resolution in 2010 declaring Fr. Marlowe as ‘Adopted Son of Calbayog City’ for his dedication and zealous service in developing the orchestra.

In addition, the resolution says“, the City gratefully recognizes and appreciates Fr. Marlowe A. Rosales’ vital contributions to our youths for sharing his knowledge and skills in music, thus bringing pride and honor to the city….”

The Missionaries of Classical Music

The CKC-YSO has not only entertained people in big cities like Manila, Cebu, Tacloban, and Dumaguete. They also have visited remote barangays (barrios) through their music outreach program, bringing the orchestral music closer to the rural folks, who may not have the opportunity to experience it.

Profile of CKC YSO’s Music Director

Born in Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental, on October 16, 1972 to parents Nestor R. Rosales and Erma A. Rosales, Father Rosales graduated in 2001 from Conservatory of Music of the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas (UST) with 2 degrees, Bachelor of Music in Music Education and in Conducting.

His previous assignments were at Saint Francis School in La Libertad, Negros Oriental (Central Philippines) in 2002, as Parochial Vicar of San Vicente Parish in Cebu City in 2003, and in Saint Mary of the Angels Parish in Santa Teresita in Cagayan Valley (northern Philippines) in 2004. In all these places, he organized choirs of high school students.

Currently, he is serving as Missionary of the Franciscan Province of San Pedro Bautista on Samar Island fulfilling his great mission for the youth, touching their lives through the music of his orchestra.

‘Put an end to the fossil fuel era,’ say bishops at climate conference

Marikina, NJ Viehland

Flooding in Marikina City during Habagat / NJ Viehland photos

A group of bishops attending an international climate-change conference in Peru called upon the international community “to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degree Celsius, relative to pre-industrial levels, in order to protect frontline communities suffering from the impacts of climate change.”

“Central to this is to put an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing in 100% renewables with sustainable energy access for all,” the bishops said.

X FABC group picture

Xth FABC Plenary Assembly, Dec. 2012, Xuan Loc, Vietnam / NJ Viehland Photos

The nine bishops include representatives of the Latin American Bishops Conference (CELAM), the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC), and the French and Brazilian bishops’ conferences.

“We express…

Read full report

Mobile apps for Papal Visit Philippines 2015 launched

Papal Visit apps launching / NJ Viehland Photos

The Committee for the Papal Visit launched today through Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig the Papal Visit application for Android and IOS.

The software can be downloaded through Google Apps by typing papal visit 2015. When download is completed and the app is installed  the Philippines Papal Visit 2015 logo and Pope Francis’ photo appears on the phone’s screen as the official Papal Visit song and video play. Icons appear in the bottom of the screen which when tapped takes one either to Pontifex, Pope Francis’ Twitter account, the news, the event’s official website and the Papal Visit itinerary. The app can be used for a Tablet also.

“We want as best as we can to make sure that the information that we provide day by day and weekly updates are given to the public, especially those who are mobile,” said Bishop Vergara, who chairs the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

He thanked people who “made sure these apps would come out a month before the visit of the Holy Father.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Manila from Sri Lanka for his apostolic visit Jan. 15-19, 2015.

Pope Francis thanks Filipina actress

 

 

Rita Avila YouTube

Rita Avila, actress  http://youtu.be/63Uus-v4BsY

MANILA, Dec. 11, 2014 – Pope Francis, through a high-ranking Vatican official, thanked Rita Avila, a local actress and book author, for recently sending him personal copies of her two books, CBCPNews reported.

What are the books about, why is this actress writing books, and what did Pope Francis tell Rita?

Read full report

Interview – Sri Lanka Church communication director on papal visit and elections

Fr Cyril Gamini Fernando SLC FB Photo

Fr Cyril Gamini Fernando photo on Sri Lankan Catholics Facebook 

https://www.facebook.com/slcatholics/posts/728540610544799

Manila – Catholic in Asia spoke briefly on the phone to Colombo with Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, National Director of Catholic Social Communication in Sri Lanka on Friday, Dec. 5, to get the local Church’s perspective of concerns raised by Catholics who are pushing for the postponement of Pope Francis’ January 2015 visit to their country.

