Statement of Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, CBCP President, RH Law

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

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

I encourage our Catholic faithful to maintain respect and esteem for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has decided on the RH issue based on existing laws in the Philippines.

The Church must continue to uphold the sacredness of human life, to teach always the dignity of the human person and to safeguard the life of every human person from conception to natural death.

Although the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the RH law, it has truly watered down the RH law and consequently upheld the importance of adhering to an informed religious conscience even among government workers. It has also stood on the side of the rights of parents to teach their children.

We cannot see eye-to-eye with our pro-RH brethren on this divisive issue but we can work hand-in-hand for the good of the country.

On the part of the Church, we must continue to teach what is right and moral. We will continue to proclaim the beauty and holiness of every human person. Through two thousand years, the Church has lived in eras of persecution, authoritarian regimes, wars and revolutions. The Church can continue its mission even with such unjust laws. Let us move on from being an RH-law-reactionary-group to a truly Spirit empowered disciples of the Gospel of life and love. We have a positive message to proclaim.

April 8, 2014

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

[to follow- Full text of Supreme Court ruling on Constitutionality of the RH Law. NJV]

Temptation of Sr. Cristina

Sr Cristina Scuccia Facebook photo of the 25 year-old Ursuline nun from Italy whose world changed radically after she sang in The Voice of Italy March 19.

Sr Cristina Scuccia Facebook photo of the 25 year-old Ursuline nun from Italy whose world changed radically after she sang in The Voice of Italy March 19.

 

By now you must know Sister Cristina Scuccia, a 25-year-old Sicilian who appeared in her habit, veil and chunky shoes on the Italian version of The Voice reality tv show.

She has become an instant star, with her audition racking up more than 3m views on YouTube, The Guardian reported

Some people cheer Sr. Cristina, a few wrote “hate, hate, hate…” and how they were “appalled” by the nun’s behavior.

I confess to being amused to watch Sr. Cristina’s video. Unlike many online commentators, however, I wasn’t stunned. For one thing, it is common for me to watch nuns singing into a microphone. Okay – not onstage in competition singing Alicia Keys in rockstar style, literally, that is. What’s the connection between spirituality and celebrity?

Professor Thomas Sebastian, an academic based in Birmingham, UK reflects on this question in India Matters’ March 28 issue

 

Ruki Fernando out of detention – is he free?

Ruki Fernando photo on Facebook page of FORUM-ASIA which signed the Joint Statement with Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch calling Sri Lanka government to "Free Prominent Rights Defenders" and asserting that " Arrests of Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen are Attempts to Silence Critics" http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/17/sri-lanka-free-prominent-rights-defenders

Ruki Fernando photo on Facebook page of FORUM-ASIA which signed the Joint Statement with Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch calling Sri Lanka government to “Free Prominent Rights Defenders” and asserting that ” Arrests of Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen are Attempts to Silence Critics” http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/17/sri-lanka-free-prominent-rights-defenders

Human rights defenders Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan are out of detention in Sri Lanka’s Terrorist Investigation Department (TID), but Fernando, in conversation over the phone from his home in Colombo told me hours after their release, he does not feel completely free.

Two days after their release, a Sri Lanka journalist reported  that authorities continued to “harass” Fernando and Mahesan

Police arrested Mahesan and Fernando on March 16 evening from Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka while the two were on a fact-finding mission in the area. They were taken in Tharmapuram near the home of Jeyakumari Belndra  who was arrested a week earlier for allegedly harboring an absconding Tiger. After being interrogated “harshly” in Kilinochchi and nearby Vavuniya, the two were finally detained at the TID headquarters in Colombo.

A few hours after Fernando’s release, he shared his sadness over continued “unjust” incarceration and maltreatment of other detainees mostly from north and northeast Sri Lanka. Rebels based there fought the government for a separate state until they were violently defeated in 2009.

The U.N. Human Rights Council in session in Geneva prepared to tackle a draft resolution sponsored by the United States and other countries calling for an international investigation into “past abuses and to examine more recent attacks on journalists, human rights defenders and religious minorities.”

