Will Pope Francis’ visits awaken the Asian Church? – Commentary

By: Hector Welgampola

Within the first 22 months of his papacy, Pope Francis has gone on pilgrimage to the Churches in three Asian countries: South Korea, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. As part of a fast awakening vast continent, these countries represent three religio-cultural streams and three varied socio-political realities.

Over recent months, and especially since his return form Colombo and Manila, the Holy Father’s words and actions have evidenced the impact of such exposure to vignettes of Asia’s rich plurality. More than any of the three predecessors who went on pilgrimage to Churches worldwide, Pope Francis keeps recapping and interpreting such pastoral experiences. Just as Saint John wrote the Apocalypse to the Churches in Asia, Pope Francis is using the Asian revelation to enunciate his Francisocalypse.

While enhancing the catholicity of papal teaching with Assisian aura, his spontaneity and off-the-cuff theologizing continue to endear him today to a broader church beyond traditional borders. No wonder, while on pilgrimage, often he went beyond limits set by tour planners as much as he ignored the drafts of papal speechwriters. More important than scheduled speeches were hisfrom-the-heart interventions. Far more significant than diplomacy-imposed hobnobbing with politicians and fraternizing with prelates were his Jesus-like skirmishes “into the multitude.” Quite unsurprisingly, they all jived together as a passionate pastoral embrace of the needy and the suffering.

Pope Francis korea

He first visited Asia to attend the 6th Asian Youth Day in Daejeon, South Korea. And while there, he brought alive the theology of Eucharistic sharing and solidarity by grieving with Koreans mourning youths killed in the 2014 ferry disaster.

During his visit to Sri Lanka, he travelled to Madhu Marian Shrine on the Northern border to pray with and console survivors and mourners deeply affected by the country’s 30-year ethnic war. On the Philippine pilgrimage, the Holy Father braved very stormy weather to visit and embrace Tacloban residents grieving the impact of Typhoon Yolanda. His outreach of pastoral presence radiated Jesus.

Papal Visit pope with Anak children press release

Contributed photo of Pope Francis with street children at Anak-TNK center.

Such intimate encounters and empathy with the suffering and afflicted endure in people’s memory as a fatherly outreach. Their healing impact may even wipe out bad memories of papal galas or exorcising handshakes with corrupt politicians. And it was encouraging to read that Asian Church leaders have learned from the example set by the Holy Father.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias,of Mumbai led the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences in Vietnam Dec. 2012, NJ Viehland Photos

According to a media report, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias has admitted that the papal visits to Asia have given a big boost to the “self-confidence” of the Asian Church. The cardinal, president of the Asian bishops’ federation, has said that the pope’s example will encourage the Asian Church to take forward the mission to the poor. Such enthusiasm rekindles hope of a renewed outreach to people harried by multiple forms of poverty and deprivation.

HFSB, Sorsogon,contributed

Sri Lankan Sr. Bernie De Silva, HFSB, leads seminar for fishermen in Sorsogon [contributed photo, HFSB]

In fact, just like Pope Francis’ own home Church in Latin America, the Asian Church used to be a pioneer in social apostolate and outreach to the poor, a few decades ago. Committed social apostles such as Japanese Cardinal Fumio Hamao, Korean Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, Filipino Bishops Julio Labayen and Francisco Claver and Japanese Sister Filo Hirota were among stalwarts of the Asian bishops’ Office of Human Development (OHD). A few still survive in ecclesiastical backwoods. Although that office is struggling for survival today, hopefully, the grace of papal visits may herald a new springtime!

May the pope’s Gospel witness be a new Revelation even to latter-day Church leaders dismissive of pro-poor movements such as OHD and shift focus from regional commitment by withdrawing into juridical ghettos. The lived witness of the pope’s Asian pilgrimages is further affirmed by his Lenten message 2015, which urges Christians to overcome the scandal of globalized indifference. Time to live that message!

END

Hector Welgampola
welgampo@gmail.com

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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Pope Francis visits ANAK-TNK children’s home

Papal Visit pope with Anak children press release

Pope Francis with children in institution who sent their invitation through Cardinal Tagle. Photo release

Pope Francis visited children in an NGO-run institution that invited him last year through Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila.