Here’s what Father Fernando had to say: [excerpts]

Catholic In Asia : What was the outcome of the meetings with the Vatican papal visit team that went there after the schedule of early elections next year was announced ?

         Father Cyril Gamini Fernando: The Vatican team did not come here in connection with the elections. They have come here to check on the preparations for the papal visit. That is the normal thing. They do the same thing in Manila also. They arrived day before yesterday (Dec. 3) and they have left already. As of now there is no change in the schedule of papal visit events.

Vatican team Madhu Sri Lanka Papal Visit FB

Screen shot from Papal Visit 2015 Facebook account

What is the response of Sri Lanka Church officials to concerns of Catholics detailed in published letters and statements? What is Cardinal Ranjith’s response to these, and to “politicization” of the papal visit ?

We have requested all parties connected with these elections that they should not use these as election tools, whether  their pictures with the pope or anything showing the papal visit. So we have asked if there are already such pictures displayed outside or in online accounts, they should remove them all. We have told that to all parties.

What about anticipated violence around the time of the polls? How does the local Church see this?

Election day is on the 8th (January) we have about six days ‘til the 13th to open the ballot and count and declare the president before we will welcome the Holy Father for the visit.

What assurance can local Church organizers give for the safety of the pope and people who will be around the venue of papal visit events?

We have faith in God and we have asked the people to pray and prepare spiritually for the visit because it is primarily a spiritual event.

END 

Related post:

Sri Lanka politicians pledge peaceful polls and papal visit, cardinal

 

 

CBCP President to Catholic churches, schools: shelter refugees of looming typhoon

Hagupit JTWC image

JTWC image  http://www.usno.navy.mil/JTWC/

Typhoon Hagupit with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph on Wednesday afternoon and gustiness up to 184 mph, has been reported approaching the same area in central Philippines battered by Super Typhoon Haiyan Nov. 8 last year.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the U.S. Navy forecasts further strengthening of the storm with sustained winds possibly peaking at 185 mph.

As of Wednesday afternoon it was located about 148 nautical miles north-northeast of Koror in Palau.

As priests and parish workers reported over Church-run radio Veritas 846 that some rain had started in the Philippines eastern coastal communities in Samar and Leyte provinces, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), appealed to government to start evacuation and avoid disaster.

Archbishop Villegas also appealed to Catholic churches and schools to open up to refugees seeking shelter from the storm.

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

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

Following is the full text of the CBCP president’s letter on looming typhoon Hagupit.

My brothers and sisters in Christ:

Meteorologists inform us that HAGUPIT is now a super-typhoon and most predict that it will make land-fall over the very same areas hard-hit by Yolanda.  The CNN resident meteorologist has just characterized it as the strongest of super-typhoon this year.

Let us all first pray, and the Filipinos far from the danger-zone are asked nevertheless to join the entire nation for those in harm’s way.

I plead with government officials and NGOs to commence evacuation now.  To wait any longer may be disastrous.  There is no such thing as an excess of caution, especially when faced with a danger so severe.

I appeal to our Catholic churches and schools to open their doors to refugees and those badly in need of shelter, particularly those already displaced by Yolanda.  I request only that evacuees remember the sacred character of the churches they occupy, should they do so.

Together with my brother-bishops, I commend the entire nation to the mercy, love and providence of our Father.

Lord, spare our land from this typhoon!

December 4, 2014

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

CBCP President

Hong Kong police release Cardinal Zen, protest leaders after “surrender”

Three founders of Hong Kong’s Occupy protest movement, joined by retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, 82, have been released without restrictions after they “surrendered” to police yesterday, Dec. 3, Channel News Asia reported.

Protesters flocked to Hong Kong’s central district in late September and blocked three major intersections to demand free elections in the special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China after the government announced its decision to screen presidential candidates in the 2017 elections.

