Posts Tagged ‘CBCP’
Pastoral Exhortation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for the 2014 Year of the Laity
Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You already know surely that this coming 2021 we shall be celebrating the 500th year of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. For in 1521, Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines, and in Cebu, he, a lay person, catechized King Humabon of Cebu, his wife and their people. The king and his queen were subsequently baptized together with their followers. It was on this occasion that the queen, newly given the baptismal name of Juana was gifted by Magellan with a statue of the Santo Nino, which was later found in 1565 by soldiers of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, and is now preserved in the Basilica of the Santo Nino in Cebu.
In preparation for the celebration of this providential event of the first arrival of Christianity in our shores, the Church in the Philippines has planned nine years of intensive evangelization, with a theme for every year. For the year 2013, we celebrated the Year of Faith provided by then Pope Benedict XVI. The Year 2014 will be the YEAR OF THE LAITY.
Our Situation: The Gospel of Joy
Pope Francis says “The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity”. (Evangelii Gaudium, 52)
If we were given an opportunity to describe the situation of the Catholic laity in the Philippines, it would be the paradox of poverty and abundance. The devastation that typhoon Yolanda brought upon our brothers and sisters in Samar and Leyte has created surges of pain and anguish all over our land and even beyond ours shores. The typhoon left us dazed and lost groping in the dark for answers and explanation. Poor as we are, this pauper among the nations of the earth hides two jewels in her rags. One of them is our music. Our other treasure is our faith. As long as there remains in these islands one mother to sing Nena’s lullaby, one priest to stand at the altar and offer God to God, this nation may be conquered, trampled upon, enslaved but it cannot perish. Like the sun that dies every evening, it will rise again from the dead–Horacio de la Costa, SJ.
The first and most important truth about you Filipino Catholic laity is not poverty but the greatness of your dignity. This dignity derives from God’s unmerited choice of you to belong to God’s holy people. God called you in Christ to be united to his Son. When you were baptized, the Holy Spirit united you with our Lord Jesus the Son of God, and thus you became true sons and daughters of God, partakers of the divine nature. There is no greater dignity on earth or in heaven than that of being adopted children of God, and being made truly his children, and thus co-heirs to eternal life with Jesus Christ. This dignity flows from the love of God, and made the author of 1 John exclaim, “Behold, what manner of love God has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are. Beloved we are already the children of God but it has not yet appeared what we shall be, because when we see him, we shall become as he is.” This is what also made St. Leo the Great exclaim, “Recognize your dignity, O Christian . . .” That grace came to you with your baptism which is a true rebirth to eternal life.
The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. (Evangelii Gaudium, 1)
When you were united to Christ by the Spirit at baptism, you were also incorporated into the body of Christ, which is the Church, and you became members of the people of God. Your membership in the Church is a full membership. You belong to the Church as much as any pope, bishop, priest, or religious does. You are not second class members of the people of God. When you live the life of grace, you are full citizens of God’s kingdom on earth. In fact, the Church teaches that “the greatest in the kingdom of God are not the ministers but the saints”.
When you were joined to Christ by the Spirit at baptism, you also became sharers of the threefold mission of Christ teacher, priest and servant. You were baptized not only to share in Christ’s dignity as Son of God, but also to share in his mission for the salvation of the world.
You share in Christ’s dignity and mission with all others who are likewise united to him by the Holy Spirit. In uniting you to him, Christ also united you to all those who are united with him. With all those who are united to Christ by faith and baptism, you form one body of Christ, whose head is no less than Christ himself. Thus the whole body manifests and prolongs Christ’s life and mission in the world.
You, our dear lay faithful, have as your particular mission the sanctification and transformation of the world from within. In fact, many of you are called by the Lord to do service in the Church and for the Church. Such is the case of lay liturgical ministers and catechists, for example, who perform an indispensable service in the Church community and its institutions. Such also is the case of lay people who are asked to participate in the administration of Church property and works.
Yet, your own specific task, and the special responsibility given to you by the Lord is to find your own sanctification in the world, and to sanctify the world and transform it so that this world becomes more and more God’s world, God’s kingdom, where his will is done as sit is in heaven. You are called by Jesus to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The Lord Jesus told his disciples to preach the Gospel to every creature, and to make all nations his disciples. This command to the whole Church falls especially on you, who are in the world.
As Pope Francis has been repeatedly telling Catholics, you must go into the world of the family, of business, of economics, of politics, of education, of the mass media and the social media, to every human endeavour where the future of humanity and the world are at stake and to make a difference, the difference that the Gospel and the grace of Christ bring to human affairs.
Our Situation: The Challenge of the Gospel
When we look at our Philippine world with the eyes of faith, there are several areas of special concern which you, our lay faithful should direct your attention and action to.
Pope Francis calls our attention to “the great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ. (Evangelii Gaudium ,2)
Poverty is a social and spiritual problem in our country. A great percentage of our people live below the poverty line. They do not even have the necessities for decent human living. It is estimated that twelve million of our people have gone to foreign countries in their search for adequate income to support their families’ needs. While this has brought many material advantages, it has also resulted in great harm to family life. And many of our overseas Filipino workers work in conditions of servitude and are often submitted to humiliations. A still a vast number of our people are without work, and many are forced to live in slum areas and in miserable situations. A vast number of our children are unable to go to school, and those who do go get sub-standard education in poorly equipped schools. Many have been driven by poverty to cater to the lusts of human predators.
Though there have been significant economic gains, the same percentage of our people have remained mired in poverty over the past several years. The wealth of our country has remained woefully mal distributed. This endemic poverty is gravely contrary to the will of God. You, my dear lay faithful are in the best position to creatively work our solutions which will satisfy the demands of justice and charity. What are you doing to create wealth, to preserve wealth, and to share wealth? Do the more prosperous among you feel the sufferings of our poor brothers and sisters, and do you think of ways and means to help alleviate their poverty, and help them towards prosperity?
The second is the problem of politics. We say “problem of politics” because, as we have repeatedly pointed out, politics as it is practiced in our country is perhaps the single biggest obstacle to our integral development as a nation. Politics as presently practiced, and as it has been practised for a long time, is riddled with graft and corruption.
Our elections are notoriously noted for their violence and vote-buying and for the lack of proper discernment in the choice of candidates. Recent developments have highlighted the corruption connected with the pork barrel which those in power are loath to give up despite their blatant misuse for political patronage. It is now clear that our people are poor because our leaders have kept them poor by their greed for money and power. What are you doing to help get worthy people to positions of authority and power? What are you doing to get rid of the politics of patronage, violence and uneducated choices? What are you doing, our dear lay faithful to rid our country of graft and corruption? Do you perhaps participate in corrupt practices by selling your votes, by buying votes, by bribery and acceptance of kickbacks?
Business and Commerce
Corruption in politics is paralleled and strengthened by corruption in business. We know that our tax collecting agencies are notorious for their extortionary practices. Corrupt tax collectors of course imply business people who cooperate in their corrupt activities either to survive in business or to reap bigger profits. It is also known that too many of our tax payers do not pay the correct taxes, while the taxes that are collected are often misspent in over-priced or ghost projects. Corruption in business leads to the further impoverishment of the poor and the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.
Greed and Selfishness
While poverty and corruption are real and great evils; we must search for their causes. Our culture has been contaminated by the twofold greed for money and power that has characterized much of the modern world. In our consumerist and materialistic society, people are valued according to what they have.
Pope Francis says “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.(Evangelii Gaudium, 53)
The greed for power is the twin brother of greed for money. Those who have money easily get into power, and when they are in power, they can protect and increase their acquisitions. In our country, winning a government position is often the passport to affluence. Politics in the Philippines is a business proposition.
