Refugees — The ‘Anawim’ of the Lord Today – Bishops’ Conference President

REFUGEES — THE ‘ANAWIM’ OF THE LORD TODAY

Decades ago, the Philippines was host to the “boat people”, hundreds if not thousands of Vietnamese fleeing their homeland, following the fall of what was then called Saigon.  Our country then served as some kind of a way-station, because our Vietnamese guests soon found their way to other parts of the globe.  One of them, in fact, rose through the ranks of ecclesiastical academe to become dean of theology at one of Rome’s Pontifical Universities.  It was a glorious chapter in our history, and we thank God that many of our priests and religious received the privilege of serving them.

Once more, refugees in flimsy boats, are making their way to our shores,  having endured appalling conditions aboard these vessels.  Doubtlessly, many lost their lives in the attempt to find some haven.  They navigate into our waters tired, famished, desperate — many of them carrying the dead bodies of their children in their arms. 

It is however a saddening fact that some countries in our Southeast Asian region have turned these refugees away, refusing them the comfort of even just a temporary stay. Ironically, the countries that turn refugees away view with each other for tourists and investors!  In many instances, coast guard and naval patrol vessels tow these boats, brimming over with their load of our hungry, sick and desperate brothers and sisters back to the high seas, there to face the elements, and often, sadly, to perish!

The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has passed on our moral obligation in respect to refugees:

Progress in the capacity to live together within the universal human family is closely linked to the growth of a mentality of hospitality. Any person in danger who appears at a frontier has a right to protection. In order to make it easier to determine why such people have abandoned their country, as well as to adopt lasting solutions, a renewed commitment is needed to produce internationally acceptable norms for territorial asylum.(9) Such an attitude facilitates the search for common solutions and undercuts the validity of certain positions, sometimes put forward, that would limit acceptance and the granting of the right of asylum to the sole criterion of national interest. (n. 10)

While it may be true that there is no legal obligation on the part of the Republic of the Philippines or that of any other country to grant asylum to every refugee or displaced person, there is a moral obligation to protect them from the harm they flee from.  There is a legal obligation not to forcibly repatriate them.  And by all precepts of morality and decency, there is an obligation not to leave them to the  mercilessness of the elements on the high seas.

In the Old Testament one of the sternest commands God gave his people was to treat the stranger with mercy and compassion because, God reminded his people, “you too were once strangers in the Land of Egypt.”  If anything at all, the plight of displaced persons and refugees makes clear to us how the artificial boundaries that we establish between ourselves — principally geographical and political boundaries — can in fact become barriers to that hospitality towards the other that makes us human, that marks us out as sons and daughters of an ever-welcoming Father.

We laud our government for its attitude of hospitality towards refugees, even as we urge other nations in the region, in the name of our common humanity and the common Father we recognize, to allow these refugees succor and assistance.  For while our own economic resources may not allow us to to welcome every migrant as a permanent resident of our country, still there is always room for the weary and burdened to rest on our shores before they continue on their journey.

Once, our land was resplendent not only because of tourist spots and destinations, but because we welcomed refugees with the hospitality that has made us famous the world over.  God gives us this chance once more to bind the wounds of body and spirit, warm the hearts and embrace in solidarity our brothers and sisters who come to us from troubled lands.  Let the Philippines be a place where they can dream of a future of promise, possibly in other lands and where helping hands and generous hearts may make their dreams come true.

CBCP 2015 Archbishop Villegas NJ Viehland

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

Catholic bishops dedicate feast of the Holy Cross Masses, collections to persecuted Christians in Syria, Iraq

Novaliches,NJ Viehland

Senakulo, Bagong Silangan parish, Quezon City, Novaliches diocese, Good Friday 2014 by NJ Viehland

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has set a day of prayer for peace in Iraq and Syria on Sunday, Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, has also appealed for a “charity collection”, which must be remitted to the CBCP Secretariat by September 30, 2014 so the aid can be “immediately” transmitted to the Apostolic Nunciatures in Iraq and Syria.

CBCP Archbishop Villegas 2012 NJ Viehland

 

Read Archbishop Villegas’  full statement  dated September 5 and posted Sunday on the FaceBook account of Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila.

CiA Document : CBCP Pastoral Guidance on the Pork Barrel Scam (full text)

Catholic In Asia (CiA) Document: CBCP Pastoral Guidance on the Pork Barrel Scam (full text)
Do not be overcome by evil
but overcome evil with good!
(Romans 12:21)
Pastoral Guidance on the Pork Barrel Scam

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

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

 
The Lord Jesus promised us at the Last Supper before he died: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) In the past months there has been no peace in the minds and hearts of many of our people. Besides the many problems that our people are facing just to make ends meet, many are bothered at the news of millions and billions of the people’s hard earned money being squandered by people to whom they have entrusted the care of governance of our country. This has disturbed not a few. As the alleged net of corruption spread, all the more the people are disturbed and some are even losing hope. Where will all this lead us? Whom can we trust?
 