Fernando expressed his and Fr. Mahesan’s gratitude to local and international NGOs, religious groupings, human rights bodies and governments around the world for throwing their support behind them and for demanding their release. The detainees freed last March 19 give credit to the pressure exerted by this movement for their release and safety in the hands of the police and interrogators.

Soon after this interview, the Sri Lanka government barred Fernando from giving interviews to foreign media.

Following is the full text of my conversation with Fernando:

” We left behind the many people who have been detained in the very place we were detained…unjustly…”

N.J. Viehland : Exactly when were you released?

Ruki Fernando : It was about 1:30 this morning in Sri Lanka.

What happened?

We were trying to do some fact finding about the human rights situation from war affected areas of the Kilinochchi district. When we were there on Sunday it was very very tense. During the whole Saturday and Sunday we were there. We encountered many many checkpoints which was not very usual because we had traveled in that area before.

We were stopped in several places. We were detained for 15 minutes, 20 minutes in certain places, our identity card numbers were taken.

When we went to visit someone in a house the army came and questioned us. That’s quite unusual that when we visit a person the army would come into the house and question you – a person in uniform and someone in civilian clothes.

When we went on to visit another lady, that lady was already being questioned by intelligence officials so we could not enter in her house. So throughout the one-and-a-half days we were intimidated. We faced restrictions and surveillance, and it was a very very tense situation. Then finally, it was around 10 pm on Sunday that were arrested.

Initially we were told that it was in relation to a shooting incident. Then we were told later that we were arrested in relation to supporting terrorism. We were questioned very very intensely. It was very harsh. We were not given access to our lawyers while on detention, although I made several requests.

When we were first arrested I made a request. Later I requested to get a senior official of the terrorist investigation department … that I want to talk with my lawyers. But throughout detention I was not given the opportunity. Many lawyers came to meet me, but the police did not allow any of them to meet me.

I learned I got lots of attention to this in Sri Lanka and also internationally and because of the many requests for the Sri Lanka government to release us from Sri Lankan organizations, individuals and also organizations and people around the world, and I believe because of that our safety while in detention was ensured. We were not physically harmed and eventually our release is also due to the work and the pressure exerted by so many people in Sri Lanka and all over the world.

Any faith-based group that demanded your release? 

Yes, one of the northern dioceses, the Jaffna diocese issued a statement from Catholics calling for our release. There are many individual priests who were also lobbying for us. But I don’t know if the archbishop of my diocese, (Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith) Colombo, has done something that I don’t know about. I know that it was brought to his attention and that there were requests from some people that he would make some intervention because he is very influential with the government.

Fact finding mission – who were you with and what were you investigating, exactly?

We were investigating the very tense situation. We wanted to know why it was so tense. We were looking into allegations of arbitrary arrests of several women in the north and the east during the week. That time we had heard of the allegations so wanted to do a fact-finding and also to get a sense of what the situation was on the ground.

Kilinochchi was the center of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), but we were not only in Kilinochchi town but also in the interior areas because we wanted to check them out. People in that area and also from outside had been telling me there was this situation of tension and arrests and so we wanted to go and look.

Apparently two women who were connected in some way to this person annexed to the key leader for the revival of the LTTE, one was his wife and another was also known to him were under surveillance or arrested. Then the third person is also a woman. We got reports of their arrest.

The government is very edgy – the police and the army. I don’t know if it is justified or not because I don’t have information, but according to what the police and army told me they are treating it as a very serious threat.

You think this reported revival of LTTE has something to do with your arrest? 

No. I think the government does not want the true situation in the northern part to be known to the rest of Sri Lanka and the rest of the world. The government does not want any different story than their own version to get out, and the government is particularly clear that no information should be provided to the UN Human Rights Council currently in session in Geneva.

During questioning they were even asking me who are you sending this information to. In fact one of the three leaders who came to arrest me, he was saying I am sending information to earn money. That was one of their acusation. Another is that I am causing discomfort to the government. This is in writing. So I told them I don’t understand how these can be a crime.

What were conditions in detention?

We were kept in an office the whole day. We were separate. There were few occasions that Father and I could talk to each other but they kept us separate. When we would start to talk about something, we would be separated again. We were kept in the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID).

Why and how were you released? 

They arrested and brought us to the station. Then the police finally decided that they had nothing to show to the court. So they wrote the court that they had nothing against us and they requested for our release. So the magistrate released us accordingly. They signed the request from the police.

Where are you now and how are you and your family feeling about all this?

I’m with my parents now in Colombo. It’s nice to be back. My parents and my sister were very very worried. Starting now they are already relieved, but still quite worried about my safety in the future.

What are next moves for you and Father Mahesan? 

It’s too early to say. Father and I have to still discuss with our lawyers and the people who worked very hard to get us released. We will discuss together and decide on next steps. But one thing that is clear for me and for Father is that we remain very committed to the work we are doing. We were doing what we believe in, that we are doing the right thing. Both of us are Catholic, he as a priest and I a lay person, both of us essentially living our Christian faith so I think we will take these as part of our Lenten pilgrimage, these two days, and we will not be deterred by what has passed, and we will continue to work for human rights.

Any message to people who lobbied for your release?

First, my very great appreciation on behalf of me and on behalf of Father Praveen as well. I’m very very sure that our safety while in detention and our release is because of the work that all of our friends in Sri Lanka did, as well as the media, human rights organizations and even some foreign governments speaking on our behalf.

It shows that if ordinary people, organizations and governments want to, they can actually make a difference in terms of providing safety to people who are in danger, ensuring that people who are detained unjustly are released. It is a very good example of what can be achieved if people are committed.

Very sadly, when I and Father Praaveen walked out to be free men, we left behind the many people who have been detained in the very place we were detained, and those men and women have been detained for much longer than us. Those people do not get even one percent of the attention that Fr. Praveen and I got. So I wish there will be more people who will join Father Praveen and I to ensure the safety and freedom of many other people who are unjustly detained.

END

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle at First Gathering of Metro Manila Clergy [text]

By N.J. Viehland

POWER PLANT MALL, Makati City, PHILIPPINES – Let me share my transcript of the homily of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila for the closing Mass for the Oct. 3 First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila. It ended with priests singing “you are the answer to my lonely prayer.” This is what Cardinal Tagle said the priests are to their flock. He asked priests not to disappoint Church members.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila's homily for the closing Mass of the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila”,  October 3, 2013 celebrated with some 130 priests bishops in the chapel of Rockwell Tent, Power Plant offered points for priests' reflection of themes during the days activities at the Makati City mall, including mission of the Church, servant priesthood and discipleship. NJ Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila’s homily for the closing Mass of the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila”, October 3, 2013 celebrated with some 130 priests bishops in the chapel of Rockwell Tent, Power Plant offered points for priests’ reflection of themes during the days activities at the Makati City mall, including mission of the Church, servant priesthood and discipleship. NJ Viehland Photo

Text of homily:

The Levites in the first reading declare to the people today is holy, we must not be saddened. I can only say, “Amen. Today is truly holy, and there is no room for a sad face and a sad heart.” I guess we can spend the whole night, if we ever fall asleep tonight, and even the whole day tomorrow reflecting on the significance of today. It’s only around 3:00 and already I can consider these past hours a real feast: a feast for all the senses – a feast for the mind, the spirit and the heart.

We have been fed not only by deep thoughts and wonderful words, not only by good food, but also the witness of the nobility of the human spirit – even through jokes – even through those two crazy men (see following photo)

Comedian Michael Angelo Lobrin, an ex-seminarian and author of Laugh with God [left] with Comedian/musician Brod Pete sent priests, bishops and guests at the Rockwell Tent in Makati on Oct. 3 for the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila” laughing for about an hour with their jokes and songs, including commentaries on seminary life and Philippine culture, language and society. N.J. Viehland Photo

Comedian Michael Angelo Lobrin, an ex-seminarian and author of Laugh with God [left] with Comedian/musician Brod Pete sent priests, bishops and guests at the Rockwell Tent in Makati on Oct. 3 for the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila” laughing for about an hour with their jokes and songs, including commentaries on seminary life and Philippine culture, language and society. N.J. Viehland Photo

Somehow I feel the Spirit could work through them. (laughter) And so, I don’t think I need to add to the possible spiritual indigestion that we might get.