The first casualty of such greed for money and power is the truth. To get money and power, to keep money and power, to increase their money and power, people have recourse to lies and cheating. The truth is easily disregarded and sacrificed. This is true also in the mass media where what is sought after and broadcast is not so much what is true but what is news; the competition among the networks and the printed media is not so much for accuracy in reporting but for ratings which attract more money and build up greater power.
Common Good is Ignored
The second casualty is the common good. The sense and responsibility for the common good is sadly wanting in our country. The culture of greed for money and power caters to the selfish interests of individuals, families and economic and political groups. Our families which are characterized by an admirable closeness are also characterized by a closedness that is unmindful of the common good. This being closed to the common good is especially evident in our politics where political dynasties are nurtured and people vote with little consideration for the impact on the country of their votes. But even our mass media are often tools of vested interests rather than instruments for the promotion of the common good. In business, in politics, in the entertainment business, in media, profit almost always has priority over service despite protestations to the contrary.
Pope Francis warns us “Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us. (Evangelii Gaudium, 54).
Challenge and Mission
The renewal of our country thus demands of us all, and especially of you, our lay faithful, a return to truthfulness and the fostering of the sense of the common good. A society that is not founded on truth cannot stand, because a society not founded on truth is either founded on lies or deceit which can provide no stable basis for human relationships and a stable social order. Thus, we must obey the biblical injunction “to do the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15 ). We must seek the truth, speak the truth, do the truth. This means that we must seek what is right, speak what is right, and do what is right; and to do so “in love”, that is, in solidarity with and service of others.
Know the Faith
My dear lay faithful, the greatest challenge for you is to know the content of our faith, and to bear witness to your faith by a life of faith. We wrote to you a few months ago praising your simple but deep faith. Yet we had to point out to you two main deficiencies of the faith of our people: first, that the faith of many is uninstructed and, more importantly that this faith has been separated from life.
So many of our people do not even know the fundamentals of our faith! They thus become very vulnerable to the seductions of other religious groups who find them easy targets of their recruitment efforts. Many of our Catholics cannot even answer attacks on basic Catholic doctrines like the divinity of Christ, the Eucharist, the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the veneration of images.
Live the Faith
But more harmful even is the separation of faith from life. It is certainly a shameful proof of our failure to evangelize our country that our churches are filled with people, our religious festivities are fervent, our Catholic schools are many, but our country is mired in poverty and in corruption. Many, perhaps the majority of the corrupt people in politics and in business are graduates of our own Catholic schools and are “practicing” Catholics. The majority of those who cheat in elections and those who sell their votes are also baptized Catholics. This is also true of the bribe takers in public offices and the looters of our public coffers. As we noted in our pastoral letter, the criteria for decisions taken by many in politics do not derive from faith but from other sources inimical to the Christian life. The poison of the greed for power and wealth has already pervaded the political and business systems.
We echo the challenge of Pope Francis “We want to challenge “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism”, who lack a meaningful relationship to the Church and no longer experience the consolation born of faith. The Church, in her maternal concern, tries to help them experience a conversion which will restore the joy of faith to their hearts and inspire a commitment to the Gospel. (Evangelii Gaudium, 15)
Thus we urge you to promote a continuing education towards maturity of faith among our people, starting with our Christian families. But even more importantly, we ask you to make your faith bear on your day to day decisions and activities. It is only an integral faith, a faith that believes, a faith that worships, and a faith that works in love (Gal. 5: 6), that will serve as God’s way “to make all things new” in our beloved country.
Communities of Faith
Since the corruption in business and in politics that we must fight against is systemic, we your pastors, urge you to unite in groups which through prayer, discernment and concerted action will renew the social and political fabric of our country. Individual goodness is not sufficient anymore. The good individual will only be swallowed up by the evil system. While individual witness is important, it is in unity that good Christian people will get their strength and attain victory.
To sustain and strengthen you in your efforts, we urge you to read the BIBLE, God’s written word. Read it not only to study it but pray with it. When read prayerfully, the Bible will nourish your life. It will be a lamp to guide you in your journey. It will help you resist temptations; it will help you to know and follow Jesus, our Lord.
Second, we urge you to have recourse to the SACRAMENTS. Value your baptism and prepare well for the baptism of your children. Let parents take seriously the responsibility they undertook at baptism to raise up their children as good Christians.
Christian marriage should be valued not only as a beautiful and solemn ceremony but as a welcoming of Christ into the life of the couple and their future family. Hence, it must be adequately prepared for by pre-marital instructions. Christian married couples should see their marriage as a public commissioning by Christ to serve and protect life and married love itself.
We ask you to have recourse especially to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The Eucharist, participated in actively in faith, is the source of Christian life and strength. It is the bread of life and of martyrs. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, on the other hand, will help us heal our moral wounds and give us the grace to fight sin in ourselves and in society.
A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way. At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it. (EG, 45)
And finally, we ask you to stand up for Jesus not only in religious activities but in your private and public life. Speak up for Jesus and his Church in public discussions. Do not be afraid to be identified as Catholic Christians. You have been called to be saints; you are sent forth as heroes. Take courage. Choose to be brave!
May the example of our two lay Filipino saints Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod be your inspiration for the coming year!
May the Jesus and his Mother be with you and with us all, and make us, a “pueblo amante de Maria” also truly the land of Jesus in Asia.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, December 1, 2013, First Sunday of Advent
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
A CBCP Pastoral Statement on the Pork Barrel
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Since the news about the pork barrel controversy erupted in the media weeks ago, our brother bishops have come forward in various venues and varied means in order to guide you, our Catholic lay faithful, in responding to the situation with the eyes of faith and from the Christian moral perspective.
God is Offended
The pork barrel controversy must not just be approached and analyzed from the perspective of democracy and responsible citizenship. This is not just a constitutional issue or a legal concern. Over and above these socio-political concerns, we must not forget that the commandments of God are being violated. This is not just an offense of malicious unscrupulous citizens or the betrayal of elected public officials. This is an offense against God who commanded us “Thou shall not steal” and “Thou shall not covet your neighbour’s goods”. Lying is a sin and “we should not bear false witness against our neighbours”.
Our protests should not just emanate from the bad feeling that we have been personally or communally transgressed, violated or duped. It should come rather from the realization that God has been offended and we have become less holy as a people because of this.
We Must Atone
Therefore, our first response to the pork barrel issue must be not protest but contrition. We are not just victims of a corrupt system. We have all, in one way or another, contributed to this worsening social cancer—through our indifferent silence or through our cooperation when we were benefiting from the sweet cake of graft and corruption.
I encourage you my dear Catholic faithful to join the Holy Father Pope Francis in offering prayers and sacrifices on September 7, the vigil of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Francis has asked all Catholics worldwide to offer prayers in atonement for our sins against world peace and in particular pray for the restoration of peace in Syria.
In union with the Pope, let us also make September 7 our day of atonement for our sins against peace in our country. Stealing destroys peace. Lying harms our peace. Government corruption is an act of terrorism against our poor and our children.
Many have died without sufficient government health care–stealing government money has caused the death of the poor.
Many remain homeless without dignified government housing aid—unabated government stealing has deprived them of dignified housing.
Many farmers without seeds and fertilizers remain entrenched in poverty—government stealing has kept them enchained to dehumanizing poverty.
Many children remain malnourished and stay out of school due to poverty—government stealing robs them of opportunities for the future.
We strike our breasts and ask God to pardon us for our sins against peace. Syria needs our prayers. The war in Syria must stop. The terrorism of graft and corruption in the Philippines offends God. We must atone for these sins to the extent that we are responsible.
Our Moral Stand
As we bow our heads to seek the Lord’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins against peace, we also stand up as your pastors to teach you that it is your Christian duty to transform society and restore all things in Christ.
1. Integrity must be restored in the conduct of public office. Every government official from the rank and file to the highest executive must prove themselves worthy of the title “Honorable”.