 

 

Quevedo: Dialogue in Asia and Francis’ dialogue

 NJ Viehland Photos

Former officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao greeted Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato at a dinner celebration in Cotabato of his birthday and creation as cardinal. NJ Viehland Photos

MANILA, PHILIPPINES
It is very encouraging that we are on the right track — that we are not a church apart that thinks differently from the pope, from the universal church – Orlando Quevedo.
Full report Quevedo: Francis’, Asian church’s definitions of dialogue are the same N.J. Viehland  |  Jan. 14, 2015
Asian Family buddhist hindu catholic NJ Viehland

Congress on Asian Family with Buddhist monk, Hindu mother and Catholic evangelist Bo Sanchez. NJ Viehland Photos

Pope Francis in Asia – Asians look forward to Pope Francis’ visit, healing

Papal Visit 2015 Letran NJ Viehland Photos

Children playing street ball said they will watch Pope Francis ride around nearby Manila Cathedral on Jan. 16

 

MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Pope Francis returns to Asia this week, where crises are priming the ground for the kind of church he is working to grow.

“Francis’ dream of a church that is bruised and wounded and muddied is what the church in Asia wishes to be,” said Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Philippines, who for years led the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, or FABC, and who was named a cardinal by Pope Francis last year.

Read full report 

Novena for Pope Francis’ safety and security, Papal Visit PH

 Paco, NJ Viehland

NJ Viehland Photos

January 2, 2015

First Friday of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Circular 2015-2

RE: Obligatory Novena Holy Hour for the Papal Visit 

My dear people of God:

As the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis approaches, we are being asked to mobilize our Catholic faithful in our parishes to pray for the safety and security of the Holy Father while His Holiness is in the Philippines. Unable to use the regular security precautions like bullet proof vehicles and armed security men, we turn to the Lord and ask Him to keep the Holy Father safe from all harm. If we come together in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we claim the Lord’s blessings of security and peace and order. God is our refuge; in His love we are secure.

The format Holy Hour that you are encouraged to use in all parishes, religious communities and schools may be downloaded from www. lingayen-dagupan.org

The novena for the safety of Pope Francis during his Apostolic Visit must be prayed in the entire Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan from January 6 to 14, 2015 at a time when most of the parishioners can participate. This is an OBLIGATORY NOVENA in the Archdiocese.

I trust that you understand the urgency of the situation and the invaluable recourse to simultaneous prayer nationwide.

Thank you in advance for this spiritual support.

 

Sincerely yours,

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

ABS CBN media network pulls out “Pope Francis” shirt after CBCP warning on error

 

papal visit tshirt for sale pull out screen shotABS-CBN media network apologized Monday for offending people with a Papal Visit 2015 commemorative shirt it is selling on its online store and other retail shops.

In its statement, the mixed media network’s spokesman said it would pull out from shops the design that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) criticized.

“ABS-CBN assures the public that there was no intent to deceive or mislead the public through the commemorative shirt that carry statements inspired by Pope Francis’ message of love, openness, and humility,” ABS-CBN spokesman Bong Osorio said.

“We apologize if a particular statement shirt offended anyone. We are pulling out the item from our online shop and all retail partner stores,” he added.

Papal Visit tshirt warning screen shot

The recalled shirts carried the slogan “No race, no religion.” It is one of four designs for commemorative shirts produced and sold by ABS CBN in celebration of Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines on Jan. 15 to 19.

CBCP in a statement on Monday warned the public about t-shirts printed with words it said are “misleading” and “erroneous” in suggesting Pope Francis pronounced those words.

CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan urged Catholics not to patronize the shirt with the words: “No race. No religion.”

The other designs include “Ganito Ako. Ganyan Ka (This is how I am. That is how you are. Who Am I To Judge,” “Thank You sa Malasakit (thank you for your compassion). Pope Francis sa Pilipinas (Pope Francis in the Philippines.”

CBCP News reports that Catholics want the “Who am I to judge?” design pulled out also. The report quotes the warning of Catholic lawyer and lay preacher Marwil N. Llasos of the Company of St. Dominic (CSD)  that the design “grossly distorts” Pope Francis’ views on gay people who seek God, and implies that the pope espouses “beliefs and principles that directly violate official Church teachings.”

