For the first time in forty years, a Filipino basketball team, GILAS, a name that has captured the imagination as well as carried the hopes of our countrymen, represented the country in the FIBA competitions. We may not have reaped a harvest of victories, but GILAS certainly won the admiration of many, Filipinos and foreigners alike.
The CBCP commends the members of the team and joins an ecstatic nation in hailing their admirable endeavor! Our victories have been sweet, our defeats, honorable!
FAIRNESS. Sports can and should be a promising vehicle of evangelization, for fairness is its fundamental rule. Fairness that goes by the sublime name of justice is the fundamental aspiration of our nation. It is the hope of the CBCP that as the nation understood the necessity that games be fairly played, it also learned the precious lesson that whether in the life of the individual or of the community or of the State, things ought to be fair just at all times.
UNITY. The players came from different nations — different in race, language, belief and ideology — but these differences did not stand in the way of the camaraderie and the sportsmanship that gave sports-lovers the world over a welcome respite from the cruel realities that hound us daily. We can overcome the differences that set us apart when we set our hearts to it. When we choose to be friendly towards each other, even if we must compete, we can all have fun. Happier and fuller lives come with the acceptance of others and with a healthy respect for differences. GILAS and the other teams that joined FIBA learned this. So did we!
GILAS has sowed seeds of goodwill, understanding and friendship. Let all nurture their flourishing with hearts of goodwill, thoughts of peace and feet firmly treading the ways of friendship. Mabuhay ang GILAS!
September 11, 2014
+ SOCRATES VILLEGASArchbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan CBCP President
The ‘ice-bucket challenge’ seems to be the most recent rave with national personalities joining in. Throughout the world, and now, even in the Philippines, people recognize the nobility of the cause: research on the dreaded Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Act of Compassion not a Fad
Mitch Albom poignantly chronicled the deterioration of one stricken with the disease in his very popular book "Tuesdays with Morrie". Those from older generations may recall how Lou Gehrig bade the world of baseball — and the world — a moving farewell after having been diagnosed with the disease. It is therefore disturbing, to say the least, that some have trivialized the ‘ice-bucket challenge’ by making of the act of dousing oneself with iced water a fad, rather than a gesture of solidarity with all who suffer from the disease and with those who do research on its alleviation.
Embryonic Stem Cell Research?
There have been disturbing reports, however, that ALS research involves the use of stem-cells, and this is not surprising. ALS is a degenerative disorder and stem-cells apparently hold out the promise of reversing the death and degeneration of brain cells, in particular. Stem-cells however are most readily harvested from embryos, and it is in this regard that this type of research is ethically problematic.
On February 22, 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an "Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation." In respect to experimentation on embryos, the Instruction teaches: "No objective, even though noble in itself such as a foreseeable advantage to science, to other human beings, or to society, can in any way justify experimentation on living human embryos or fetuses…To use human embryos or fetuses as the object or instrument of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings having a right to the same respect that is due to the child already born and to every human person."
It is therefore even more condemnable when embryos are destroyed so that their pluripotent stem cells may be harvested for research for even therapeutic purposes.
It is no better when embryos are the result of ‘in vitro’ fertilization, developed purposely as a source of stem cells. The same Instruction reiterates Catholic teaching in bioethics: "Human embryos obtained in vitro are human beings and subjects with rights. Their dignity and right to life must be respected from the first moment of their existence. It is immoral to produce human embryos destined to be exploited as disposable ‘biological material’".
ALS Association and Stem Cell Research
A statement issued by the ALS Association on stem cell research contains this declaration: "Most stem-cell research in ALS is currently focused on iPS cells, which are not burdened with ethical issues." We are told that iPS cells are "induced pluripotent stem cells", stem cells created from skin cells. Such cells would indeed be pluripotent, but would not be embryonic cells. As such, the ethical objection to the use of embryonic cells, whether harvested from embryos, or obtained through in vitro fertilization, would not arise. What is troubling, however, is that the very same ALS statement, in admitting that iPS cells are used in "most stem-cell research" leaves open the possibility that stem cells from objectionable sources are still used!
We are not prepared to say that the ALS Association, that has promoted the ice-bucket challenge, and all those involved in ALS research are engaged in the unethical practice of using embryonic cells. The importance of ALS research cannot be overstated. Research must proceed, for so many suffer. Human intelligence and skill must conquer this dreadful malady, because it is for this purpose that we have been given dominion over the earth as its stewards. But we must also guide the Catholic faithful, and all who heed the ethical teaching of the Church.
Pastoral Ethical Guideline
As a pastoral guideline, we therefore urge those participating in the ice-bucket challenge and making donations to ALS research to make a clear and unequivocal declaration that their donation is made on condition that none of it is to be applied to research that involves the use of embryonic stem cells, in vivo or in vitro.
Catholics who participate in the challenge and who make donations to this research must also demand of fund-raisers and organizers an assurance that none of the donations made will be applied to researches that are ethically reproved.