2. According to our moral judgment, the present pork barrel practice in government is fertile ground for graft and corruption. Promoting the politics of patronage, it is contrary to the principles of stewardship, transparency and accountability. It is immoral to continue this practice.
3. The wheels of law and justice must roll swiftly so that we can immediately punish the errant, restore what has been stolen and return to moral conduct. “Hate evil and love good and let justice prevail…” (Amos 5,15)
4. We call on our pastors of souls to educate our people in their political duties as good citizens. We cannot be good Christians if we are not good citizens, and good citizenship in a democracy calls for participation and vigilance. This we do not only during elections but all the time. It is but right that citizens demand accountability and transparency.
5. We call on all Filipinos of goodwill, especially among our Catholic faithful, not to stand idly by in this moment of truth. Let us be concerned and let this concern be manifested in our assiduous search for the truth in the spirit of prayer and solidarity. Prayer will make us humble and open; solidarity will make us strong.
6. Stewardship is greatly wanting in our country. Positions in the country are public trusts for the service of the common good. As stewards of the people, leaders should be transparent to them and should be open to be held accountable. A crisis is an opportunity. The political crisis we are facing now is an opportunity for our leaders to show that they are ready to be investigated, to set up radical changes for better governance, and to seek for the good that would benefit all, especially the poor and those who suffer.
In the midst of the gravity of the present crisis, we remain hopeful because as people of faith deep in our hearts we believe that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more”(Rom 5,20). This crisis will not frustrate the coming of God’s kingdom. He is working among us. Let us not allow this opportunity of graced renewal of our country to pass us by. Be concerned! Be discerning! Be involved!
We invoke the help of Mary, Our Lady of Philippines, to guide, protect and move us on.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+ JOSE S. PALMA. D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu, President, CBCP
September 5, 2013
Beloved Brothers and Sisters:
Our country continues to suffer grave crises, disasters and challenges. We are reminded of the experience of the tempest at sea by the Apostles when they feared for their lives. Jesus chided them for their lack of faith. (cf. Mk 4:35-41)
Our Problems as a Nation
We have had our share of violent storms. Typhoons Sendong and Pablo inflicted horrific damage – the loss of lives, the destruction of properties, the dislocation of thousands of families, the radical disruption of human life and livelihood, and the severe trauma of survivors. We must listen to expert environmentalists who declare that much of these natural disasters are due to the destruction of our natural resources, our forests and rivers, as a result of unabated logging and mining. These must lead us to examine and question the sincerity, quality and effectiveness of the governance of our leaders.
But this is only one in a long litany of storms, not necessarily natural. We can include:
- the promotion of a culture of death and promiscuity. This is due to the slavishness of our political and business leaders to follow practices in Western countries that promote, in spite of examples that we clearly see in the West,
- divorce, resulting in more break-up of families and the dysfunctional growth of children,
- contraceptives, leading to more abortions,
- the use of condom, aggravating HIV-AIDS infection, and
- school sex education, bringing more promiscuity and teenage pregnancy.
- the continuing corruption and abuse of power by public officials due to lack of information, or still worse, the possible hiding of information from the public. It is ironic that the government that prides itself of treading the daang matuwid fears the Right of Information (FOI) bill because of possible discovery of wrongdoing by public officials. Why are they afraid to entrust the citizens with the truth of their governance?
- the widening practice of political dynasties. As monopolies in business, monopolies in politics limit the entry that can bring in new ideas and offer better services. Political dynasties breed corruption and ineptitude. We are aggrieved that lawmakers themselves defy the supreme law of the land by not following the mandate of our Philippine Constitution given 26 years ago to make an enabling law to ban political dynasties.
- the issues raised to the COMELEC on automated election concerns. Election is not a matter of speed but of trustworthiness and honesty. If not properly addressed the present automated election system can lead to wholesale cheating. The integrity of a pillar of our democracy – the election – is at stake.
- the inability and unwillingness of those in power to take the road of social justice. This has resulted in failure to share the resources in the country to meet basic rights of the poor, such as secure jobs, decent housing, adequate medicine, ownership of lands that they till, and quality education. New “rights” are being pushed while the most basic rights are being ignored!
- the deepening of the culture of impunity. Extrajudicial killings, unsolved crimes and kidnappings continue and the government is not able or lacks the political will to prosecute the perpetrators and touch powerful people.
- the unabated suffering of the poor in spite of bright economic ratings. Growth itself, that is, more products and more money, should not be the sole aim of development but also equity. The huge gap between the rich and the poor remains. There is little inclusive growth!
We note the above social and political storms that buffet our Filipino life because they deeply touch the experiences of our people. We speak for those who suffer. We bring these concerns to those who have responsibility and hence accountability. These stormy situations need not be so!
The Position of the Church
Our position on the above issues is based on our faith, a faith that is integral, a faith that surrenders to God in the intimacy of obedience and love. Faith is not only concerned with doctrine but applies that belief in all dimensions of life – social, political, economic, cultural, and religious. Such belief is synthesized in the social doctrine of the Church
Catholic moral and social teachings declare:
1. “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church or CCC, no. 2270). The use of artificial means to prevent human life from being conceived is evil (CCC, no. 2370). Sexual acts are forbidden outside of marriage (CCC, nos. 2390-91).
- Therefore, we denounce the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, the political and financial pressures imposed on lawmakers, and the imperialism exercised by secularistic international organizations in the legislative process.
- We admire and commend the valiant efforts of lay people and lawgivers to prevent the passage of the law.
- We support the efforts of our lay people in challenging the RH Law in the Supreme Court and in other venues within the bounds of our democratic system.
- We support and encourage the participation of the laity in electing competent and morally upright candidates who are faithful to their correct and informed conscience.
- We shall be vigilant and act against moves that will be destructive of family and life.
2. Political corruption is one of the most serious deformities of the democratic system because it rejects moral norms and undermines social justice, which is the justice of the common good (see Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church or CSDC, no. 411). Freedom of information promotes integrity, transparency, and accountability in the political order (see CSDC, nos. 414 – 416).
- Therefore, we denounce the non-prosecution of alleged perpetrators of corruption and strongly call upon the government to pursue allegations and signs of corruption of power holders not only of the past but also of the present, even of friends and party mates.
- We likewise call upon government to give due priority to the passing of the Freedom of Information Bill at the soonest possible time.
3. Political authority exists for the common good. It is not to be exercised for the sake of private and family interests or simply for the interests of a political party. When political authority is exercised merely for these narrow interests, it betrays the reason for its existence. Moreover, such situation breeds corruption and inhibits general access to political power which is a fundamental mark of democracy (see Gaudium et Spes orGS, no. 74; CSDC, e.g., nos. 393, 407, 410).
- Therefore, we denounce the continued existence of family political dynasties and the continuing delay of passing a law to implement the constitutional provision banning political dynasties.
4. “Every citizen ought to be mindful of his right and duty to promote the common good by using his vote” (GS, no. 75). Such right and duty would be denied if obstructions are put in place to prevent its free and responsible exercise, such as dishonesty in elections.
- Therefore, we call upon COMELEC to adequately address the issues and respond, place corrective measures if necessary, to the studies of technical experts to the alleged deficiencies of the present system and technology of automated elections. There can be no transparency in elections if the COMELEC itself is not transparent.
5. Love of the poor who in the Gospel reflect Christ himself impels us to work for justice for the poor (seeCCC, e.g., nos. 2447-48; CSDC, no. 184). This requires promotion of social justice, not by targeting the reduction of the number of poor people.
- Therefore, as Church of the Poor we direct our social action services towards the development of the poor.
- We shall provide moral guidance to the better off in our society to be in active solidarity with the poor.
- We call upon the government to be serious in implementing the asset reform laws that are in place in order to bring social justice such as CARPER for the farmers, UDHA for the urban poor, IPRA for the indigenous people and the FISHERIES CODE for the fisher folks. The end of CARPER is only 1½ years away and agrarian reform accomplishment is dismal, being bogged down by bureaucracy, legal technicalities and poor governance.
