Manila – Catholic in Asia spoke briefly on the phone to Colombo with Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, National Director of Catholic Social Communication in Sri Lanka on Friday, Dec. 5, to get the local Church’s perspective of concerns raised by Catholics who are pushing for the postponement of Pope Francis’ January 2015 visit to their country.
Here’s what Father Fernando had to say: [excerpts]
Catholic In Asia : What was the outcome of the meetings with the Vatican papal visit team that went there after the schedule of early elections next year was announced ?
Father Cyril Gamini Fernando: The Vatican team did not come here in connection with the elections. They have come here to check on the preparations for the papal visit. That is the normal thing. They do the same thing in Manila also. They arrived day before yesterday (Dec. 3) and they have left already. As of now there is no change in the schedule of papal visit events.
What is the response of Sri Lanka Church officials to concerns of Catholics detailed in published letters and statements? What is Cardinal Ranjith’s response to these, and to “politicization” of the papal visit ?
We have requested all parties connected with these elections that they should not use these as election tools, whether their pictures with the pope or anything showing the papal visit. So we have asked if there are already such pictures displayed outside or in online accounts, they should remove them all. We have told that to all parties.
Election day is on the 8th (January) we have about six days ‘til the 13th to open the ballot and count and declare the president before we will welcome the Holy Father for the visit.
What assurance can local Church organizers give for the safety of the pope and people who will be around the venue of papal visit events?
We have faith in God and we have asked the people to pray and prepare spiritually for the visit because it is primarily a spiritual event.
Three founders of Hong Kong’s Occupy protest movement, joined by retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, 82, have been released without restrictions after they “surrendered” to police yesterday, Dec. 3, Channel News Asia reported.
Protesters flocked to Hong Kong’s central district in late September and blocked three major intersections to demand free elections in the special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China after the government announced its decision to screen presidential candidates in the 2017 elections.
Cardinal Zen has been quoted telling a pro-democracy demonstration earlier this year that it is time for Hong Kong people to show that they “no longer want to be slaves.” Last Sept. 28, he urged protesting students who had gathered at a public square to go home and continue protesting in other forms after police sprayed the crowd with tear gas.
Cardinal John Tong-hon of Hong Kong had appealed to the Hong Kong-SAR government to exercise restraint on the second day of the demonstration, after police sprayed tear gas on those protesters. He also appealed to the tens of thousands of protesters, including young students, to keep calm, as he urged Christians to pray for peaceful reconciliation of the conflicting parties in the protests.
Hong Kong and Chinese authorities have not issued a warrant of arrest for protest leaders even after officials had called the protests illegal.
What now for the quest for peaceful reconciliation and democracy in Hong Kong and China?
Read full report on police release protest leaders
Democrats For Life of America in a Nov. 5 media release has urged the Democratic National Committee to relax its pro-abortion position and “open its doors to welcome and support pro-life Democrats.”
It blamed support for abortion for destroying party candidates in pro-life states and districts.
Results of the Nov. 4 polls is only one of many signs of Democratic Party members losing touch with rank-and-file-American Democratic voter, the party’s pro-life members said in their statement titled “You cannot win when you alienate 21 million people in your base.”
All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate were contested in Tuesday’s mid-term general polls. Voters also elected governors for 38 state and territories, officials for 46 state legislatures and four territorial legislatures and numerous state and local races.
While various races, both in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives remain too close to call or are expected to be subject to recounts, analysts have noted sweeping gains by the Republican Party in the Senate, House, and in many gubernatorial elections, as well as state and local races. Republicans have regained control of the Senate for the first time since 2006, and solidified their majority in the House.
Democrats for Life in its recent statement blames candidates’ pro-abortion platform for their defeat.
Read full text of their statement and charts.
Democrats in their party’s website list among key issues job creation, education, health care, clean energy. The party believes, “We’re greater together than we are on our own—that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules.” This is reportedly why the party, led by President Barack Obama, is focused “on building an economy that lasts—an economy that lifts up all Americans.”
Analysts say poll results reflect dissatisfaction and disenchantment with the Obama administration.
Exit surveys reportedly found 40 percent of voters rated the economy as the most important issues. Despite signs of modest improvements — unemployment below 6 percent, the stock market surging and gas prices dropping — the electorate expressed a generally pessimistic view, surveys reportedly showed.
One-quarter of voters said health care was the top issue in their vote, while about one in seven said foreign policy or illegal immigration was most important.
Asian Americans represent a “small” share of voters (2.9 percent in 2012), but remains the fastest growing sector of the U.S. population. Since 2008 Asia has accounted for more than 40 percent of new immigrants to the U.S. when slightly over 31 percent were coming from Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Analysts predicted the sector would vote Democrat in the recent polls.
The Republican Party, commonly referred to as the GOP (America’s Grand Old Party) is generally based on a platform of American conservatism, while the Democrats support contemporary American liberalism.