But this Mass being offered for us and for all the ordained ministers of the Church and the readings  for today give us valuable lessons. Pardon me if I don’t expound on them. I will let the Holy Spirit just speak to us regarding these thoughts.

It is very clear from what we heard from Vatican II, from Bishop Mylo and the reflection on the Gospel presented to us also by Bishop Nes Ongtiocothat from the Bible up to the recent Ecumenical Council, there is a consistency of insight, of doctrine, even, that we the ordained inherited the apostolic mission. As Jesus sent the apostles so we are sent. And if we want to understand better what it means for us to act in persona Christi capitis,  [In the person of Christ, the head] I think we have to go to those very clear words of Jesus, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. If I your Lord and Master washed your feet, then you should wash each other’s feet.”

We can only act in the name of Christ in the area of mission and ministry. Yes there is sacred authority, but without mission and ministry, acting in persona Christi could end up being an ideology and not anymore the grace of ordination. We know from the history of the Church how fatal it would be whenever acting in the name of Christ, in the person of Christ is located on sheer power forgetting the sending, the mission, and the call to serve.

And that’s precisely the Gospel for today . They were sent. Aside from the 12, another 72. And let me just indicate another few things for our reflection.

First, he sent them in pairs – sacramental brotherhood. Yes, the calling and the sending are intimately personal, but because they are personal, they open our hearts to other people. And so the calling is also communal. We cannot walk alone. There is no room for lone rangers in Jesus’ view of the ministry. There are only pairs… sent in pairs.

More than 130 priests from the Metropolitan See of Manila concelebrated with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle  the closing Mass for the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila” on October 3, 2013 at the Rockwell Tent, Power Plant Makati City. N.J. Viehland Photo

More than 130 priests from the Metropolitan See of Manila concelebrated with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the closing Mass for the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila” on October 3, 2013 at the Rockwell Tent, Power Plant Makati City. N.J. Viehland Photo

“Kaya kung minsan, ang mga pari who cannot live and work in pairs, ang solution natin pag hiwalayin. Baka hindi tayo sumusunod sa mga turo ni Hesus. Parang gusto ko sabihin, [ That’s why sometimes, with priests who cannot live and work in pairs, our solution is to separate them. We might be violating the teachings of Jesus. I want to tell them…] ‘Work it out! Work it out, you were sent in pairs.'” Who are we to violate Jesus’ way of sending?

The second point is he sent them in pairs as lambs among wolves. He did not send wolves among lambs. The lamb of God sends his ministers and missioners as lambs. In persona Christi . If he is a lamb, then those who act in his person should also be lambs. In the way Jesus describes being a lamb, it is total vulnerability. No body bag, no sandals, not greeting anyone on the way because it is not my purpose to form a fans’ club. I have only my companion and the message of peace of the kingdom. And when you have your brother minister and the message of the Gospel you have all that you need.

Third is part of being lambs and laborers is eating and drinking what is offered to you for the laborer deserves his pay. Normally, we interpret this part, “for the laborer deserves his pay” in terms of we can demand something. But in the teaching of Jesus, “the laborer deserves his pay” means if you are given something to eat and drink, eat it and drink it and do not go to another house that will offer a better meal or a better drink. That is what you deserve – what the house is able to offer. Para bang ano ito? Good news ba ito o ano? [It’s like what’s this? Is this good news or what?] But it’s in the Gospel. I cannot change this.

It is surprising that what is often used to recall a principle of justice – a laborer deserves his payment – is actually, in the mind of Christ as “Whatever the people could give you for payment in terms of food or drink, accept . You do not set it. What they can offer, that is what you deserve.”