We cannot keep silent in the midst of this turmoil. Pope Francis wrote: The Church’s pastors… have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives, since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral  promotion of each human being. (EG 182). In this issue of great import for our people we make the following call:
1.     We invite all those implicated in the pork barrel scam to allow impartial investigation to take place. If they are in public office, they must NOT use the power of their office to obstruct the pursuit of truth.
2.     We plead with the media to be fair in protecting the good name of people. Let those who have been implicated be given proper forum and proper coverage to explain their actions.
3.     Let the Ombudsman do its task to investigate and prosecute those who are at fault. The judiciary is the proper venue to bring out justice. Justice delayed is justice denied.
4.     Let those who are at fault come out and admit their wrong doings rather than hurling denials and counter-accusations, thus muddling the issue to the confusion of the people. What is stolen must be returned. The good name destroyed must be repaired.
5.     Let the concern of all be the common good – that people do not lose trust on the institutions of governance and that there may be just restitution of the public money lost.
We are much saddened by the pork barrel scandal. We are shocked, together with our people, at the amount of money squandered when there are so many in great need. But we are grateful that in God’s Providence the scam is coming to light. Truth ultimately comes out. This should make public officials careful that they do not abuse the trust given to them. This also invites all of us to be vigilant over our public officials. There should be public accountability over public trust.
 
Let us not lose hope! As in all situations, we will see the light beyond this crisis. It will make us stronger and more mature. Let us not stop hoping, praying and being concerned and vigilant. Our government is what we make of it. Again, let us heed what Pope Francis said in a talk which he gave on Sept 16, 1013: “None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, how they govern.’ … No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability.”
 
I request all our Catholic faithful to pray an extra rosary from May 31, Feast of the Visitation until August 15, Solemnity of the Assumption, and offer it for the conversion of the culprits in the pork barrel scam, for the courage of the witnesses and the healing of our country. I encourage our youth and children to receive Holy Communion frequently during these days of prayer and offer prayers for the culprits, the witnesses and our government. Let us overcome evil by the power of good.
 
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, May 24, 2014, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians
 
 +SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
  Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
  CBCP President

Message on Peace Agreement from Archbishop Socrates Villegas

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

March 27, 2014

 Like all peace loving Filipinos, we rejoice with our countrymen as we mark a milestone in the peace process with the signing of the peace agreement between the Philippine Government and the MILF. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We pray that this first courageous breakthrough will be followed by more steps leading to true and lasting peace in Mindanao.

I appeal to the Philippine government panel to continue the process of widespread consultation and an honest, open and trusting dialogue with other communities in Mindanao especially those who feel marginalized and ignored like the MNLF. It is so important for peace to be sustainable that it be inclusive and all embracing. The strength of the (signed) agreement lies in its willingness to reach out to everyone including those who are antagonistic to it. A continuing dialogue will strengthen our peace even more.

It is very urgent that economic activity in Mindanao be enhanced immediately. There can be no peace without human development. Development and the promotion of human progress is another name for peace. The promotion of total human development is long delayed. It cannot wait further. The people of Mindanao have been suffering for decades.

May we all be ready to become channels of peace! Peacemakers are children of God.

Socrates B Villegas
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

President Benigno Aquino, Vice President Mar Roxas, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadato and Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao were among government officials who attended the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City for Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato's 75th birthday and induction into the College of Cardinals. NJ Viehland Photo

President Benigno Aquino, Vice President Mar Roxas, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadato and Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao were among government officials who attended the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City for Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato’s 75th birthday and induction into the College of Cardinals. NJ Viehland Photo

Celebrating with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo on his 75th birthday were foreign guests and former officials of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by Bainon Karon (right) former chair of the Women’s Committee of the MNLF Kutawato State Revolutionary Movement, and later Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Secretary for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Taken under red program lighting at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City, March 11, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Celebrating with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo on his 75th birthday were foreign guests and former officials of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by Bainon Karon (right) former chair of the Women’s Committee of the MNLF Kutawato State Revolutionary Movement, and later Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Secretary for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Taken under red program lighting at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City, March 11, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Religious of the Virgin Mary nuns from around Mindanao, southern Philippines, celebrate with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato his 75th birthday on March 11,2 014 at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City . NJ Viehland Photo

Religious of the Virgin Mary nuns from around Mindanao, southern Philippines, celebrate with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato his 75th birthday on March 11,2 014 at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City . NJ Viehland Photo