As long as research on ALS as well as other debilitating conditions such as Parkinson’s Diseases and Alzheimer’s keep within the confines of the ethical demands of human dignity, they will be encouraged by the Church, and our Catholic faithful will be urged to support them with generosity and with charity for all who suffer.
August 27, 2014, Feast of Saint Monica
+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
Prayer and Plea for Peace and Charity
Before a horrified world, militants, without compunction and in utter mercilessness, beheaded journalist James Foley. He may not have died for the faith, but he certainly died, a person of faith, we are told by those who were with him in his last days. Pope Francis sent his grieving family a personal message of condolence. We join our prayers to those of our Holy Father that James may find solace in the bosom of our Loving Father.
James is one of the thousands who now suffer because of the ruthlessness of ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and militant groups of like persuasion and brutality. We should be particularly appalled that children have not been spared. Among the bodies that the rampaging onslaught has left in its wake are those of hapless infants and children — they who are not deserving of any punishment or suffering at all! Thousands have been displaced and must now live as refugees in often squalid conditions because of those who take it upon themselves to kill and to terrorize in the name of God.
Not only then are helpless and defenseless persons the victims of the brutal imposition of a rigid and unforgiving version of faith. Religion is as much a victim, for those who kill and slaughter, wound and maim, destroy and burn in the name of God send the world the awful message that religion divides, that faith is oppressive, that belief can engender so much unkindness!
In the Philippines, we will do our part, first of all, to counter the defacement of religion. We will live as our Lord and Master has asked us to live: with love for each other, bearing each other’s burdens, ever forgiving and humbly asking to be forgiven, respecting the freedoms of all, particularly the right to religious belief. "By this shall all know that you are my disciples"; by this do we pray to convince the world that faith in a God of love and mercy can still heal our world, as we trust Him who can make all things new!
But that is not enough. I appeal to our Filipino bishops take up a collection for the needs of the suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria. These collections will be sent to the CBCP that will see to their remittance to the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Syria and Iraq. While we have our own projects in the Philippines, we cannot put these ahead of the suffering of Christians in that troubled part of our world. They have not only been evicted from their homes. Their places of worship — many of them, thousands of years old — have been razed to the ground by a godless rage with which no genuine religion can ever identify! For many, the food and drink that sustain life are daily issues. They rise from sleep each day to struggle just to keep themselves alive. We must be generous, and the fact that we have our own needs here in the Philippines does not excuse us from the Christian obligation of sharing with our suffering brothers and sisters from our own need.
Finally, let us be ceaseless in prayer, uniting ourselves with our suffering brothers and sisters, commending to the God who offers himself to us as our future their pains, their shattered lives and dreams, their bereavement and their loss. We pray that even as many of them now see no way out of the misery that has been visited on them, the God who opens paths through the sea and ways in the desert, may make a way for them to the future that can only be His gift!
August 27, 2014, Feast of Saint Monica
+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
This Monday August 18, 2014 at the conclusion of his apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis will preside at Mass at the Myeong Dong Cathedral for Peace and Reconciliation. In recent days, we have been made aware of the perilous and life threatening situation that our Christian brethren in northern Iraq are going through.
At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: “Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them. To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer; I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!”
The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence …. Mary Queen of peace, pray for us!”
Therefore as a gesture of spiritual unity with our persecuted brethren in northern Iraq and in response to the call of the Holy Father that all the faithful in the whole Church raise a voice of ceaseless prayer for the restoration of peace, I request my archbishops and bishops in the Philippines to offer all our Masses on August 18 as Votive Mass for Peace and Reconciliation in Iraq. It is humbly requested that the archbishops and bishops also disseminate this information to all the priests and mandate the priests to offer the same prayers in all their Masses on August 18.
It would be opportune for our school children to be asked to pray the rosary in school on August 18 for the healing of Iraq. Let us be united with Pope Francis in this quest for peace.
Let there be peace!
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Manila, August 12, 2014
SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Rightly appalled by what they take to be the unjust use of public funds through the ‘pork-barrel’ system, some citizens have taken the step the Constitution allows of legislating anti-pork-barrel measures through people’s initiative.
All measures our citizens take, provided these are moral, peaceful and lawful, aimed at curbing corruption and the irresponsible use of public funds have our full support. In fact, many of the members of our clergy and our lay leaders are at the forefront of these initiatives.
Since it seems that despite the wide-spread perception that ‘pork-barrel funds’ have occasioned unconscionable irresponsibility on the part of those who had access to them and a definitive ruling by the Supreme Court that such funds are unconstitutional, we have been informed of attempts to perpetuate the system through the appropriation of lump sums in the national budget under various pretexts.
We therefore fully endorse the people’s initiative aimed at legislating the proscription of funds made available to officials and subject to their discretion alone. We likewise look with displeasure at the practice of classifying as ‘intelligence funds’ — and therefore beyond the scope of audit and accountability — sizable amounts of public money.
"You cannot serve both God and money." We choose to serve God and we cannot countenance the idolization of money, especially when it takes the form of unfettered access to the money of the people.
August 8, 2014
+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan