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

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

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

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

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

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The spiritualities of Bergamo and Wadowice brought sainthood to the papacy (Commentary by Hector Welgampola)

Worship leaders lead some more than 15,000 worshippers in singing praise songs and dancing at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines while waiting for the televised canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome on April 26, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Worship leaders lead some more than 15,000 worshippers in singing praise songs and dancing at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines while waiting for the televised canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome on April 26, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Heavenly bliss is the ultimate goal of all humans. That leads us to the Christian concept of a Communion of Saints. Some religions honor holy persons as saints even in their lifetime. So did the early Christians. In today’s Church, however, sainthood is a posthumous title reserved for holy men and women whose fragrance of sanctity continues to sustain earthly sojourners of the Communion. 

Last weekend, the Church added two popes to the official list of saints for veneration by Catholics worldwide. Way ahead of the dual canonization in the Vatican, the new saints received unprecedented media coverage. Much of it focused on their papal role as John XXIII and John Paul II. Happily, corrective action was promptly taken by Pope Francis. He graciously thanked Catholics of Bergamo, Italy, and Wadowice, Poland, for gifting the two saints to the worldwide Church.

Saint John XXIII was pope for about 5 years of his 84-year-long life. Saint John Paul II was pope for just 27 of his 82-year-long life. Much of the two saints’ contribution, even as popes, was the fruit of their Christian life and service each in his own habitat or mission. When considering their fuller life-witness, one wonders whether they should have been canonized as Saint Angelo Roncalli and Saint Karol Wojtyla. After all, their sainthood owes much to the holiness of life and witness that equipped each of them to grace the papacy as head of the worldwide Church.

For example, the ever-jolly Friar Tuck-style depiction of saint John XXIII often fails to reflect the rustic Roncalli serenity based on deep personal prayer. The “Journal of a Soul,” which puts together diaries and notes Angelo Roncalli wrote from age 14 until his last days, reveals the simple peasant spirituality that laid the foundation for his eventful papacy. “My great book is the crucifix,” he wrote as a simple priest, adding, “the solution of all difficulties is Christ.” He was fond of the private devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus practised by his great-uncle Zaverio Roncalli. “In fact, he was the first person to train me to that practice of religion from which my priestly vocation was to spring,” he wrote later as Pope John.

Even after being named papal representative in Bulgaria, he was ever conscious of the sense of Divine Presence nurtured by his peasant background. He once recalled, “God sees me: our humble grandmothers used to work this motto into their samplers of rustic embroidery; it still hangs on the old walls of our houses and it contains a stern reminder which serves to give a character of decency to all our behaviour.”

Archbishop Roncalli’s diplomatic sojourn in Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and France exposed him to a wide spectrum of world realities. It served as a providential pastoral preparation for his future task as pope. His political and ecumenical encounters in those countries helped set the agenda for his epochal pontificate. Such moves also set priorities for the charismatic Saint John Paul II’s long pontificate. Those who try to brand the two pontificates using human categories as progressive versus conservative fail to discern the hand of God as evidenced by the bridging roles of the later Pauline and Franciscan pontificates.

Polish Bishop Karol Wojtyla was ordained just one month before Pope John XXIII was elected in October 1958. Enthused by the new pope’s call for an Ecumenical Council, the new Polish bishop was one the first to respond to the pre-conciliar questionnaire sent to the world’s 2,594 bishops. After the death of Pope John, Cardinal Wojtyla supported Pope Paul VI further pursue the policy of Ostopolitik to reach out to Communist countries including the offer of diplomatic relations to Warsaw.

The Johnine-Pauline policy of detante paved the way for the role attributed to Pope John Paul II for the collapse of communism. As much as the socio-political struggle in Poland catalysed his later social teaching, it also tended to restrict his world view. Some Church watchers say that his Polish background made him politically progressive while being doctrinally conservative. Although his Christian humanism as a young poet and playwright had been forward looking, his Polish spirituality had difficulty in coping with post-Christian secularism and resisting curial moves to contain ecumenism and inculturation. In 1995, papal biographer Tad Szulc wrote that Pope John Paul II was “the unchanged spiritual child of wartime Krakow.”