Consistently Proclaiming the Truth
As pastors we heed the urgent appeal of St. Paul:
“Proclaim the message: be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully” (2Tim 4:2-5).
We remind all the faithful that what is popular is not necessarily what is right. What is legal is not necessarily moral.
Each has to follow his/her conscience. But “conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.” (CCC, no, 1783).
Faith and Hope amidst the Storms
In the midst of the country’s natural and social upheavals, we see ourselves in the boat with the Apostles buffeted by stormy waves. We are tossed about by the waves created by the secularist spirit, which continues to reduce the role and place of religious faith in the public sphere. Our cherished moral and spiritual values are at grave risk. We are overcome with fear and anxiety, perhaps also wondering if the Lord has fallen asleep, or if the Lord does not care that we are drowning (cf. Mk. 4:38).
We have to hear once again the Lord’s words: “Quiet! Be still!” (Mk. 4:39). He rebukes the winds and the storm ceases. He is the Lord who has power over sea and sky. He has power over dark spirits. It is He who poses the question to us: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mk. 4:40).
This is the Year of Faith. Pope Benedict XVI challenges us to respond with faith to the events around us. With our eyes fixed on Jesus (cf. Mt. 14:27-31), we will not drown but even launch deep into the risky waters of modernity. We should not be afraid. Our values are those of Jesus, of His Gospel, and of the Kingdom of God.
In spite of the storms we know that the kingdom of God is already among us. The Divine Spirit continues to blow, also in our time. With the eyes of faith we thank and praise the Lord:
- for the growing consciousness among many of the lay faithful that they have to take seriously their political duties. We commend and support lay initiatives to form circles of discernment to choose worthy candidates and even to run as candidates in order to bring values of God’s kingdom in the public discourse. We will help the people to know the stance of those who run for office on important issues of the country.
- for the many programs that promote the Natural Family Planning methods. We commit ourselves to promote these programs in our local churches and to teach our people Christian values on family, marriage and the Gospel of Life.
- for efforts among the young to live chastely even in a world that does not value the sacredness of sex. We commend such movements as TRUE LOVE WAITS, LIVE PURE and similar initiatives of education to chastity. Indeed, purity attracts!
- for the courage and steadfastness of many lawgivers to resist political and monetary pressures. For those who have other opinions, we seek to understand them with patience and charity.
- for the effort and bold steps taken by the government in pursuing peace in the country. It is our hope that these peace initiatives will be matched by equally bold steps to bring about justice, for peace is the fruit of justice.
- for the great clamor among the people to do away with political dynasties. If congress is unwilling to act on this we support initiatives by the lay faithful to pass an enabling law against political dynasties through the people’s initiative which the Constitution provides.
With Jesus in the Ark of Peter we always have hope. But with faith and hope, we must have love. Buffeted by the same stormy winds are the poor with their many faces. Our pastoral statement addresses the political and social issues that bring them deeper into helplessness and hopelessness. We must voice out their concerns, be their moral guide, be with them – the unborn and “little ones,” the young, the women, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the slum dwellers, the workers, the fisher folks, the migrants. Our love has to bring them the Good News – the Gospel – with all its social, political and ethical implications.
We entrust the mission of the Church in these troubled times under the protection and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Life and Mother of the Poor. Mother Mary, pray for your children in your beloved Philippines.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+ JOSE S. PALMA, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu & President, CBCP January 28, 2013
(A Pastoral Exhortation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines)
Beloved People of God:
The Year of Faith which our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI opened in Rome on October 11, 2012 will end this year on the Feast of Christ the King, November 24, 2013. The Holy Father said that the Year of Faith would be “a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith.”(1) It is “a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.”(2)
For us in the Philippines, the Year of Faith is foundational for a nine-year “Era of New Evangelization.” In our Pastoral Exhortation to open the Year of Faith, “Live Christ, Share Christ,” we, your Pastors, said that the nine-year period of intense evangelization in our country will culminate in 2021 with the 500th anniversary of the Christian faith in the Philippines.
Therefore, this year 2013 we begin the Era of New Evangelization with the first of the nine-major pastoral priorities of the Church in the Philippines – Integral Faith Formation.(3)
A. Commencing the Era of New Evangelization
1. The PCP-II Vision and Mission of a Renewed Church
In 1991 the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) envisioned a renewed Church, a participatory community of authentic disciples of Christ, a Church of the Poor, a Church-in-mission. In 2001 at the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR) we declared that to achieve the vision we would “embark on a renewed integral evangelization,” a mission that PCP-II had described in terms of the New Evangelization of Pope John Paul, “new in its ardor, methods and expressions.”(4) It is to fulfill this mission of renewed integral evangelization or New Evangelization that we drew up the nine major pastoral priorities of the Church in the Philippines.
Given a fresh and powerful impulse by the Year of Faith, we focus this year on the first of the pastoral priorities – Integral Faith Formation.
2. The Meaning and Necessity of Faith.
What is faith? “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.”(5) As personal adherence to God, faith is one’s total surrender to the love and wisdom of God. It is the entrustment of oneself to God in total dependence on him. It is the free offering of one’s mind and heart to God. “Faith is our adherence to the Triune God, revealed through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is our friendship with Christ and through Christ with the Father, in their Holy Spirit.”(6) By faith we freely commit ourselves entirely to God.(7) This is what we really mean when we say, “I believe in God.”
On the other hand, as a free assent, faith is the virtue of saying “yes” to the truth that God teaches in the Sacred Scriptures and in the living tradition of the Church. This is what we express when pray the Act of Faith:
“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man, and died for our sins and that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.”
The Act of Faith expresses a religious and intellectual assent to all the truths that God has revealed.
Faith then involves the total person, his heart and mind. It “touches every part of us: our minds (believing), our wills (doing), and our hearts (trusting).” (8)
Without such faith, we cannot be saved. Once again the CCC teaches us: “Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for salvation.”(9) Without faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith no one will ever attain eternal life.(10)
3. Positive and Negative Qualities of our Faith Today
But not every one who says “I believe” will be saved. The question then is: Is it real faith? Hence we need to look into the kind of faith that we have. Is our faith one that possesses the mind and heart? A faith that flows into daily life such that our private and public life demonstrates our being true disciples of the Lord?
In truth our Filipino faith is deep and simple. We are not embarrassed to perform religious rites, like making the sign of the cross, or to display religious articles in vehicles. Many even dare to follow religious practices in places where the faith is banned. And yet our faith is largely uninformed, prone to ritualism and pietism, tending towards the externals of prayer and sacraments without understanding their meaning. And most of all our faith is separated from life; we do not practice our faith, putting it aside when it comes to crucial decisions regarding, for instance, money or power or popularity. This is why in our predominantly Christian country poverty, social injustice and lack of integrity are glaring while dishonesty and corruption continue with impunity.
4. The Impact of Secularism on Filipino Faith
Yet another powerful social force, a secularist and materialist spirit, is impacting our faith. Beginning in Europe with the Age of Reason and Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, the secularist and materialist spirit has gradually but decisively taken over the developed world, resulting in the ignoring of God, the loss of faith, the weakening of divine authority and the authority of the Church. Secularism and materialism have created their own values, contradicting and rejecting the universal values of the Gospel as taught by the living tradition of the Church.
The tools of social communication disseminate the secular ideology of developed countries. This has resulted in a type of faith that adheres selectively to some doctrines of the Church but rejects others as incompatible with changing modern times, with democracy and religious pluralism. We see examples of the inroads of secularism and materialism in the setting aside of moral values and rejection of religious authority in the debates that led to the unfortunate passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. We also see the influence of the secular spirit in legal attempts to redefine the limits of human freedom, the beginning of human life, and the nature of marriage and family.