And finally, in the first reading, it is not enough to imitate Ezra in proclaiming the word of God to people. I think we should also imitate the people. They open themselves to the word of God and the people upon hearing the word of God were in tears. They were weeping when they heard the words of the Lord. They were mesmerized by the words that they had missed during their exile. And they probably repented for their lack of fidelity to the word.

I ask myself, countless of times I have been opening the book of the law of Moses, proclaiming. But how many times have I wept listening to the word of God. Have I allowed my heart to be vulnerable to this two-edged sword called the word of God? Do I allow myself to be affected by the word of God? Do I allow the word of God to judge me, to disturb me, to cause me discomfort, to lead me to repentance so that I do not only proclaim. I also listen and I am judged by the word of God – another form of vulnerability.

Let us thank God for the gift of this mission and ministry to ordained life. Let us appreciate our companion priests for we were sent in pairs. Let us be like lambs – vulnerable – if you want to embrace the person of the lamb of God who was persecuted by wolves.

Let us be simple, content with what people have to offer. What they can give us is what we probably deserve – a different type of measuring what we deserve.

And finally, we are not just proclaimers of the word, but real servants, hearers of the word, allowing ourselves to be hit, to be touched unto tears by the word of God.

We said this is a holy day. We should not be sad. I can see Jesus really happy and it goes with this: he said to them, to the disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few. So ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest.” We are mysteriously those laborers. But we are not just sent. We are the answer to the prayer directed to the Master. “Send laborers.” And the prayer was answered through us.

When I was much younger, there was the song – You are the Answer to my Lonely Prayer.  Yung nakakaalam po paki kanta lang yung tono… [Those who know it, please sing the tune] For the sake of the young ones. (laughter)

“You are the answer to my lonely prayer. You are an angel from above…”

(priests sang part of the song …)

We call the priesthood a gift, and for many people a priest or pairs of priests sent to the community is the answer to their lonely prayer. And then they see us, we are like angels sent from above. Let us not fail Jesus. May we be truly answers to the prayer sent by the community to the Lord of the Harvest. May it never be told that we will pray again because God sent the wrong answer. Let us be the answer to people’s prayer to God.

END

* Part II of III
 ( photos/articles available on request : newsdatabank@yahoo.com)
* Readers’ comments convey opinions, positions only of the posters

9,000 people came to hear Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle

By: N.J. Viehland

Choir in the back, Mother Butler Guild members, some people in wheelchairs, groups in the Church's ministry to the deaf and security personnel at the Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle April 21, 2013 at Smart-Araneta Center, Quezon City, northeast of Manila / N.J. Viehland Photos

Choir in the back, Mother Butler Guild members, some people in wheelchairs, groups in the Church’s ministry to the deaf and security personnel at the Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle April 21, 2013 at Smart-Araneta Center, Quezon City, northeast of Manila / N.J. Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s Easter Recollection was expecting a large crowd at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum last Sunday, April 21, but 9,000 people ? That is awesome.

More than the numbers, though, the mix of people I saw and spoke to was impressive: people in their 80’s, young adults in their 20’s, children, couples holding hands, nuns…

Outside the big arena, there was a lot of excitement, especially by the food stalls and tables for book and multi-media sales. Not surprising, the chatter included admiration and pride over how their cardinal was cited in the past month as possible next pope.

But inside the huge hall, especially while Cardinal Tagle spoke, all were still and quiet, interrupted periodically by bursts of laughter and applause. At one point when Cardinal Tagle shifted to a serious tone while challenging the audience to be missionaries and witness to Christ, he asked, why did you all suddenly get quiet?

The 9,000 people who spent their Sunday in an Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle April 21, 2013 included nuns, couples, young adults shown here during the break at Smart-Araneta Center. / N.J. Viehland Photo

The 9,000 people who spent their Sunday in an Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle April 21, 2013 included nuns, couples, young adults shown here during the break at Smart-Araneta Center. / N.J. Viehland Photo

Somehow, inside the big dome noted for big league and college basketball, pop concerts and the legendary “Thrilla in Manila” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975, it seemed like everyone knew each other – like neighbors in one community.