When considered in the context of such ecclesial realities, the sainting of two recent popes has a catechetical value. Whatever critics may have to say about fast-tracking the canonizations, the proximity of their lives in recent history, encourages us to learn to honor the holiness of saints despite their human limitations. Even saints have been human, just like the rest of the pilgrim Church. After all, the flawed experiences of the past would help saints better understand us, just as the Church is expected to.
END

Hector Welgampola has served more than 50 years in Catholic media as editor of the two Colombo-based Catholic weeklies in Sri Lanka, the English-language Messenger and Sinhalese-language Gnanartha Pradeepaya (lamp of wisdom).
He then served as executive editor of UCA News from 1987 until his retirement in 2001. He also compiled the recently published Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

 

 

Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, Jescom invitation

The Catholic Church has one huge event coming up - are you in? For ticket info, see here: http://goo.gl/Zq1uZh

The Catholic Church has one huge event coming up – are you in? For ticket info, see here: http://goo.gl/Zq1uZh

 

On April 27, the Vatican would hold a special ceremony for the first ever double canonization of two former Popes – John XXIII and John Paul II. Let us all witness this joyful event via live-streaming at the SMART Araneta Colesium. See you there!

from Jescom FB poster

What can Asia expect of upcoming papal visits?

Commentary by Hector Welgampola 

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

India’s bishops have invited  Pope Francis to visit their country. Other Asian invites too have been reported from South Korea, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. More may follow.

Will such journeys offer the innovative pope opportunities to downplay the diplomatic aspect of papal visits and focus on pastoral outreach? If political fanfare are axed, the visits will give the Holy Father more access to people for two-way sharing — a model for bishops’ pastoral visits, as well. In hindsight, past papal visits may shed some light on what began as a papal pilgrimage to Asia.

Amid the first flush of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John XXIII agreed to hold the 1964 International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay (now Mumbai). He knew, though, he was not fit to travel there, much less for an elephant-ride planned by Cardinal Valerian Gracias of Bombay. After the good pope’s death, his successor, Pope Paul VI, chose to be the first papal pilgrim to Asia.

It was not mere grandeur of traditional Indian hospitality that made the event memorable. As the then editor of “Bombay Examiner” told me, from the initial Namaste on, Pope Paul’s Mahatma-like simplicity won hearts. Catholics’ fervor of Eucharistic worship impressed the Hindu nation. So did the conference on “Christian Revelation and non-Christian Religions.”

A pre-congress seminar on “Food and Health” focused on the problem of poverty. Pope Paul had invited the FAO head to speak there on “Freedom from Hunger: the Challenge of the Century.” America magazine said the congress: “created in Asia a hitherto unappreciated image of the Church: that of a compassionate Vicar of Christ – a Christ born poor – more at home in the slums of Bombay than in the magnificence of the papal court.”

Children in impoverished communities around Manila survive with very little food and other basic needs. (Ed Gerlock photos published with permission)

Children in impoverished communities around Manila survive with very little food and other basic needs. (Ed Gerlock photos published with permission)

The papal court too had begun to change by the time of the next noteworthy papal visit to Asia. It took place in 1970, a week after Pope Paul set the 80-year retirement age for cardinals. Leaving behind the restive old guard, the pope took his longest trip in time and distance.

In Manila, his main stopover, the pope joined 180 Asian bishops to set up plans for the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences). After the historic event, came a symbolic gesture: Speaking as “a humble apostle of Christ,” he broadcast from Hong Kong a message of love for the Chinese people.

But thereafter, cares of office including negotiations to end the Vietnam War as well as efforts to contain the backlash of Humanae Vitae limited Pope Paul to routine travel.