In these difficult times we hear and heed the words of the Lord that we are in this world but we are not of this world.(11) Our faith impels us to cherish and defend beliefs and values that are countersigns to those of this world.
5. The Need for Integral Faith formation
The weaknesses of our faith and the challenges facing it summon us to renewed integral evangelization, to new evangelization with new fervor, new methods and new expressions. This is the rationale for integral faith formation. It is a process that seeks and leads to maturity in faith, a faith that is informed and lived, a faith committed to the mission of announcing the Gospel of Jesus, including participation in the work of justice and social transformation.
B. Lord, increase our faith!
1. Knowing and Deepening our Faith – Conversion
The process towards a mature faith begins with realizing that one’s faith is weak, is not always concerned with essentials but with externals of religious practice and obligation, does not lead to total personal commitment to the Lord, and is not always ready to say “yes” to God’s will – in brief, that faith is not lived. We need conversion and renewal. The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization confesses:
We firmly believe that we must convert ourselves first to the power of Christ who alone can make all things new…. With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus’ disciples, especially of his ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission…. We know that we must humbly recognize our vulnerability to the wounds of history and we do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins.(12)
The realization of weakness and sinfulness leads the believer to a great desire to know the faith, to be informed about it and to deepen it. The cry of the disciples for help that they may more closely follow Christ and be patterned to his way of thinking, acting and behaving, relating and valuing is also our plea: “Lord increase our faith!”(13)
At the basic level we need to know what we believe in. If you are asked what you believe in as a Catholic, simply recite the Apostles Creed, a true summary of the fundamental articles of Catholic belief. The Apostles Creed is further elaborated in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, or simply the Nicene Creed – a result of the first two universal councils of the Church in the years 325 and 381.(14)
Today we have a comprehensive systematic and organic synthesis of the content of our faith in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1991. This universal Catechism is contextualized into our Filipino situation by the Catechism for Filipino Catholics, 1997. Moreover, the social doctrine of the Church which elaborates on the commandments of God in the CCC is now systematically organized in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC), 2004.
With the Sacred Scriptures in one hand and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the other hand, supplemented by the CSDC and CFC, a Filipino Catholic has the fundamental tools of knowing and deepening the faith. Admittedly one is not expected to study all these books. Guidance by catechists and religious teachers would be necessary.
2. Personally Knowing Christ
But it is not enough to have an intellectual knowledge of the faith. What is absolutely imperative is a personal, loving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He is the center of our faith. A personal knowledge of Jesus is the adherence of the heart, a personal entrustment to Jesus, friendship with Jesus. An uncompromising religious assent to the teachings of God as authoritatively interpreted by the living teaching authority of the Church can only flow from a passion for Jesus, Teacher and Shepherd.3
3.Celebrating our Faith – the Liturgy
Faith is God’s precious gift to us. We have to celebrate this divine grace by thanking, praising, and adoring the Lord. Nowhere can this be most properly done than in the Liturgy, the prayer of the Church. For it is in the Liturgy, especially in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the memorial of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, that thanksgiving, praise, worship and the offering of one’s self to God is done in the very action of Christ the High Priest. It is Christ who offers his own sacrifice in the Eucharist through the hands of the Priest. It is Christ who is present and active in the other sacraments of the Church. Hence we celebrate our faith principally through the Liturgy. The catechism teaches us: “When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi…. The law of prayer is the law of faith: The Church believes as she prays.”(15) We celebrate our faith as well when we read the Scriptures and when we pray. In all these, the Spirit of Christ helps us and Christ himself is present.
C. Living our Faith – Charity as Faith in Action
When we know our faith and understand its meaning especially for our salvation, it becomes imperative for us to live it through a truly moral life, a life of fidelity to God’s commands. It is most tragic that a grace so priceless such as faith would not be lived from day to day. Faith has to be a norm and guide of life, its energy, inspiration and light.
To live a truly moral life is to be faithful to the 10 commandments of God. The first three commandments express our love of God and the last seven express our love of neighbor. This is why the Lord summarized the 10 commandments into just two: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”(16)
A genuine moral life is, therefore, a life of genuine charity. Charity is faith in action. When we received faith from the Lord at our Baptism and became members of the family of faith, we promised to believe in God and to reject all forms of evil. This promise was a promise to live a truly moral life, to be Christians not only in name but also in deed. Pope Benedict XVI urges us to pray that our “witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith – is a task that every believer must make his own.” (17)
D. Spirituality – Discipleship of Believers
To strive to live a truly moral life is to journey on the way of discipleship. A life of faith and charity is a life of discipleship, a life of being united in mind and heart with Jesus, the Teacher and Lord. This is spirituality in its depth. (18)
By its very name spirituality refers to life in the Spirit. It refers to the pattern of Jesus’ own life of being Spirit-led and Spirit-driven as we see in the first chapters of St. Luke.(19) Hence to be holy or to be spiritual is to live in the Spirit,(20) to abide in the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit (21) as St. Paul is wont to say. Only when we are imbued with the Spirit and follow the Lord Jesus in discipleship can we live an authentic moral life, a life of faith and charity.
The result is a lifestyle directed by the values and attitudes of the Gospel, the values of the Beatitudes, a lifestyle that consists of a mind-set and behavior that are focused on charity and justice, inspired by faith.
The spirituality of a living faith is maintained and nourished by prayer, personal or liturgical, individual or communal, devotional and popular or official. Prayer links faith and action. Even as prayer flows from faith, prayer also sustains a lived faith.
E. Sharing our Faith – The Witness of Life
Faith is not a gift that we keep selfishly to ourselves. It is a gift to be proclaimed, communicated, and shared. This is why Jesus bequeathed to the Apostles, the fathers of faith, a final mandate:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(22)
While every believer has the duty to proclaim the faith, most everyone is not called to do so in the way of catechists, religious educators, religious men and women, and the clergy. But everyone is called to share the faith by the witness of a good Christian life.
A few are called by God to witness to Jesus by the offering of their very life as martyrs of the faith. This is why we are incalculably blessed with the canonization of our second martyr, San Pedro Calungsod, last October 21, 2012. Being a young lay catechist, he proclaimed the Lord Jesus by teaching others to know and accept the faith. By becoming a martyr like San Lorenzo Ruiz he gave the ultimate witness of his life.
It is first of all by the silent witness of a truly moral Christian life, a life of faith and charity that we share our faith with others. This requires a life of fidelity to God’s will in the midst of daily challenges and daily work at home and at work. It requires fidelity to our God given responsibilities in the family, in the neighborhood, in the Church and in the wider society.
Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI confirms this truth of Christian witness:
The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers by their very existence in the world. Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.(23)
Applying the same truth of witness to the whole Church, the recent Synod on the New Evangelization stated:
It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus, by her witness of poverty and detachment, and by her witness of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity.(24)
We reiterate this truth which is also a challenge for all of us — it is by the witness of a truly moral life, the witness of a life of faith and charity, that we can eloquently and credibly proclaim and share our faith in the Lord Jesus.
- In the light of this year’s focus on integral faith formation, we call upon dioceses, their catechists, religious educators, lay leaders, men and women Religious, and clergy to design and implement a long term program of faith formation for families, youth and children, using and adapting the CCC, CFC, and CSDC for this purpose.
- We call upon schools, catechetical institutes, Basic Ecclesial Communities and other faith communities, religious organizations and movements to do the same.
- We assign the CBCP Commissions with faith formation components to take the lead in this important project and provide assistance to the dioceses when necessary.
Conclusion – The Prayers and Inspiration of Mary, Mother of Faith
As we end this pastoral exhortation, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Woman of Faith and Mother of Faith, is our guide and inspiration. She listened to the word of God, reflected on it, strove to understand the mystery that the word announced, and from the depths of her faith she said “yes” to God’s will. Her “Let it be done to me according to your word” became the daily norm of her life of faith and charity. May our Mother assist us to increase our faith.