Republicans support free markets, limited government, socially conservative policies based in traditional values and Judeo-Christian morality.
Following is the CBCP President’s statement sent to Catholic in Asia in Manila, Sept. 27, 2014
PEACE BE WITH YOU! ASSALAMU ALAIKUM!
CBCP Statement on the Bangsa Moro Proposed Law
When Jesus, the Lord, breathed his Spirit and his peace on the apostles, he did so as the fulfillment and summation of all that he had been sent to be and to do for the world! Peace is therefore God’s gift. We must cooperate with God, for we can and often do stand in the way of peace. But we must pray for it and never, for a moment, think that we can, by our cleverness, calculation and strategic craft win it for ourselves!
Hopes for Peace
The Executive Branch has submitted to the Legislature a bill that, if passed, will become the organic law of the political entity already called “Bangsamoro”. Many in Mindanao — and the government itself — pin their hopes on this latest attempt at what is hoped will be a definitive solution to the beautiful land of Mindanao that has, unfortunately, seen so much violence and has had so much of Filipino blood — Muslim and Christian alike — spilled on its soil! The CBCP stands with the government and with all earnestly seek and strive after peace. It commends the efforts not only of the present peace panel that, together with representatives of Muslim Mindanao, has hammered out the accord that presaged the introduction of the bill, but also those of earlier peace panels under prior administrations. The dream of peace in Mindanao has been a common national aspiration for a very long time now.
Dialogue and Debate with Charity
The CBCP now urges the Legislature to do its part: To study the measure assiduously, to debate it vigorously and to place the interests of the nation and the vision of lasting, principled peace before every petty consideration. Let those who have reservations to the proposal, or even those who oppose it, speak their minds freely, coherently and without reserve, and let those who advocate it argue as strenuously in its defense, for only in the context of intelligent — but charitable — discourse can we hope for a reasonable outcome and resolution. The lessons we have learned from the painful conflicts that now rend apart the troubled nations of the Middle East should leave no doubt that, to be enduring and acceptable, any settlement, any organic act, any piece of constitutive legislation must be as inclusive as possible. We particularly insist on the participation in the exchange and debate of the members of the indigenous cultural communities and the indigenous peoples in Mindanao. It would violate the tenets of social justice to ignore them under the pretext of going by the desires of the majority!
Inclusive and Embracing
The effort the government has taken to arrive at an agreement acceptable to all Filipinos underscores the premium that must be placed on the political and territorial integrity of the entire country. History — guided by The Lord of History — has fashioned our nation as one. Let us keep it one — in that variety of ethnicities, cultures, languages and peoples that makes it one of the most alluring pieces of Divine workmanship in the world.
The emergence of Bangsamoro should not mean the exclusion of any Filipino from any part of the country by reason of religious belief, ethnicity or language. Our Muslim brothers and sisters have found their way through various parts of the archipelago, settling in many provinces heretofore almost exclusively peopled by Christians. As far as we know, they have been welcomed, received and respected. It is our hope that Christians too may receive hospitality in those parts of the one Republic that, by legislation, may be marked out as Bangsamoro.
Let every Filipino turn to the same God, the one Father of us all with the fervent prayer: Make me an instrument of your peace!
September 28, 2014, San Lorenzo Ruiz Feast
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has urged the government and the opposition to refrain from using Pope Francis’ visit as a political tool, amid speculation that snap presidential polls will be declared early next year.
Full report in Daily FT
Pope Francis would visit the historical Madhu Shrine during his stay in Sri Lanka in January next year, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo reportedly announced in Madhu.
The Pope will arrive in Sri Lanka on the 13th of January 2015, and celebrate mass at the Galle Face Green on the 14th morning before heading to Mannar District in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, reported EyeSriLanka online newspaper.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the district of Mannar is considered one the holiest Catholic shrine in Sri Lanka, and is a place of worship for both the Sinhalese and the Tamils and has been considered a symbol of unity between the two communities.
Bishop Rayappu Joseph, said Pope Francis would visit the Madhu shrine during his January visit and bless the war victims at a special mass at the shrine.
Bishop Joseph along with Cardinal Ranjith blessed thousands of pilgrims who gathered there from various parts of the island for the August festival last Friday, Aug. 15 .
“Pope Francis will be the first Pope to travel out of Colombo,” Bishop Joseph is quoted saying. The Pope is expected to interact with the war widows, disabled persons and orphans, he added.
Read EyeSriLanka report
The government of Goa has banned a Hindu right wing group, which is infamous for its moral policing tactics, from entering the western Indian state.
“We have banned Sri Ram Sena,” Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told the state legislative assembly on Wednesday.
Sri Ram Sena (the Army of Lord Rama) chief Pramod Mutalik had announced in June their plans to set up a branch in Goa in September.
Founded in the late 1960s, the organization won media attention in 2009 when its members attacked women for going to a pub in Mangalore, a coastal town in neighboring Karnataka state.
Read full report in Matters India
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.”