Blessed John Paul II was the widest travelled pope. Some 15 of his 219 travels included Asian destinations. Prayer at the Mahatma Gandhi Samadhi, on the 1986 visit to India, inspired him to set the annual interreligious prayer day in Assisi.

The 1998 Asian Synod in Rome and release of the synod document Ecclesia in Asia in India engaged many Asian bishops. The synodal boost to local cultures was in sync with what his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope had said: “It was necessary to set about the work of inculturation, as Father Matteo Ricci, the apostle of China, proposed….”

Some of the more than 15,000 Catholics in the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh religiously went to Sunday Mass at various buildings. Here's how we went to church: shoeless, pewless. NJ Viehland Photos

Some of the more than 15,000 Catholics in the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh religiously went to Sunday Mass at various buildings. Here’s how we went to church: shoeless, pewless. NJ Viehland Photos

However, even as of then, a move was afoot on the very outskirts of China to retire the Ricci concept of inculturation. It all began with a theological conference in Hong Kong under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Invitees from doctrinal commissions of Asian bishops’ conferences were introduced to “interculturality” in place of the popularly accepted teaching on inculturation. Our religion has a culture as much as other religions have their own cultures, bishops were told. Inculturation was called a misnomer diluting Christian culture with extraneous elements. These directives stifled future efforts toward dialogue and adaptation. The rest is history.

AMOR South Asia Postulants NJ Viehland Photos

Will these memories encourage Asian papal visit organizers to set such stalled pastoral issues on the agenda for Pope Francis? Meeting laypeople also will help the Holy Father understand their genuine needs. In addition to support on issues of justice and poverty, Asian Catholics need a faith boost through meaningful worship. Will the pope’s Latin American experience lead him to restore the trend of worshipping God in words, symbols and music that resonate the joys, sorrows and yearnings of Asian peoples?

"Lord, have mercy" was sung in Chinese at the XVI Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious women in Tagaytay, City, south of Manila in Nov. 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

“Lord, have mercy” was sung in Chinese at the XVI Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious women in Tagaytay, City, south of Manila in Nov. 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

Girls and boys perform to the theme song for Year of Faith at the launching of the celeberation at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila Nov. 3 led by Cardinal designate Luis Antonio Tagle / N. J. Viehland Photo

Girls and boys perform to the theme song for Year of Faith at the launching of the celeberation at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila Nov. 3 led by Cardinal designate Luis Antonio Tagle – N. J. Viehland Photo

As much as feasts of medieval saints are less meaningful to Asian Catholics, liturgy desacralised to suit post-christian societies has lost the sense of mystery cherished by Asians. And, Pope Francis’ recent remarks on the need for liturgical reform hold out hope.

In earlier conversations with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the future pope had said that: “Each nation picks up the vision of God and translates it in accordance with the culture and elaborates, purifies and gives it a system.” No doubt, such a mindset will help the pilgrim pope see the need for freedom to adapt and develop worship styles to suit the genius of Asian peoples.

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (w/ red shash), Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) follows behind Vietnam Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh during the welcome procession for delegates of the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center compound Dec. 11, 2012. [N.J. Viehland Photo]

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (w/ red shash), President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) follows behind Vietnam Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh during the welcome procession for delegates of the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center compound Dec. 11, 2012. [N.J. Viehland Photo]

May upcoming papal visits encourage the FABC to update the Holy Father about the stalling of inculturation and the push to homogenize liturgy. If genuine inculturation is to resume, worshippers’ faith-based living traditions should take priority over post-christian viruses cultured in alien theology labs. And may Asians be freed up from curial shackles that inhibit their yearning to de-Helenize Jesus’ message and restore its original authenticity.

Fifty years after the first papal pilgrimage to Asia, we pray that upcoming Asian visits will help Pope Francis see the elephant in the room and not be led on white-elephant rides.

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