We conclude with some words from the hymn “Live Christ, Share Christ,” the official hymn for the 500th anniversary of our Christian faith in our shores:
The gospel is our blessing but also our mission.
To the poor and the children we bring his salvation
To the rest of the world his message of compassion
To all of humanity his challenge of conversion!
We are blessed, we are loved
We are called, we are sent,
We will teach, we will serve
We are Christ’s, we are Church!
For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+Jose S. Palma, D.D
Archbishop of Cebu and President, CBCP
27 January 2013
1. Porta Fidei, no. 4.
2. Ibid., no. 6.
3. In order to achieve the vision of Church that the Second Plenary Council (PCP-II) envisioned in 1991, the Council called for “renewed integral evangelization.” For this purpose the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR), 2001, identified nine pastoral priorities, namely: integral faith formation, renewal of the laity, active participation of the poor, the family as the focal point of evangelization, the parish as a communion of communities, renewal of clergy and religious, active participation of the youth, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, and mission ad gentes.
4. See Vision-Mission Statement of the Church in the Philippines, 1992; Pope John Paul II, Discourse to XIX Assembly of CELAM, Port au Prince, 1983.
5. The Catechism of the Catholic Faith (CCC), no. 150.
6. Catechism for Filipino Catholics (CFC), 1997, no. 124; see also PCP-II, no. 64, 66.
7. See Dei Verbum, no. 5; cited by Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, no. 25.
8. CFC, no.128.
9. CCC, no. 161; see Mk. 16:16; Jn 3:36; 6:40ff.
10. See Mt. 10:22; 24:13; Heb. 11:6.
11. See Jn. 17:11-17.
12. Message of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.
13. Lk. 17:5.
14. See CCC, no. 195.
15. CCC, no. 1124.
16. Mk. 12:30-31; see also Dt. 6:5.
17. Porta Fidei, no. 9.
18. For a spirituality of discipleship, see Final Statement of IV FABC Plenary, “The Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the Church and in the World of Asia,” Tokyo, 1986, no. 4.8 “Lay Spirituality”; see also Final Statement of V FABC Plenary Assembly, “Journeying Together toward the Third Millennium, Bandung, 1990, no. 9.0, “Spirituality for Our Times.”
19. See Lk. 1:12; 3:4, 14.
20. See Rom. 8:9-11.
21. Eph. 5:18.
22. Mt. 28:19-20.
23. Porta Fidei, no. 6.
24. Instrumentum Laboris for Synod on New Evangelization #158
LIVE CHRIST, SHARE CHRIST
Looking Forward to Our Five Hundredth
Go and make disciples… (Mt. 28:19)
We look forward with gratitude and joy to March 16, 2021, the fifth centenary of the coming of Christianity to our beloved land. We remember with thanksgiving the first Mass celebrated on Limasawa Island on Easter Sunday March 31 that same blessed year. We remember the baptism of Rajah Humabon who was given his Christian name Carlos and his wife Harah Amihan who was baptized Juana in 1521. Our eyes gaze on the Santo Niño de Cebu, the oldest religious icon in the Philippines, gift of Ferdinand Magellan to the first Filipino Catholics that same year. Indeed 2021 will be a year of great jubilee for the Church in the Philippines.
We shall, therefore, embark on a nine-year spiritual journey that will culminate with the great jubilee of 2021. It is a grace-filled event of blessings for the Church starting October 21, 2012 until March 16, 2021.
How providential indeed that on October 21 this year, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI will add another Filipino to the canon of Saints of the Church, our very own Visayan proto-martyr Pedro Calungsod, who gave his life for the faith on the morning of April 2, 1672 in Guam.
The canonization of Pedro Calungsod will take place under the brilliant light of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11. This same day also marks the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the commencement of the Year of Faith that will end on November 24, 2013. These events will take place during the celebration of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that will be held in Rome from October 7 to 28, 2012 on the theme, “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”
FAITH AND EVANGELIZATION
All these events are bound together by the themes of “faith” and “evangelization”. Evangelization is the proclamation, witness and transmission of the Gospel given to humanity by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the opening up of people’s lives, society, culture and history to the Person of Jesus Christ and to His living community, the Church.
The mission of all of us who are called to take part in the “New Evangelization” is the Church’s own essential mission, as it was the mission of Jesus Himself also. Of this basic truth Pope Benedict XVI reminded us, in his first announcement of the Year of Faith:
“The new evangelizers are called to walk first on this Way that is Christ, to make others know the beauty of the Gospel that gives life. And on this Way, one never walks alone but always in company, an experience of communion and brotherhood that is offered to all those we meet, to share with them our experience of Christ and of his Church. Thus testimony combined with proclamation can open the hearts of those who are seeking the truth so that they are able to arrive at the meaning of their own life.”
Hence, the Pope said that the Year of Faith will be a “moment of grace and commitment for an ever fuller conversion to God, to strengthen our faith in Him, and to proclaim Him with joy to the people of our time.”(Benedict XVI, Homily at the Mass for the New Evangelization, October 16, 2011).
THREE FACES OF EVANGELIZATION
To better understand the New Evangelization, let us first place it within the comprehensive context of the Church’s mission of Evangelization. “In its precise sense, Evangelization is the missio ad gentes directed to those who do not know Christ. In a wider sense, it is used to describe ordinary pastoral work, while the phrase ‘New Evangelization’ designates pastoral outreach to those who no longer practice the Christian faith” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization, December 3, 2007, 12).
The New Evangelization, therefore, is primarily addressed to the baptized in the Christian West “who are experiencing a new existential and cultural situation, which, in fact, has imperiled their faith and their witness.” This is a situation which Pope Benedict XVI has described as an ‘interior desert’ which “has virtually eliminated any question of God” (XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Instrumentum Laboris, 86). It is a crisis “bearing in itself traces of the exclusion of God from people’s lives, or a generalized indifference toward the Christian faith itself, to the point of attempting to marginalize it from public life” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, May 30, 2011).
But in fact the cultural situation so described applies as well to certain parts of Africa, Asia-Oceania, and South America. Referring to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI observed that the situation in the continent call Christians “to reawaken their enthusiasm for being members of the Church…to live the Good News as individuals, in their families and in society and to proclaim it with fresh zeal to persons near and far” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus 160, 2011).
While the Christian West must deal with the challenge of secularism, materialism, and relativism leading to the abandonment of faith, the same problem to a lesser degree is posed to the “younger Churches,” especially those sectors that are highly influenced by great social and cultural changes. These, too, are “fertile ground for the New Evangelization” (Instrumentum Laboris 89).
More specifically, following the lead of Blessed Pope John Paul II (Redemptoris Missio, 37-38) the New Evangelization has to be directed to the cultural, social, political, economic civic, scientific and technological, communications and religious dimensions of life. All these have been deeply influenced by the globalizing secularist and materialist culture.
The pastoral situation calls on the whole Church, the faithful, to participate in “overcoming the separation of the Gospel from life and reconstructing, in the everyday activities of the home, work and society, the unity of life which finds its inspiration in the Gospel and, in the same Gospel, the strength to realize it fully” (cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici 30, 1988).
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION FOR THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH IN THE PHILIPPINES
Concern with the New Evangelization has been the overall theme of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) in 1991, of the National Mission Congress for the New Millennium (NMC) held in Cebu in September/October 2000, and of the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR) which the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) sponsored in Manila in 2001. Especially since PCP-II a great number of synods and pastoral assemblies have been established and carried to term in various dioceses. These synods and assemblies called for extensive surveys and studies on “Faith and Church situations” in many sectors of the country. They involved much serious discussions among members, ordained and lay, in Catholic communities on different levels. Reports, summaries of the deliberations and conclusions of these assemblies were sent to the Holy See for review. Religious orders and congregations, and a good number of lay institutes and organizations have also held, on the national level, analogous conferences since PCP-II.