Cardinal Tagle spoke in three parts:

Focusing on Christ’s instruction to the disciples to “Go to Galilee”, he reflected on “Galilees in our life” including the hurts and frustrations, fears and failures. Cardinal Tagle said as Jesus met the disciples in Galilee after resurrecting from the dead, he also meets us and stays with us in these places of hurt, frustration, fears and failures. He helps us to know more about Him. This prepares us to “go to the ends of the earth” to tell all people about God’s love and justice, by showing these to them in the way we live and relate with others.

Cardinal Tagle urged thousands of Catholics at the coliseum and many others listening on the radio to go out and serve in mission. [Click the link to read about it.]

Several people I spoke with said they felt “inspired” to become priests, or “challenged” to be patient and influential teachers.

Catechist Mirasol Bautista and Sherry Canchela of Pansol, Quezon City hope to have patience and be effective teacher to hundreds of students after listening to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle at the April 21, 2013 Easter Recollection in Smart-Araneta Coliseum / N. J. Viehland Photo

Catechist Mirasol Bautista and Sherry Canchela of Pansol, Quezon City hope to have patience and be effective teacher to hundreds of students after listening to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle at the April 21, 2013 Easter Recollection in Smart-Araneta Coliseum / N. J. Viehland Photo

Aljon Carpio [left], 22 year-old religion teacher at Notre Dame of Greater Manila with Jose Miguel Pacheco, 4th year high school at University of Santo Tomas felt "inspired" and amused with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle's storytelling at the April 21, 2013 Easter Recollection in Smart-Araneta Coliseum.  / N.J. Viehland Photo

Aljon Carpio [left], 22 year-old religion teacher at Notre Dame of Greater Manila with Jose Miguel Pacheco, 4th year high school at University of Santo Tomas felt “inspired” and amused with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s storytelling at the April 21, 2013 Easter Recollection in Smart-Araneta Coliseum. / N.J. Viehland Photo

Finally, Cardinal Tagle celebrated Mass with Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, which covers Quezon City, and Fr. Emmanuel “Nono” Alfonso, JesCom director.

In the end, Cardinal Tagle directed the congregation to “go to the ends of the earth” and tell others about Christ.

Here are some of the things I saw while I was at Smart-Araneta Coliseum from 8:00-past 1 p.m.

Applauding Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as he returned to the stage for the second part of his talk for the Easter Recollection April 21, 2013 at Smart-Araneta Center in Quezon City, northeast of Manila./ N.J. Viehland Photo

Applauding Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as he returned to the stage for the second part of his talk for the Easter Recollection April 21, 2013 at Smart-Araneta Center in Quezon City, northeast of Manila./ N.J. Viehland Photo

Orchestra playing during the break in the Easter recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle April 21, 2013 at Smart-Araneta Coliseum / N. J. Viehland Photo

Orchestra playing during the break in the Easter recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle April 21, 2013 at Smart-Araneta Coliseum / N. J. Viehland Photo

 

Breaktime at Smart-Araneta Coliseum during the April 21, 2013 Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle - not exactly up-scale dining , but lots of a different kind of "nourishment" / N.J. Viehland Photos [display of brands not an endorsement]

Breaktime at Smart-Araneta Coliseum during the April 21, 2013 Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle – not exactly up-scale dining , but lots of a different kind of “nourishment” / N.J. Viehland Photos [display of brands not an endorsement]

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

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

 

After the Easter Recollection at Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Sunday TV program followers offered support for The Word Exposed featuring Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle / N.J. Viehland Photos

After the Easter Recollection at Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Sunday TV program followers offered support for The Word Exposed featuring Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle / N.J. Viehland Photos

Cardinal Tagle and “Superstar”

By : N.J. Viehland

“Looking forward to The Word Exposed Easter recollection with Cardinal Tagle this Sunday. 8am-12nn at Araneta @JesComPH.” This is what tv news anchor and correspondent Bernadette Sembrano tweeted on Friday.

It’s perfectly understandable, Bernadette. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle isn’t called “superstar” for nothing.

