We are a people of dialogue. As such we have the moral obligation to search for the truth in freedom, the truth about God, about life, about ourselves, our country, our society, our world and the events around us.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How far can we go with Jesus?

It is easy to love those who are lovable, those who love us, or those who are “on our side”.
One does not have to believe or follow Jesus to be able to do that. But to love those who do not care about us, those we consider our enemy, is not an easy thing to do. One question we Filipinos might as well ask ourselves in these trying times for our country is: How far can we go with Jesus in loving for the sake of our country? Are we willing to turn the other cheek. so to speak, to love those we consider beneath us in the hope of evangelizing our fellow Filipinos?
In September, 2004, I issued a new method of evangelization. I called it “Alay Gobyerno Alay Filipino”.

As the title indicates, one can help every Filipino, especially the majority—the poor—by helping the government which at the time was experiencing fiscal crisis. The help I was proposing was a massive, nationwide self-sacrifice available to and attainable by everyone—rich and poor alike. It was a call to self-sacrifice, and I was referring to any self-sacrifice that entails pain and suffering. The objects of the self-sacrifice were the corrupt people in government so that they would be converted, changed, and transformed. It was my fervent hope that once transformed they would so run the government responsibly and effectively as to eradicate the biggest problem of the country—poverty.

How should this self-sacrifice be carried out so as to be effective? I proposed—and I was speaking to Catholic Christians—that the self-sacrifice be offered together with the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, as taught by St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians, Chapter 1, verse 24. Suffering, according to Paul, acquires salvific value when joined to the sufferings of Christ.
I gave the example of St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Pope John XXIII. The Carmelite saint, who never left the monastery, offered her sufferings and pains for the intentions and needs of specific missionaries in Vietnam who later confirmed the positive effects of the nun’s prayer accompanied by self-sacrifice. Likewise, Pope John XXIII asked certain sick and bedridden people in Europe to offer their suffering and pain for the success of the Second Vatican Council which—four decades later—continues to be seen as a shining proof of the vitality and dynamism of the Catholic Church.

Sadly, very few seemed to understand the spirit behind “Alay Gobyerno, Alay Filipino.” Many ridiculed the idea of the Cross entering social and political life in this way. Might we not rethink the matter over and ask ourselves why this kind of self-giving does not appeal to us? Have we totally lost our faith in people’s ability to change, or in the power of our sacrifice to touch sinners? Have we given up hope that the Lord will honor our self-donation, no matter how puny, and grant our aspirations for a more God-fearing country? Or do we see ourselves to be so immaculate that we think it is beneath us to go through pain for the sake of the corrupt?

Church history gleams with accounts of the wayward being saved from perdition due to the self-sacrifice of those who unconditionally love and suffer with Jesus. The unfolding social unrest and political turmoil in our country at present calls for the forgetting of the self for the sake of the common good—is this very hard to understand by a people whose faith is supposedly founded on the supreme act of self-sacrifice by one sinless man who died for all sinners? If we do not take up our Cross today when it is most needed, will we be able to bear it when it is thrust upon our shoulder tomorrow?

Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hope opens human hearts to reconciliation, solidarity and peace

A telephone interview:
CBCP president Archbishop Fernando Capalla
answers media’s questions on Friday’s dispersal

We caught CBCP President Archbishop Fernando Capalla a few minutes before he was to leave Pontificio Collegio Filippino for the Synod Hall. Abp. Capalla has been in Rome since Sept. 30, as one of the three delegates representing the Philippines in the Synod of Bishops being held from October 1-23. The other two are Archbishop Carmelo Morelos of Zamboanga and Bishop Antonio Tagle of Imus.

Q: What can you say about the recent incident involving three bishops, priests and nuns in a procession that was dispersed through the use of water cannons?

A: It is very difficult to appreciate a situation from miles away; the local bishops are in a better position to take care of the flock or to air their thoughts on the incident.

Q: Well, the bishops have spoken, interviewed by media, although we have yet to hear from the local bishops—Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales of Manila (since the incident happened in Manila) and Bishop Honesto Ongtioco (since some priests and nuns supposedly come from his diocese)—but we would like to hear from you being the CBCP President.

A: First, allow me to tell you that the picture for me is rather hazy. The sessions at the Synod Hall last the whole day, and they are heavy; leaving us no time to even watch the news on TV. The only updating I get is from a handful of priests and friends, if they can catch me at all. So they told me about the incident you are referring to, and asked me if it is right that bishops, priests and nuns be there, but I understand it was a religious procession, so why should it be surprising to find them there?

Q: Yes it was supposed to be a religious procession, although some politicians were present…

A: And even if it was a political rally the nuns and priests were joining, I’m willing to believe that they were acting to the best of their understanding, out of conviction and deep faith.

Q: If that’s the case, was it right that they be dispersed as they were?

A: I am willing to believe, too, that the police were also acting out of a deep sense of duty to ensure order. Both sides want justice and peace. I am reminded of a saying that goes: “There are always three sides to an argument: your side, my side, and the side of Truth.” The fighting will never stop until we acknowledge the third side: the Truth. That is what we have to see or to look at: if we want peace, we must be ready to be peacemakers. Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, called the peacemakers “blessed.” We must be willing to believe that we all want peace, whatever is our political color, because peace is everyone's responsibility which passes through the thousand little acts that make up everyday life. In the midst of armed conflict, the Bishop is a shepherd who, while exhorting his flock to assert their rights, must always remind them that Christians are obliged in all cases to reject vengeance and to be prepared to forgive and to love their enemies. There can be no justice without forgiveness. Hard as it may be to accept, for any sensible person the matter seems obvious: true peace is possible only through forgiveness. Those are not only my ideas—I am merely rephrasing from Pastores Gregis, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the Bishop as Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Q: Perhaps you can articulate your personal opinion as a bishop and CBCP President away from the homeland? What is the role of the bishop in these trying times?

A: The Bishop is a prophet, witness and servant of hope who has the duty of instilling confidence and proclaiming before all people the basis of Christian hope. Where there is no hope, people question faith and love is weakened. Especially in times of growing unbelief and indifference such as our country is in at present, the bishop is the Shepherd who reminds the flock of God’s love for His people. This God does not want us fighting; He wants salvation of all people. The bishop as shepherd leads his flock to hope in Jesus Christ—that hope will open human hearts to reconciliation, solidarity and peace.

17 October 2005

Refer to:
Teresa Tunay
CBCP Media Office