Lebanon’s holiday revelry contrasts with the difficult daily lives of hotel and household workers from the Philippines.
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Lebanon’s holiday revelry contrasts with the difficult daily lives of hotel and household workers from the Philippines.
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WISE AS SERPENTS, INNOCENT AS DOVES
A Guide to Catholic Voters
As the rhetoric and the noise traditionally associated with Philippine politics and elections reach higher levels of intensity, we wish to offer some guidelines to our Catholic voters deriving from the moral teachings of the Church.
1. Reject claims by candidates that they are candidates of the CBCP, or of a diocese, or of a particular bishop. It has never been the practice of the Catholic Church to hold out a candidate to the faithful as the “chosen” candidate of the Church. Church doctrine has remained consistent: Partisanship is an arena into which the Church should not venture.
2. We your bishops commit to desist from any action or statement that may give the appearance of persuading the faithful to vote for a particular candidate. While bishops, as citizens of the Republic, have the right to make their own choices, our office in the Church as well as our stature, of which we are all unworthy, urge upon us that circumspection that should prevent misunderstanding and confusion among our flock.
3. The desired qualities of leaders as well as the political options open to the people are proper subjects of the collective discernment of the members of our lay Catholic communities and associations, as long as these take place in the context of prayer, a careful reading of the Scriptures in the light of the Church’s teaching, a sense of fairness and concern for the common good.
4. The Catholic voter must evaluate candidates according to the model of Christ, who came to serve, not to be served. They must look for the realization of Gospel values in the lives, words and deeds of those desirous of public office, realizing that there are no perfect candidates. There is a crucial difference between one who has been wrong in the past and is willing to amend his ways, and one who exhibits stubbornness and obstinacy.
5. Surveys and polls show trends, and they are as limited as the methodology that is used to conduct them. The Catholic therefore cannot make his or her choice depend on who is topping or trailing in the polls and surveys. There is a vocation to authenticity: the Spirit-inspired courage and determination to make decisions for ourselves, setting ourselves free from “trends” and “herds”, to do what is right and to choose who is right!
6. A Catholic cannot support a candidate who vows to wipe out religion from public life. While we expect every public officer to give life to the constitutional posture of “benevolent neutrality” in respect to the attitude of the State towards religion, the Catholic voter cannot and should not lend his support to any candidate whose ideology binds him or her to make of the Philippines a secular state that has no tolerance for religion in its public life.
7. Similarly, a Catholic voter cannot, in good conscience, support a candidate whose legislative or executive programs include initiatives diametrically opposed to Church moral teachings on such vital issues as abortion, euthanasia, the return of the death penalty, divorce and the dilution of the character of Christian marriage.
8. A Catholic is not closed to the candidacy of a non-Catholic. In fact, there are worthy candidates from other Christian communities and other religions. Their qualifications and aspirations must be given serious heed by our Catholic voters, their truly helpful plans and visions must be supported.
9. A candidate who has thus far spent his time demolishing the reputation and tarnishing the good name of fellow candidates must be suspect. He may have nothing positive to offer, and he debases the level of political discourse by calling attention to the shortcomings of his rivals and competitors, rather than on the programs and projects he or she might have.
10. We warn against the use of government resources, the power of government offices and instrumentalities and subtler forms of coercion and intimidation to promote the chances of a particular candidate. It is God’s will to provide his people with shepherds after His merciful heart!
Finally, we appeal to COMELEC to insure that all the security measures mandated by the Automated Election Law be implemented diligently. The credibility of the elections and the stability of our democracy is at risk if the security and sanctity of the every ballot is compromised.
As Christians we will align ourselves not with powers like Herod who trembled at the news that the King had been born. We shall, like the wise men, choose a different route, guided by intimations of the Gospel, and so do our part, in response to God’s initiative, to make all things new!
See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, December 30, 2015
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
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.
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.
“Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love!”
– Pope Francis at Concluding Mass for 6th Asian Youth Day
Haemi Castle Square, South Korea, Aug. 17, 2014
Dear Young Friends,
The glory of the martyrs shines upon you!