Thus we in the Church in the Philippines come to this program of the “New Evangelization” already with considerable prior extensive and intensive study, reflection, deliberation and resolution. In truth we have been trying to earnestly pursue “renewed evangelization” especially in the last twenty-five years.
This task of New Evangelization calls us to continue more earnestly the initiatives and projects which have been ongoing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are called to examine more deeply the pastoral situation that we all face together as Church in the Philippines. We are asked to explore and discover “the new methods and means for transmitting the Good News” more effectively to our people, always under the guidance of the Spirit. Above all, we are challenged anew to foster in the Church in our country a renewed commitment and enthusiasm in living out the Gospel in all the diverse areas of our lives, in “real-life practice”, challenged anew to become more and more authentic witnesses of our faith, especially to our Asian neighbors!
BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL ROOTS
We need here only to hear again the great commandment for mission, the mission mandate of Christ Jesus himself, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21) and “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and lo, I am with you always, until the end of time” (Mt 28: 19-20). Indeed the letter to Timothy tells us that “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim 2:4). And Paul says that “everyone who invokes the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). But he goes on to point out that no one can come to believe in Jesus Christ if he has not heard the Word of God. But then the message that awakens faith has to be proclaimed by messengers sent out for the task. “So then, faith comes from hearing the message and the message comes through preaching Christ” (Rom 10:17)
Vatican II taught us that “The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature” (LG 2). The Church exists out of her faith in Jesus the Word incarnate sent by the Father, a faith generated by the Holy Spirit. And the Church exists in order to bring the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to all people under the guidance of the same Spirit. The missionary mandate of the Church, however has assumed new forms and methods in the history of the Church, depending on situations and historical moments.
After the 1974 Synod of Bishops that was devoted to Evangelization in the Modern World, we heard from Pope Paul VI in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi issued in 1975 the immortal words, “For the Church evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new” (EN 18). So the Church’s evangelizing mission, as always but more so in our contemporary time, should not only cover wider geographic areas but also people’s criteria for judgment, values, points of interest, mindsets, and lifestyles (EN 19). In other words, evangelization must affect and transform the newly emerging cultures.
At that time Paul VI was already aware that “the split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time, just as it was of other times” (EN 20). PCP II called it the dichotomy between faith and ordinary life. Blessed Pope John Paul II has constantly repeated this basic insight in his call for a New Evangelization. The Church, in complete fidelity to the Gospel and Tradition, cannot “simply appeal to its former Christian heritage” but must discover how to conform herself “with the person and message of Jesus” in changing cultures (John Paul II, Ecclesia in Europa 2, 2003). He invites us to a New Evangelization: “new in its ardor, methods and expressions” (John Paul II, Discourse to XIX Assembly of CELAM, Port au Prince, 1983). The New Evangelization was in fact the common theme of the continental Synods that helped prepare the Church for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 (see John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia 29). For his part Pope Benedict XVI humbly admits that faith can no longer be taken as “a self-evident presupposition for life in society” in our changed and changing cultures (Benedict XVI, Porta fidei 2, 2011). So by calling for a Year of Faith he invites the Church to profess, celebrate and transmit her faith in cultural contexts that have become indifferent or even hostile to the faith.
The New Evangelization, therefore, appeals to the Church to muster her spiritual energy received from the Word and the Spirit in order to discover in diverse cultural settings the signs of hope and action of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the Church must be cognizant of the new cultural situations that call on her “to look at the way she lives and transmits the faith” (Instrumentum Laboris 49).
The Church in the Philippines will heed the call.
WHAT WILL THIS ERA OF NEW EVANGELIZATION FOR THE PHILIPPINES CONSIST OF?
As we initiate concrete activities in pursuit of the New Evangelization at this time, four ‘areas’ or ‘dimensions’ of concern are opened up for us:
First, the intensification of promoting missio ad gentes in all our communities, among our lay people, our priests and seminarians, and men and women in consecrated life. Post-World War II Roman Pontiffs have insisted that the Church in the Philippines has a clear “missionary vocation” given by divine providence by reasons of history, of geographical location, of the presence of Filipino Christians in so many ‘non-evangelized’ regions of the world. In all of human history it is today that the number of those who have never met Jesus Christ or heard His Gospel is perhaps at its highest level. How imperative and how urgent it is then that Jesus and His Gospel be made known, and His truth and way of life be witnessed to by us to whom 500 years ago the Christian Faith was given as gift!
Secondly, in our part of the world all evangelization must keep in mind the imperative of “bringing Good News to the poor” (pauperes evangelizantur). This holds true of all evangelization, but it has a special relevance and urgency for us and our Filipino “missionary vocation”. We are still a long way from the vision to becoming in truth a “church of the poor”—committed to struggle to bring down poverty among our people, committed to striving to do all we can to help bring about “a civilization of justice and love”.
Thirdly, we must reach out to the many Catholics whose faith-knowledge and faith-practice have been largely eroded and even lost. We have to reach out to former Catholics who have drifted from the Church due to scandals, hurts, unresolved confusions and doubts as well as to Catholics who have in fact turned to other religions and religious traditions. We must counteract the creeping effects of glorified moral relativism and secularism now eating up our people. We must protect the youth from the attraction of individualistic sects that ignore all communitarian norms.
Lastly, we must renew our attention and zeal toward the reawakening, fuller formation and animation of young people and youth groups, in both urban and rural settings. The Philippines is a country of the Young. We cannot insist enough how important and significant, how urgent and crucial the evangelization of our youth is. This, indeed, is priority pastoral task.
A NINE-YEAR ERA OF NEW EVANGELIZATION
As we initiate concrete activities of the New Evangelization, we need to emphasize the absolute necessity of three overriding faith imperatives for evangelizing efforts to be fruitful.
First, the centrality of the Eucharist. For if “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed” and “is also the fount from which all power flows,” it is “especially from the Eucharist” that “grace is poured forth upon us as from a fountain” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 10). The grace that radiates from the Eucharist has to accompany all our evangelizing efforts.
Second, the necessity of Prayer. We believe that the Holy Spirit is the main agent of evangelization. Every evangelizer, therefore, has to be led and driven by the Spirit, even as Jesus was in His proclaiming of the Kingdom of God (see Lk. 3:22; 4:1,14). And it is through prayer that we are able to listen to the Holy Spirit and do his bidding. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are able to call on God, Abba. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are able to follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus and tell His story to others. In our context, our people’s fidelity to prayer through religious devotions and practices – through their popular religiosity and piety – is an enduring witness to their acceptance of the Good News of Jesus. Hence, the New Evangelization has to be accompanied by prayer and contemplation. We are called to rekindle the spirit and practice of prayer among us and foster a renewal of popular religiosity and piety in its different forms and practices.
Third, the necessity of Conversion. The journey to discipleship in Christ begins with conversion, a deep metanoia, a change of mind and heart. Conversion into discipleship leads to telling the story of Jesus as one has seen him, heard him, and touched him in the core of one’s heart. Jesus our Lord of Divine Mercy is a testimony that no evangelization can be fruitful without conversion. “Repent and believe in the Gospel” were the first words of Jesus in his public ministry as recorded by Mark. As Church, all the faithful, and especially we as Pastors, should recognize and confess our own “mea culpas,” and our failures to evangelize credibly and effectively.
With these postulates of the New Evangelization, we respond to the call of the Spirit for a New Evangelization by focusing on the Nine Pastoral Priorities of the Church in the Philippines as the key themes over a nine-year period.