Cardinal Zen has been quoted telling a pro-democracy demonstration earlier this year that it is time for Hong Kong people to show that they “no longer want to be slaves.” Last Sept. 28, he urged protesting students who had gathered at a public square to go home and continue protesting in other forms after police sprayed the crowd with tear gas. 

Cardinal John Tong-hon of Hong Kong had appealed to the Hong Kong-SAR government to exercise restraint on the second day of the demonstration, after police sprayed tear gas on those protesters. He also appealed to the tens of thousands of protesters, including young students, to keep calm, as he urged Christians to pray for peaceful reconciliation of the conflicting parties in the protests. 

Hong Kong and Chinese authorities have not issued a warrant of arrest for protest leaders even after officials had called the protests illegal. 

What now for the quest for peaceful reconciliation and democracy in Hong Kong and China?

Read full report on police release protest leaders

 

 

Manila archdiocese asks Facebook:close down fake Tagle account asking for money

Papal Visit fake account RCAM
Beware: This is a bogus  FB account  using the name of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle and asking donations through this letter which bears the wrong address and wrong signature of the Cardinal. The Archdiocese of Manila calls on Face Book to close this account. It victimizes foreign Filipinos a number of whom in Switzerland responded to the appeal and made donations.
Papal Visit fake letter RCAMWe advise the people to make sure that the letters of solicitation they respond to, especially those purportedly signed by Cardinal Tagle and other officials of the Church, come from official sources. 
The official FB page of Cardinal Tagle which is managed by Jesuit Communications does not post appeals of this sort. Donations for the poor can be coursed through Caritas Manila, the social services arm of the Archdiocese of Manila.
Peachy E. Yamsuan 
Archdiocesan Office of Communications
Archdiocese of Manila  

Delhi police yield to Christians, special probe team for church burning

New Delhi:The Delhi police Tuesday bowed to the Christian community in the national capital after more than 15,000 people choked one of the most congested traffic junctions in India for more than two hours.

The crowd dispersed after the Delhi Police’s Special Commissioner for Law and Order Deepak Mishra agreed to a probe by a special team from crime branch into the burning of St. Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden, East Delhi, on Monday morning.

The commissioner has also agreed to launch departmental enquiry into the alleged inaction of the local police.

The Delhi administration has also agreed to renovate the church with the help of the Central Public Works Department starting Thursday.

Crowds began to collect in front of the Delhi Police Headquarters from morning hours, blocking all the roads to the Income Tax Office junction where the police headquarters is situated.

Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi, who led the rally…

Read full story...

 

Sri Lanka Commentary: Blessed Joseph Vaz canonization

Joseph Vaz devotion card

Contributed photo

Denigrating the holiest event Lankan Catholics awaited for 303 years

Sri Lanka has decided to hold a presidential election on Jan. 8 – just one week before Pope Francis visits the country. Such advancing of an election, not due for another two years, has deeply hurt the country’s Catholics.

Catholics invited the pope to canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz, the country’s first saint, not for a State visit. The event was set alongside the saint’s Jan. 17 death anniversary. Catholics wished it to be a religious event, with minimal State involvement just for routine protocol. With deep frustration, they now watch the political Trojan horse invade the sanctuary.

The spiritual upbuild for the canonization by groups such as the Joseph Vaz National Secretariat was first distracted with Church-State-planned pageantry for the papal visit. Thereafter political posters made it a tool for election propaganda. Election-related discord and violence may soon overshadow the event. Church leaders little realize the faith erosion caused by letting politics ruin the holiest event Catholics eagerly awaited for 303 years.

Much public distress about the event’s politicization has been expressed via social media and other public exchanges. Many Catholics have urged that the canonization be postponed. Others even say it could be held in Rome like the recent canonization of Indian Saints Chavara and Alphonsa. Some prefer such moves to political denigration of the name of Father Vaz who eschewed politics, and ministered to victims of political conflict.