These words – a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day – console and strengthen us all. Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ. He is the light of the world; he is the light of our lives! The martyrs of Korea – and innumerable others throughout Asia – handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ’s truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant. With the certainty of his victory over death, and our participation in it, we can face the challenge of Christian discipleship today, in our own circumstances and time.
The words which we have just reflected upon are a consolation. The other part of this day’s theme – Asian Youth! Wake up!– speaks to you of a duty, a responsibility. Let us consider for a moment each of these words.
First, the word “Asian”. You have gathered here in Korea from all parts of Asia. Each of you has a unique place and context where you are called to reflect God’s love. The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life!
As Asians too, you see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions. Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit given you in Baptism and sealed within you at Confirmation, and in union with your pastors, you can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures. You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in Baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt, and lead to death.
Returning to the theme of this Day, let us reflect on a second word: “Youth”. You and your friends are filled with the optimism, energy and good will which are so characteristic of this period of life. Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love! This is the path you are called to take. This is the path to overcoming all that threatens hope, virtue and love in your lives and in your culture. In this way your youth will be a gift to Jesus and to the world.
As young Christians, whether you are workers or students,whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present! You are the present of the Church. Keep close to one another, draw ever closer to God, and with your bishops and priests spend these years in building a holier, more missionary and humble Church – a Church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.
In your Christian lives, you will find many occasions that will tempt you, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, to push away the stranger, the needy, the poor and the broken-hearted. It is these people especially who repeat, today, the cry of the woman of the Gospel: “Lord, help me!” The Canaanite woman’s plea is the cry of everyone who searches for love, acceptance, and friendship with Christ. It is the cry of so many people in our anonymous cities, the cry of so many of your own contemporaries, and the cry of all those martyrs who even today suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus: “Lord, help me!” Let us respond, not like those who push away people who make demands on us, as if serving the needy gets in the way of our being close to the Lord. No! We are to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion.
Finally, the third part of this Day’s theme – “Wake up!” –Wake up! speaks of a responsibility which the Lord gives you. It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel. Today’s responsorial psalm invites us constantly to “be glad and sing for joy”. No one who sleeps can sing, dance or rejoice. It’s no good when I see young people who are asleep. No! Wake up. Go. Go. Go ahead. Dear young people, “God, our God, has blessed us!” (Ps 67:6); from him we have “received mercy” (Rom 11:30). Assured of God’s love, go out to the world so that, “by the mercy shown to you”, they – your friends, co-workers, neighbors, countrymen, everyone on this great continent – “may now receive the mercy of God” (cf. Rom 11:31). It is by his mercy that we are saved.
Dear young people of Asia, it is my hope that, in union with Christ and the Church, you will take up this path, which will surely bring you much joy. Now, as we approach the table of the Eucharist, let us turn to our Mother Mary, who brought Jesus to the world. Yes, Mother Mary, we long to have Jesus; in your maternal affection help us to bring him to others, to serve him faithfully, and to honor him in every time and place, in this country and throughout Asia. Amen.
Young people, Wake Up!
On Saturday morning, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs who were killed between 1791 and 1888 because of their Catholic faith
Here’s what Pope Francis said in his homily for the Mass
Among those at the Mass was the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle who told Vatican Radio he was “very much moved [when I realized] we had Asian ancestors here who were willing to pay the cost of being a Christian, and if needed they would offer their lives. This is an inspiration for all of us.”
Listen to Vatican Radio’s interview with Cardinal Tagle:
[updated Aug. 16, 11:41 p.m.]
Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal has ordered the suspension of deporting Pakistani asylum seekers back to their country, until August 29, Colombo Gazette reported.
Most asylum seekers from Pakistan belong to religious minorities – including Ahmadiyya Muslim, Christian and Shia – who are often discriminated against and subjected to violent attacks, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák, is quoted telling the Gazette.
The asylum seekers flee their country in South Asia along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, and head southeast beyond India to the island country of Sri Lanka.
Last year, 687 persons belonging to religious minorities were reported killed in over 200 attacks in Pakistan.
However, Sri Lanka government reportedly deports them despite being registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and having their first instance interviews still pending.
Read the full report on the court decision here
Refugees from Pakistan reportedly obtain a 30-day tourist visa to Sri Lanka online and stay on after registering with UNHCR, which reviews their case.