Long before Manila’s archbishop, Cardinal Tagle, drew raves as “possible next pope” in past months, he had already built a reputation as “speaker who will reach deep in your mind and heart”, and a broad following among retreat groups and congresses in the Philippines and other countries. No one I’ve spoken to after his talks has come out unmoved.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle explains to Catholics from around Manila and surrounding dioceses the theology and spirit behind the Year of Faith and what New Evangelization requires of all Church members during a seminar at Manila Archdiocese's Layforce center in San Carlos Seminary compound last Nov. 2012. [N.J. Viehland Photo]

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle explains to Catholics from around Manila and surrounding dioceses the theology and spirit behind the Year of Faith and what New Evangelization requires of all Church members during a seminar at Manila Archdiocese’s Layforce center in San Carlos Seminary compound last Nov. 2012. [N.J. Viehland Photo]

He is a charismatic speaker, many agree. More than that, I believe he is effective, even infectious, because he keeps his focus steadily on the true “superstar”, Jesus Christ, and fully commits to making Christ’s story relevant to the audience and to life. “Cardinal (Tagle) makes the most out of each interaction with people, no matter the length of time,” one catechist at last November’s Layforce seminar on the Year of Faith told me.

Cardinal Tagle marvels at the power of media, particularly, the Internet, and acknowledges the opportunity it presents to tell people about Jesus, and what he teaches us.

He asked us during his talk at the First Catholic Social Media Summit in Marikina City last July, “How many people can I reach with my homilies in church?” He recalled the story of an overseas worker who came up to him at the airport to tell him he likes to watch his The Word Exposed videos on YouTube especially because he cannot go to the few Masses held in Saudi Arabia where he works.

Weekly, Cardinal Tagle preaches on TV through The Word Exposed, whose producers organized tomorrow’s recollection. In front of the camera, the theologian bishop shares his reflections and insights on the First Reading, Second Reading and the Gospel for that Sunday.

The program, which uses illustrations, video clips, music and other media, is posted on YouTube after the TV show has been aired. It aims “to bring the Gospel closer to the lives of the audience,” explained New Media Manager Mari Bianca Orenciana.

Cardinal Tagle’s The Word Exposed is right at the “top of the list” of “success stories” of Jesuit Communications Foundation (JesCom) that produces the program, foundation director, Father Emmanuel “Nono” Alfonso, says.

“It is our answer to the need of Philippine media and society today for sound theology,” the Jesuit priest said in our interview last August.

Cardinal Tagle, a leading theologian in Asia has also served as consultant to the Vatican’s International Theological Commission. He heads the Office of Theological Concerns of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, an association of bishops’ conferences in East, Southeast, Central and South Asia.

The Word Exposed episode : Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (bishop here) explains Church concerns about the Reproductive Health Bill with Jesuit Father Emmanuel "Nono" Alfonso, currently Director of Jesuit Communications Foundation, that produces The Word Exposed. (screen shot courtesy of JesCom)

The Word Exposed episode : Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (bishop here) explains Church concerns about the Reproductive Health Bill with Jesuit Father Emmanuel “Nono” Alfonso, currently Director of Jesuit Communications Foundation, that produces The Word Exposed. (screen shot courtesy of JesCom)

In its August 12, 2012 episode in which Cardinal Tagle preached on the Sunday Gospel, YouTube user “elmsvd” commented, “I’m a priest here in New Zealand, and I have used the reflections as guide for my homilies.”

However, it took a winding path for the program to firm up and grow popular. Father Alfonso recalled that while still bishop of Imus, Cavite, Cardinal Tagle taught at Jesuit-owned Loyola School of Theology on the same campus where JesCom is based. JesCom got him for two-minute television prayer segments and, feeling it wasn’t enough, the organization experimented on an hour-long program called Light Talk  in 2008. The taped show featured the bishop talking about a subject with expert guests.

“Viewers commented and I, too, felt dissatisfied not to hear enough of the bishop, so we changed the format, and the rest is history,” Father Alfonso said.