Year 2013: Integral Faith Formation. What a blessing it is that this first pastoral priority coincides with this Year of Faith as declared by the Holy Father! Our pastoral concern goes out to the great many whose faith hardly plays a significant role in daily private and public life. We reach out during this year to those who have drifted away from the Christian faith. We note with sadness the erosion of the faith and our need for true conversion. The Sacred Scriptures and Tradition, Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Catechism for Filipino Catholics will be fundamental references of the New Evangelization. This is the year of San Pedro Calungsod, who with San Lorenzo Ruiz, provides an exemplary model for the mission of the Church in the Philippines. Integral Faith Formation will focus on the “12 articles of Faith” found in the Apostles Creed. Faith Formation has one objective: a more intimate relationship between Jesus and his followers. Blessed John Paul uses the three phrases: evangelization with “new methods, new expressions, and new fervor.” In the end, the Church follows the way of holiness through conversion and discipleship.
Year 2014: Laity. This year especially celebrates both the sacrament of Baptism by which all the faithful become God’s sons and daughters and the sacrament of Confirmation by which they become witnesses of Christ to others. Yet the gifts of the Holy Spirit through these sacraments often remain dormant. This year is to be devoted to the renewal of the laity, to their “empowerment” or more accurately to activating their charisms from the Spirit, so that they may indeed take up their role as co-responsible agents of evangelization and lead in the task of social transformation. In this regard, of paramount global importance is the ecological challenge of climate change.
Year 2015: The Poor. This year is dedicated to committing ourselves more firmly to our vision of becoming truly a Church of the Poor. The new evangelization is also a powerful call from the Lord to follow in His footsteps to be evangelically poor. How far have we journeyed to our vision of Church? How shall we assist the materially poor to face the challenges of hunger and poverty, of globalization and climate change? And together with them eradicate the evil of corruption and the economic and political imbalances of our society? At the same time we realize that the materially poor in our midst have the God-given power to tell the story of the poor Christ who by His poverty liberates and enriches us. The whole Church, rich and poor, powerful and powerless, have to be in solidarity in the work of restoring integrity and truth, justice and peace – love – in our benighted land.
Year 2016: The Eucharist and of the Family. This is a year of great blessing for us. The Holy Father has chosen Cebu as the host of the Fifty-first International Eucharistic Congress. We will focus our pastoral action on making the Eucharist better appreciated and its missionary implication better lived by the Catholic faithful. We shall especially emphasize on forming the Filipino Family as a Eucharistic community of parents and children, true to its name as a domestic church, rooted in the Eucharist. An evangelized family is an evangelizing family. Even as it is increasingly besieged by secularist values, the Family, as PCP-II has said, is “the focal point of evangelization.” We shall intensify our efforts to strengthen marriage and the family and to protect them from ideas and values that destroy them.
Year 2017: The Parish as a Communion of Communities. This is a year when we more deeply discern not only the structures of governance of our dioceses and parishes but also of the quality of faith life in the parish, the fellowship, belongingness, and participation experienced by its members. In a special way we shall probe into our efforts of making the parish a communion of communities, a communion of Basic Ecclesial Communities and of covenanted faith-communities and ecclesial movements. We shall discern and implement measures on how communities of consecrated life may be more integrated into the life and mission of the parish. In brief, our focus will be the building of a parish that is truly a faith community immersed in the lives of its people.
Year 2018: Clergy and Religious. In our culture, clergy and religious are the key to the New Evangelization. Yet they are not immune to the twin errors of a dichotomy of faith and inadequate discipleship of Christ. This is a year dedicated to the integral renewal of the values, mind-sets, behavior, and life-styles of the clergy and religious. The aim is to become servant-leaders in the manner of the Good Shepherd, live the spirit of the evangelical counsels and be authentic prophets of the Good News of Jesus and of the Kingdom. It will be a year, too, of revisiting ways of seminary and religious formation, of on-going formation, and of the collaboration of the laity in these crucial approaches to integral growth and development in view of mission and ministry.
Year 2019: Youth. It is often said that the youth are the future of the Church. The youth are in fact the present of the Church. They are its most numerous members. They inspire us by their active participation in society and in the Church. The involvement of hundreds of thousands of young people in the various activities of evangelization and social transformation is a call to greater participation in the Church. “New methods, new expressions and new fervor” of evangelization are imperative. We shall invite the youth to discern deeply their vocation in the world and in the Church, especially the Lord’s invitation to them to the priestly and religious life. How we, as Church, respond to the aspirations of the youth will shape the third millennium.
Year 2020: Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue. Different faiths and religions are a formidable challenge to a nation that strives to be a community, a human family, a unity in diversity. This year will be devoted to exploring new ways of being community through ecumenical and inter-religious relationships and action. Caritas in veritate, open, honest, respectful – loving – dialogue of life, prayer and action is the only way towards community. At stake are the great values of peace and harmony, particularly in areas of armed conflict, solidarity in the struggle for social change, unity in healing social ills, integrity and social justice in our land.
Year 2021: Missio ad gentes. We are indeed proud that so many of the Filipino faithful (laity, priests, and religious) are missionaries in all the continents of the world. It is the duty of faith in Christ to tell his story to others, especially to those who have not sufficiently heard of him. Even as we are deeply inspired by the stories of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) witnessing to their faith in “ad gentes” regions as well as in highly secularized countries, we need to explore new ways of assisting them as evangelizers. We have been challenged by Blessed John Paul to become the “foremost missionaries” in Asia. This year will be devoted to how we are fulfilling that vocation, how a mission-consciousness in all the faithful can be formed, how each one can be animated into becoming a missionary even at home, and more concretely how parishes and dioceses are supporting our own Philippine-Mission Society.
CALL TO EVANGELIZE
As we launch this nine-year period of New Evangelization for the Church in the Philippines, let us listen to the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
Today the world needs people who proclaim and testify that it is Christ Jesus who teaches the art of living, the way of true happiness, because he himself is the path of life; people who first of all keep their own gaze fixed on Jesus, the Son of God: the word of proclamation must always be immersed in an intense relationship with him, in the intense life of prayer. Today’s world needs people who speak to God, so as to be able to speak of God. And we must always remember that Jesus did not redeem the world with beautiful words or ostentatious means but with His suffering and His death.
The law of the grain of wheat that dies in the ground also applies today; we cannot give life to others without giving our own life: “Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it,” the Lord tells us (Mark 8:35) …. It is only through men and women molded in God’s presence that the word of God will continue its journey in the world, bearing its fruit.
Dear friends, being evangelizers is not a privilege but a commitment that comes from faith …. Thus I ask you to let yourselves be formed by God’s grace and to respond in docility to the action of the Spirit of the Risen One. Be signs of hope…. Communicate the joy of faith to all with the enthusiasm that comes from being driven by the Holy Spirit, because he makes all things new.(Rev 21:5), trusting in the promise that Jesus made to the Church: “And lo, I am with you always, to the ending of time!” (Mt. 28:20) [Pope Benedict XVI Address on the New Evangelization, Rome 15 October 2011].
Beloved People of God, we invite you to pray and reflect on what the New Evangelization asks of all of us, from each of us. The Lord of History, without any merits of our own, first gave the priceless gift of the Christian faith to our people and our land, — nearly 500 years ago. Each year, in our own “uniquely Filipino” novena before Christmas Day, our ‘Misa de Gallo’ novena, we thank God’s goodness for this gift of faith, and beg for grace that our people may persevere in it.
In the face of pervasive secularism and materialism, in the midst of billions who have not truly encountered Jesus Christ nor heard of His Gospel, how challenged we must be to embark on the New Evangelization! How can we not want to share Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life with those who are yet to know and love Him who is the answer to the restlessness of every human heart?
In this Year of Faith and throughout the nine-year period of special New Evangelization – and beyond – let us celebrate our faith. Live Christ, Share Christ!
May our Lady, Mary Mother of Our Lord and the Star of Evangelization intercede for us and guide us in sharing Christ, our Emmanuel, God-with-us now and forever.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+ JOSE S. PALMA. D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu
July 23, 2012