The Sri Lankan government says the Pakistanis are part of an influx of economic immigrants in the past year who have become a burden on the country’s resources and potentially compromised state and regional security.
Receiving no help from Sri Lanka’s government, Pakistani families are driven to seek aid from the Catholic church or a mosque in the area.
Various human rights activists have written about the plight of asylum seekers in Pakistan and in Sri Lanka.
Earlier this week, Sri Lankan human rights activist Ruki Fernando decried his government’s “inhumane” response to asylum seekers and shared his personal experiences with Pakistani families in Sri Lanka.
Aside from the government, people in Sri Lanka who support repatriation of these asylum seekers “are just as deplorable,” the Catholic human rights defender added.
Read the full text of Fernando’s commentary posted on Ground Views citizen journalist blog site.
Fernando is a Sri Lankan human rights activist who participated in the protective fellowship scheme at University of York’s Center for Applied Human Rights in 2012-2013. He has been involved in international advocacy and protection of human rights defenders who are facing risk, and worked on issues such as freedom of expression and enforced disappearances.
Newly appointed Vietnamese Bishop of My Tho, Peter Nguyen Van Kham, has acknowledged the need for formation for lay Catholics who he said must play a “greater role” in the Church.
Laity bring about vibrancy for the life of the Church, Bishop Kham, former Ho Chi Minh diocesan pastoral center director, was quoted saying in a report of Catholic News Agency (CNA).
Bishop Kham reportedly shared this reflection on his ministry in Ho Chi Minh in an email to CNA after Pope Francis appointed the former auxiliary of Ho Chi Minh as bishop of My Tho in the Mekong Delta on July 26.
Read CNA’s full report on Vietnamese bishop joyful to lead, evangelize new flock
My Tho diocese covers the provinces of Long An and Tiền Giang and two thirds of Đồng Tháp province spread across a land area of 9,262 square kilometers, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam reported on its website.
As of December 31, 2010, the diocese’s 120,300 Catholics among its total population of 4,776,036 were living in areas within its 85 parishes and 34 subparishes and mission stations. Some 124 priests, 242 religious, 41 seminarians, 10 seminary candidates and 366 catechists serve in the diocese.
President Benigno Aquino III celebrated with a throng of members and friends in events related to the centennial of homegrown Iglesia ni Cristo (INC, Church of Christ) whose teachings contradict Catholic doctrine, a Catholic bishops’ primer on the INC says.
INC celebrated the centennial of its foundation on July 27 mainly in Philippine Arena, a 55,000-seater dome arena legally owned by its New Era University.
Iglesia officials said more than 1 million people joined their celebration in the arena in Ciudad de Victoria (Victory City), a 75-hectare tourism complex it built in Bocaue town, Bulacan province just north of Manila.
Aquino in his address to the July 22 gathering of members and friends for the arena’s inauguration thanked the group for the service the arena and the group provide Filipinos.
Officials of INC endorsed the candidacy of Aquino and his vice president in the 2010 elections. Regarded among “influential” religious groups in the country, INC rules that its 5-8 million member voters elect its leaders’ choices.
Last week, House Representatives endorsed the third impeachment complaint filed against the president over use of discretionary funds that the Supreme Court has ruled as unconstitutional.
Iglesia Ni Cristo was registered in the Philippines on July 27, 1914 by Felix Y. Manalo, a Catholic who became a protestant preacher then established his own religion after claiming to be the last Messenger of God. The group does not publicize the number of its members in the Philippines and abroad.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, who heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith had issued in March a primer explaining conflicting beliefs of the Catholic Church and Iglesia ni Kristo.
The document hoped to offer guidance particularly to catechists and Catholic educators and formators.
“The respect we give to the religious beliefs of others should motivate us to get to understand those beliefs deeply, as this is demanded by the requirements of sincere dialogue. Differences in what we believe in do not make us distant from those who hold those beliefs, because as J. Maritain put it, among ideas contradictions are inevitable, but not among persons,” Cardinal Quevedo wrote.
Notheless, he stresses, “We cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are serious and deep differences between the Christian Faith and the doctrines of the Iglesia ni Cristo.”