Sri Lanka Papal visit FB screenshot

The Indian priest had arrived in the country in 1687 dressed as a beggar to avoid Dutch colonizers’ ban on entry of Catholic priests. For 10 years he was the only priest serving the entire country until confreres joined him. During his 24-year apostolate, he searched for Sinhala or Tamil Catholics living in hiding in the aftermath of political conflict between Portuguese and Dutch colonizers. Buddhists and Hindus valued his ascetic witness of treating king and commoner with equanimity.

Saint John Paul II, who beatified Father Vaz in 1995, once described him as the greatest missioner in Asia next to Saint Francis Xavier. It was an affirmation of Lankans’ acclaim of this holy missioner’s sanctity.

Since the missioner’s death in 1711, about 50 books on his life and service have been published in English, French, Italian, Konkani, Sinhalese and Tamil. Devotion to this Apostle of Sri Lanka has spread locally as well as in his Indian homeland. Since his beatification, 10 venues in four Sri Lankan dioceses hold novena devotions to Blessed Vaz. Nine dioceses have dedicated 23 churches and chapels in his honor.

Apart from such public veneration, the aura of his mission still survives in the pastoral field. Trincomalee and Kurunegala dioceses have named their minor seminaries after him. Colombo, Galle and Kurunegala dioceses have opened lay theologates to promote his pioneer mission of indigenization.

Amid such evidence of his living memory, Catholics countrywide have eagerly awaited the peak moment of the preparatory work by the Joseph Vaz National Secretariat, headed by Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy. But the spiritual benefit of these efforts will be lost if election-related rivalry and recrimination invade its final stage. Church leaders should make alternate arrangements if they cannot ensure Catholics a prayerful atmosphere to celebrate their first saint without being hassled by election unrest or militarized restrictions.

Hector Welgampola
welgampo@gmail.com 

Hector Welgampola

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

 

Pope issues letter for Year of Consecrated Life

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued a letter for the Year of Consecrated Life, which will start throughout the universal Church on the first Sunday of Advent, 30 November. The observance will end on the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, 2 February 2016.

In his message, the Pope underlined the aims of the Year of Consecrated Life, namely to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope.

Listen to the report by Laura Ieraci:

I.         AIMS OF THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE

1. Institutes of consecrated life will look to the past with gratitude…

Quezon City, NJ Viehland

Maryknoll Sister Helen Graham, Quezon City / NJ Viehland Photos

2.  To live the present with passion…

children watch priests march Ed Gerlock

Scavenger children watch seminarians march to  protest military bases / contributed by Ed Gerlock edgerlock@yahoo.com.ph

3. To embrace the future with hope 

Xuan Loc Seminary Grand Chapel

Xuan Loc Seminary Grand Chapel grounds fill up with people welcoming FABC delegates Dec. 2012 / NJ Viehland Photos

Tagaytay,NJ Viehland

Sister and aspirants from South Asia attended the AMOR meeting Mass in 2013, Tagaytay City/ NJ Viehland Photos

II.        EXPECTATIONS FOR THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE

1.        We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere; that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy; and that our total self-giving in service to the Church, to families and young people, to the elderly and the poor, brings us life-long personal fulfillment.

NJ Viehland Photos

Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia / NJ Viehland Photos 

NJ Viehland Photos

Good Shepherd Srs. Ailyn Binco and Anya Borbon, NJ Viehland Photos

NJ Viehland Photos

Sr. Pring and sacristans in Lingayen-Dagupan, NJ Viehland Photos

2.         I am counting on you “to wake up the world”, since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy. 

NJ Viehland Photos

NJ Viehland Photos

Muntinlupa prison / NJ Viehland

Muntinlupa prison / NJ Viehland Photos

3.         “to make the Church the home and the school of communion”

year of faith happy priest nun by n j viehland

Year of Faith launch, Paco Church / NJ Viehland Photos

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

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

4.         I also expect from you what I have asked all the members of the Church: to come out of yourselves and go forth to the existential peripheries.  “Go into all the world”…

Robert Reyes / NJ Viehland

Robert Reyes / NJ Viehland Photos

5.         I expect that each form of consecrated life will question what it is that God and people today are asking of them.

