Ecology encyclical and “far away” Churches – Commentary, Hector Welgampola 

Ecology encyclical presents collegial wisdom of “far away” Churches

Hector Welgampola

Laudato Si cover

Full text here

 

Quite unsurprisingly, Laudato Si (Praise be to you), has taken the world by storm. Its content and ecclesial nuances have taken a definitive stand for the welfare of all forms of planetary life.  

As the most recent social encyclical, it is a groundbreaker, even though categorized with Rerum Novarum and other seminal documents of Catholic social doctrine. And those documents dealt mostly with issues that concerned the Western hemisphere. Like other encyclicals, they too were addressed to bishops and other Church leaders, although their salutations did often include a mention of “ to all men and women of good will.”  

As instruments of the Church’s teaching authority, they were grounded in the Scriptures and Tradition. An occasional mention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as in Saint John Paul’s Centesimus Annus was an exception. Dante’s Divine Comedy was quoted by the same pope in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater. Apart from following suit quoting Dante, Pope Francis’s Laudato Si also quotes Patriarch Bartholomew and Sufi mystic Ali Al Khawas as well. 

But there is much more to the new encyclical than its content and genre of documentation.While wading through traditional gateways of encyclicaling, Pope Francis new encyclical makes a subtle shift.While inviting all humanity to a dialogue about our shared home, the document engages the wider Church in a new dimension of ecclesial magisterium. That futuristic move once more reiterates the Holy Father’s prophetic streak as an innovator.   

As noted earlier, in response to varied needs and circumstances, encyclicals have grown as instruments of papal teaching. Especially in more recent times, they have tended to articulate the primacy of the Petrine office as supreme teaching authority.It is no surprise that Pope Francis, who prefers collegial consultation to authoritarian imposition, should see a need to broadbase the paradigm of encyclicaling. In a Spirit-led move, the innovative pope has reached out to the people of God worldwide for the wisdom of the “diaspora” Churches. And beyond doubt, the Spirit must hover over him. 

Especially, as a product of Puebla, Medellin and Aparecide, the Holy Father would fail Churches worldwide if this encyclical put a lid on his home Church’s passion for the environment. After all, how could that document ignore the pain of a continent raped and plundered by industrial conglomerates? Apart from reflecting the thinking of Aparecide, the document refers to statements by Bolivian, Brazilian, Dominican, Mexican, Paraguayan and Patagonian bishops.  

These and other agonies of oppressed peoples have been cited from Africa too. In particular, the pope had not forgotten the African outcry against corrupting foreign aid heard at the recent Synod. Asian voices from the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences) and countries like Japan and the Philippines have been enhanced by echoes from Churches in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United States. 

This encyclical will go down in Church history as a genuine effort to integrate voices and values of the worldwide Church. And as the Spirit discerns, may it help evolve a collegial magisterium that resonates the pastoral wisdom and catholicity animating God’s people at the grassroots worldwide. 

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.

 

 

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

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

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

MANILA, PHILIPPINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…..  Dear brothers and sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My dear brothers and sisters,

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

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

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

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

Let us pray that our leaders would wake up.

 ***********

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 22, 2014 

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

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

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

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

            For clarity, please allow me to state the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

            Thank you.

                                                Very truly yours,           

                                                 (SIGNED)      MONSIGNOR JOSEFINO S. RAMIREZ

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

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

END

CBCP Document: Our Moral Response to the Unconstitutionality of DAP

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

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

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

Why this Statement

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

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

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

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

Communal Guilt

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

We are all guilty by attitude and by our disposition.

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

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

Appeal to Government

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

There must be accountability.

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

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

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

Let us restore integrity in our land.

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

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