The Churches of the global South have begun to feature pretty well on the agenda of Pope Francis’ early travels. His first trip was to attend the World Youth Day activities in Brazil. Then came his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May. Come August, the pope will travel to South Korea. He is due to attend the Asian Youth Day there and the beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.
Outreach to North Korea?
Brazil offered Pope Francis a brief encounter with groups of youth worldwide: the future Church. In South Korea he will meet with the future Church of Asia. His visit venue is 200 kilometres away from the venue of the recent ferry disaster. But, the tragic tales of the ferry martyrs will be even more palpable than distant memories about the beati Martyrs. Yet, more eloquent than the silence of all these dead is the muffled cry of living martyrs. The first Asian visit can offer Pope Francis an opportunity for pastoral outreach to the entire Korean Nation, which was divided six decades ago by outside intervention. Just as Pope Paul VI spoke to the Chinese Nation from Hong Kong in 1970, no doubt, Pope Francis could reach out to all Koreans of North and South with a reconciliatory message. Exposure to the last vestiges of political ideology that still linger in Asia may also help alert him to newer threats of neo-racism sprouting in the region.
The laity-founded Korean Church has been unique in many ways. Like most early Asians, Koreans revered the written word. Some Korean scholars visiting China about 300 years ago, brought home Scripture texts including those of Jesuit missioner Matteo Ricci. Laypeople’s study of these texts led to further visits to China where they sought Baptism in 1784. Scripture-based faith sharing sustained the priestless lay Church. And when missioners first arrived nearly 50 years later, they were surprised to find a faith community of 4,000 Catholics.
Integrated faith and witness
Lay spirituality has been the backbone of the Korean Church. During the last century, the virility of Korean laity’s faith became evident in the founding of lay groups such as the Korean Catholic Farmers’ Movement and the Woori Theology Institute. Woori’s young lay theologians have engaged in theological research and sociological surveys related to the everyday life of the local Church. Their research projects have helped improve the effectiveness of pastoral programs. As need arose, these lay movements worked alongside the Korean Priests’ Association for Justice. The Jesuari prayer movement met another aspect of people’s spiritual needs.
Such faith witness was encouraged by the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, whom Koreans often described as “the Nation’s conscience.” The first Korean to receive the red hat, he prided that his Myeongdong Cathedral had become the rallying point of striking workers of various faiths. The Korean Church integrated people’s faith witness with solidarity in people’s struggle for human rights in a fast industrialised society.
In many countries, canonisation is considered a privilege of clergy and Religious. But the vast number of Korean saints are laypeople. In 1984, Saint John Paul II canonised 103 Korean Martyrs. And on the upcoming visit, Pope Francis will participate in the beatification of another 124 Martyrs. They all personify the faith journey of mostly laity among some 8,000 Catholics persecuted for their faith through 18th-19th centuries. More importantly, although the country is divided as North and South Korea, the Church is not. And so the martyrs include Northerners as well as Southerners.
While celebrating the faith integrity of such witnesses who died for the faith, the Church needs more the integrity of those who live it out in service. The late president Kim Dae-jung’s long political struggle as well as the earlier faith witness of poet Kim Chi-ha are just two examples of such Eucharistic service as bread broken to feed people’s contextual hunger for justice, peace.
Jesus’ multiplication of loaves “shows the future Heaven,” said Kim Chi-ha in the “Declaration of Conscience” he wrote in prison in his early years. This reality is further depicted in his poem:
“Food is heaven As you can’t go to heaven by yourself Food has to be shared Food is heaven As you see the stars in heaven together Food is to be shared with everybody When the food goes into a mouth Heaven is worshipped in the mind Food is heaven Ah, ah, food is to be shared by everybody.”
Kim’s earlier poetry was similar to that of Latin American Ernesto Cardinale, which cannot be unfamiliar to Pope Francis. More than any recent pope, he is equipped with the grace to grasp the native wavelength of people’s yearnings that are variedly tagged in Asia as Korea’s Minjung theology, Japan’s Burakumin theology or India’s Dalit theology, all of which reflect the Gospel’s call for sharing and justice. Will he listen to these Southern voices of the Spirit, which some Church leaders have heard but not heeded? END