Tony Boy Cojuangco when he owned the secular station TV5 approached JesCom to produce programs for the first three hours of broadcast on Saturday and Sunday morning. Light Talk was developed, but as the TV station changed management the show was cancelled.

“It was timely to experiment on another format, The Word Exposed, but we had no money, so we just appealed and people started giving,” Father Alfonso said.

“Very honestly, Archbishop Chito (Cardinal Tagle), in front of the camera, said that if you like our reflections you can help us continue this show if you can donate,” the JesCom director narrated.

Catechists, teachers, youth ministry, liturgical ministry and other workers for a "Church of the Poor" in Manila and neighboring dioceses listened to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle's presentation about the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization at Layforce center in Manila archdiocese's San Carlos seminary last Nov. 2012. [N.J. Viehland photo]

Catechists, teachers, youth ministry, liturgical ministry and other workers for a “Church of the Poor” in Manila and neighboring dioceses listened to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s presentation about the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization at Layforce center in Manila archdiocese’s San Carlos seminary last Nov. 2012. [N.J. Viehland photo]

Today, the show thrives in what the audience gives. “Individuals, rich and poor, Filipinos and non-Filipinos here and abroad,” pitch in what money they can give, Father Alfonso said. “There’s no funding agency, no corporations buying commercial spots. It’s really just the audience and some donations from organizations,” he added.

He said JesCom’s websitehas online donation features  , “but people also hand over bills to Jesuit priests after Mass in their parishes, even just 100 pesos (US$2.43), and tell them to please give the money to bishop (Tagle).”

The JesCom head attributes “overwhelming response” locally, from Australia, the US and other countries to people’s perception of Cardinal Tagle as a credible theologian, Church leader and a person of integrity. 

Even prominent personalities, such as Washington Sycip, founder of Sycip, Gorres, Velayo and Co., the Philippines largest multi-professional services firm were moved to send in what an SGV official told me was a “personal donation.” In sending his one-time donation, he wrote how hopeful he was that then Bishop Tagle would lead the Church to improve, Father Alfonso said.

He shared that Knights of Columbus had committed to a regular monthly donation of around 50,000 pesos. “We would like that, for donors to give regularly,” Father Alfonso said.

He estimates, “It costs at least 40,000 pesos to produce a show, and the biggest expense is for the crew.” He said Cardinal Tagle is given only “a small token.”

JesCom also produces other programs and multi-media materials for evangelization and education, and trains people in communication at The Garage creative technologies center.

The Easter recollection its The Word Exposed group organized can expect to gather another large and colorful crowd, including Bernadette, to come and listen to their brilliant, charming, funny cardinal from 8 a.m. to noon at the concert, circus, and basketball landmark: Smart Araneta Coliseum, in Cubao, Quezon City.

Hopefully, if candidates for the May 13 general elections join, it will be to worship God and reflect on leadership as caring and serving their people like the Good Shepherd does, and not to campaign for themselves.

END

Philippine Bishops and Elections

By: N.J. Viehland

Andrew Pearson’s video on The evolution of the bishops wherein late Jesuit Father James Reuter shares his views and opinions revisits  a period which many voters in the May 13 general elections did not experience.

It recalls how the government of ousted president Ferdinand Marcos pushed bishops to speak out against an “immoral” regime, and rally people to examine their consciences, pray, discern and act to stop what is wrong and enable what is good.

Bishops Antonio Fortich and Francisco Claver, who Fr. Reuter described as “progressive”  have both passed away.

In this period of “restored democracy”,  what does the Church in the Philippines need and who are the next generation bishops who will guide Filipinos to think, feel and act as Christ did in their day-to-day community life ?

Catholic Bishops of the Philippines pray the Our Father at the funeral Mass for Bishop Francisco Claver at the Jesuit Loyola House of Studies seminary chapel in 2010. / N.J. Viehland Photo

Catholic Bishops of the Philippines pray the Our Father at the funeral Mass for Bishop Francisco Claver at the Jesuit Loyola House of Studies seminary chapel in 2010. – N.J. Viehland Photos