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro from FaceBook

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro Department of Education FaceBook

AMOR, N.J. Viehland

AMOR, N.J. Viehland Photos

HFSB, Sorsogon,contributed

Sr. Bernie de Silva HFSB, Sorsogon fishermen’s recollection, HFSB contributed photo

Read the full text of Pope Francis’ letter for Year of Consecrated Life, Official English translation

Resource: Database on killing of Filipino Journalists

Published by Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility

CMFR Database on the Killing of Filipino Journalists/Media Workers Since 1986

updated November 2014

See database

 Paco, NJ Viehland

Paco, NJ Viehland

 

How a “far-away” people’s theology groomed a pope for the Church of the Third Millennium

Book Review by Hector Welgampola

Francis: Life and Revolution by Elisabetta Pique

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

Pope Francis’ video message to the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization, 2013 / NJ Viehland Photos

“Francis: Life and Revolution” is more than a papal biography. Based on Jorge Bergoglio’s 76-year life and witness in his native Argentina, the book unravels the genesis of the Bergoglio papacy’s style and nuance.

With native Argentine wisdom and perspicacity of an investigative journalist, Elisabetta Pique helps readers understand the mindset of her compatriot who catapulted to the papacy as Pope Francis. Her familiarity with Argentine lore, long personal acquaintance with Padre Jorge and experience as a Vatican-based journalist have enhanced the well-documented biography with unique insights.

All the way from “Liber Pontificalis”, the papal book attributed to Saint Jerome, more often than not, papal biographies have been, a rather didactic genre of Church literature. Pique’s book, however, follows the lucid and investigative style of more recent papal biographies such as “Paul VI” authored by Peter Hebblethwaite, and “His Holiness” authored by Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi. The narrative style of this much-resourced book makes it addictively readable.

The book’s early chapters give a snapshot of the how and why of the 2013 conclave and the Argentine cardinal’s election to the papacy. Its mid-chapters are a flashback to the cleansing crucible of preceding years very appropriately designated by the author as Bergoglio’s “exile” in and outside Argentina. With uncanny candor, the book reveals the complicity or connivance of various levels of ecclesiastical leadership to thwart the Spirit’s role in grooming a future pope. Noteworthy is the harsh impact of the Sodano-Bernadini curial axis, which scarred the life of several other Third World Churches, as well.

Later on, the book evidences how the blend of a pragmatic Argentine version of people’s theology, Ignatian spirituality and intense Marian devotion sustained Bergoglio through such upheavals and local political unrest. It is reflective, if not predictive, of that blend’s potential for worldwide Church renewal under the leadership of the first pope from Latin America. The book reveals the rationale of the Holy Father’s open-minded approach to renew the Church for the still unfolding mission in the Third Millennium.

And up until now, Pope Francis has done well through the witness to Jesus-like personal austerity and evangelical simplicity he lived as archbishop of Buenos Aires. In recalling the extent of his practical commitment to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, the book cites how his home for elderly priests cared even for Protestant pastors. “If we have to sell chalices, we’ll sell them,” the future pope is reported to have said while providing for a priest with multiple sclerosis.

No wonder the book describes Pope Francis as a tsunami. Even if curialists may not fear for the treasures of the Vatican, the book indicates that some of them worry about his keenness for curial reform. And so, perceptive Catholics worldwide eagerly watch his Francis-like zeal for ecclesia semper reformanda. As the cliche goes, even if the grinding be slow, it will grind exceedingly small, they hope.

However, as realized by some of his predecessors, ridding a two-millennia-old institution of layers of corrosive accretions is not easy. Hebblethwaite’s earlier cited biography of Blessed Paul VI has a prophetic line: “Montini, the first modern pope, tried to be the first Christian pope after (now Saint) Pope John. It broke him.” Like Bergoglio, Montini too had weathered his own “exile” after being packed off to Milan by curial intervention. But the papacy broke him. He ceased writing encyclicals after Humanae Vitae.

