“Why are you frightened…weeping?” – Tagle Easter message

Paco, Lament,NJ Viehland

Prayers of lament, San Fernando de Dilao Church, Paco, Manila, Nov. 2013. NJ Viehland Photos [click photo for story]


Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila 

The annual commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection and glorification gives us a glimpse of the eternal life that He, who became human like us, now possesses – a life that will not be touched by sin, destruction and death again. His risen life is our hope, the pledge of our future glory. But Jesus’ resurrection does not cut us off from our earthly life and concerns. It is not an excuse to ignore and to be indifferent toward our world. Rather the light from Jesus’ resurrection makes us see more clearly the truth about our complex human condition while urging us on towards a glorious future.

NJ Viehland Photos

Teacher from Aeta cultural community trained by Franciscan nuns. NJ Viehland Photos [Click photo for story]

Some words spoken by the Risen Lord during his appearances to various people seem to be addressed to us Filipinos in our present situation. The eternally reigning Lord is speaking to us now. Let us listen to some of these words. To the disciples gathered in a room he asked, “Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38). To a troubled Mary Magdalene he said, “Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” (John 20:15). The Risen Lord offers the same questions to us especially in moments of fear, doubts, distrust and grieving. He leads us to our hearts so we could reflect, explore and find meaning. Outbursts of panic, phobia, worry and sorrow need the calming influence of reflection and meditation. The Risen Lord asks questions that make us pause and look into the reasons (or lack of reason) for our terror and anxiety. Let us listen to Him.

DSA nuns, NJ Viehland

Fatima Center for Human Development of the Daughters of Saint Augustine, Iriga City.  NJ Viehland Photos [click photo for story]

To the disciples still unable to believe that He was indeed alive and standing before them He asked, “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41). The glorious Lord comes to us through our humble, simple, poor and suffering brothers and sisters. Even while possessing all authority and power, he deems it worthy to reside among the lowly, those who lack basic necessities of life. He invites us not to allow worries and cynicism to blind us to the needs of the poor among us. Let us behold the Risen Jesus in every needy person and see a neighbor, a brother or sister.

Ed Gerlock Photos edgerlock@yahoo.com.ph

Contributed: Ed Gerlock Photos edgerlock@yahoo.com.ph

I pray that this Easter we may promptly respond to the Risen Lord’s greeting, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21). Let us go to all the corners of our country as missionaries of peace.

Manila,NJ Viehland

Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila        NJ Viehland Photos

+ Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle 

Archbishop of Manila

Cardinal Tagle in BBC Hard Talk on Church, development – video clip

AMOR, NJ Viehland Photos

Aspirants from south Asia bring offerings at the opening Mass for the XVIth Asia Oceania Meeting of Religious women (AMOR) officiated by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in Tagaytay City, Philippines, in Nov. 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

Stephen Sackur of BBC’s Hard Talk interviewed the Catholic Church’s most senior cleric in the Philippines, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. Is the Catholic Church helping the nation’s development?

View clips from the 30-minute BBC interview with Cardinal Tagle here

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  

Pope Francis wants to be inspired by the faith of people – Cardinal Tagle

Tagle Ochoa Pinto Papal press con NJ Viehland

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila to journalists 

Press Conference to announce the Philippines Papal Visit itinerary

From Q & A: 

Pope Francis told me that he wants to visit the Philippines and that he really admires the faith and resilience of the people.

I think he will come to bring a message of solidarity and hope.

But I’m also quite certain that he would want to imbibe, be edified and be inspired by the faith of the ordinary people.

man with leprosy on piano Ed Gerlock

People with leprosy have fun on the piano during Christmas season. – Ed Gerlock Photos edgerlock@yahoo.com.ph

But where was Asia? – Cardinal Tagle post-synod

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

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

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in his first Philippines media briefing after the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family closed in Rome Oct. 19 spent a few hours with journalists today to report on the synod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Note : Some words/sentences translated from Tagalog]

More to follow

Cardinal Tagle highlights issues, concerns from pre-Synod feedback

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Communicating the Gospel of the Family in Today’s World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manila,NJ Viehland

Manila,NJ Viehland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges to a school of theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manila catechists and Catholic school teachers -NJ Viehland Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Good morning to everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, for some dates:

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

What do they cover?

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

– How is the teaching of the Church disseminated?

– How is it proclaimed and how is it received?

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

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

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

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

The 6th, the education of children in irregular marriages

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

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

and the ninth is other challenges and proposals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Part I

Read Part II