 

Gov’t-Communist Party Christmas ceasefire “welcome” but… – peace advocates

Star hangs in Vietnam diocesan complex hosting FABC assembly

Vietnam diocesan complex, Xuan Loc, Vietnam / NJ Viehland Photos

 

STATEMENT ON CHRISTMAS CEASEFIRE 2014

December 20, 2014

May the Christmas ceasefire bring the gift of peace!

As citizens longing for lasting peace, we welcome the respective announcements by the Government and by the Communist Party of the Philippines of limited ceasefires for the Christmas period that covers the Papal Visit. We pray that there will be good will and effective compliance by the parties.

Indeed the visit of Pope Francis is an important event for many Filipinos that we hope will inspire them to live humbly and justly, to serve others and respect all creation.

We also urge the parties to consider the possibility of a humanitarian pause beyond the Papal visit, to give respite to victims of humanitarian disasters in different parts of the country, and to encourage the country as a whole to refocus thoughts on healing and on rebuilding vulnerable communities.

Our sincere wish is that this interval from armed confrontations can build confidence for the resumption for formal peace negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP at the soonest time, towards the forging of a just and enduring peace.

We believe that the peace negotiations will be sustained and less fragile if priority will be given to improving the situation of human rights, particularly of communities in conflict areas including those of indigenous peoples. Far too many indigenous people continue to become victims of extra-legal killings, harassment and other human rights violations.

The peace negotiations should be boosted by more concrete socio-economic reform efforts that make a difference in the lives of rural and urban poor communities. Electoral and political reforms must also be undertaken to ensure meaningful participation of people and the practice of good governance.

The public constituency will broaden around peace negotiations that can provide safety and security to communities by effectively reducing the violence on the ground. 

As citizen peace advocates, we commit to do our part by renewing and re-energizing our engagement with the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations. We will try to bring timely inputs of more stakeholders to the peace table. We will create other tables so that more voices of those directly affected by the protracted conflict can be heard.

Again, we are truly thankful to the Government and to the Communist Party of the Philippines for the gift of a Christmas ceasefire. May it establish a good beginning, a season of peace and grace in the New Year!

Signatories:

Center for Peace Education – Miriam College * Generation Peace Youth Network * GZO Peace Institute * Initiatives for International Dialogue * Koalisyon ng Mamamayan para sa Reporma *Pax Christi Institute *Philippine Council for Peace and Global Education * Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. * Waging Peace Philippines

Manila, screen shot

Manila, screen shot

Government announces unilateral ceasefire on holidays, Pope Francis visit

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Dec. 15 announced a month-long unilateral truce with the communist New People’s Army, as it usually did during the Christmas and New Year’s season.

Key points of the ceasefire:

* starts midnight of Dec. 18 and will last until the midnight of Jan. 19.

* recommended by the military, concurred by the Philippine National Police, endorsed by the Department of National Defense to Malacanang, approved by President Benigno Aquino III
* Longer than usual truce lasts until Jan. 15 in keeping with the agreement reached by government and communist negotiators during a meeting in Netherlands.
* Authorities will continue serving arrest warrants against NPA rebels during the truce period. They said they are liable to courts that issued the warrants of arrest. – Catapang
*Military operations against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters will continue during the holiday season – Catapang
PEPP photo release

PEPP photo release

Ceasefire Declaration for traditional holidays, Communist Party of the Philippines anniversary, Pope Francis’ visit
By CPP Central Committee
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) hereby issues this ceasefire declaration to all commands and units of the New People’s Army (NPA) and people’s militia to take effect during the following periods:
12:01 am of December 24, 2014 to 11:59 pm of December 26, 2014;
12:01 am of December 31, 2014 to 11:59 pm of January 1, 2015; and
12:01 am of January 15, 2015 to 11:59 pm of January 19, 2015
During the aforementioned days, all units of the New People’s Army and people’s militia are ordered to desist from carrying out offensive operations against units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the various armed paramilitary groups attached to the Government of the Philippines (GPH).
This declaration is being issued in solidarity with the Filipino people in their observance of traditional holidays which coincides with the CPP anniversary celebrations on December 26.
This ceasefire declaration is also being issued in deference to the upcoming visit of Roman Catholic patriarch Pope Francis which the Filipino people look forward to as an opportunity for religious celebration and to raise outstanding issues …
 
[The full text of the CPP announcement was posted on the website of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines information office.]