As embers of the Humanae Vitae debate emerge in-between the Rome synods on family, some sniping too has become evident. For example, a comment on a recent issue of the Catholic World Report made insinuative remarks about Pope Francis’ origin from “a destitute part of the world” where people are “poorly educated,” it alleged. Nonetheless, Elisabetta Pique’s book offers hope that such Third World origin itself has steeled the Holy Father with Francis-like faith and grit to “rebuild” the Church for the Third Millennium.

The book ends with two somber questions: One: will Pope Francis follow the trend set by Pope Benedict XVI and retire after a limited term of office? The other and more ominous question: will he be assassinated? Both are not unfounded questions, and are backed with quotes from concerned persons. And as the Holy Father prepares to travel longer distances and to trouble spots like Sri Lanka, greater would be people’s concern for his safety. The prayer call the sports-loving pope made six months ago to some athletes in Rome could be heeded by us too: “Pray for me that I may be able to play this game till the day that the Lord calls me to himself.” 

Perhaps, now is the time to revive the old papal anthem and sing with fervor: “God bless our pope, the great, the good!”

Hector Welgampola

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

 

Thanksgiving : one year after deadly typhoon

Baby Israel by Emylou Antigua

“My little Israel . . . blessing from God . . .” wrote Haiyan survivor Emylou Antigua on her Facebook account / contributed by Emylou Antigua)

Emylou Antigua has a happy reminder of the devastating typhoon that battered the central Philippines a little over a year ago: her son, named for the Israeli medical team that helped deliver him.

American Jewish Pins toys JDC photo

Danny Pins, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee chief financial officer for Africa and Asia region distributing toys and food to children in northern Cebu, Philippines. (Courtesy of JDC)

For Chief Financial Officer Danny Pins of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee his group’s response to Haiyan is “personally rewarding.”

Catholic mom, Jewish financial officer – what they are grateful for in their experience related to typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda…

Read full story

Opinion : Sri Lanka polls and papal visit 2015 – Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando

Update of Catholic In Asia blog Faith in God for papal visit security in Sri Lanka – priest 

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lankan theologian Father Reid Shelton Fernando in online discussion shared his opinion posted below on why Pope Francis should not come to Sri Lanka as planned following announcement of the Jan. 8, 2015 schedule of presidential elections in the South Asian nation. 

“According to the situation of the presidential elections fixed for the 8th (of)* January and (whether) it is (or not) conducive to have his (pope’s) visit on the 13th (of) Jan.

a)  The politcians have already politicized this visit by having banners, cut (outs) and posters.

b) Must take (into consideration) the political culture during elections – It is very violent and more it will be that the Ex- Govt. party member/ex minister is contesting against the incumbent president and already (campaigning) had started which will end up in violence and election malpractices. After the elections on the 8th when the results (are) announced on the 9th there will be vilification actions conducted.  This had been the trend in the last few decades.

c) In this mood as the Sri Lankan Catholic Community is only 6% to 7 % they (may also) face violent reactions from the Extremists Groups.

d) If the incumbent president is defeated then the new person elected will not be able to monitor the organization process of the papal visit.

e) From the side of the Church, the preparations for the papal visit was only to have an external show or demonstration of power. There is spiritual preparations planned but had not simmered down yet to the faithful in the grass-root level. Even (the) canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz has not figured in the last few months. 

f) There can be alternative proposal as His Holiness is due to Philippines in Jan 2016 for the International Eucharistic Congress, he can make the visit then there is enough time to prepare spiritually and take cognizance of the life and works of Blessed Joseph Vaz. Therefore, we can wait for one more year as there is no urgency. (What) is needed (is) that we – all faithful – be imbibed with the spirit of Blessed Joseph Vaz.

*words in parentheses were provided by Catholic In Asia editor