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Updated: 1 hour 35 min ago

Pope, top Curia officials launch new style of ‘ad limina’ visit

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 18:34

Pope Francis meets with bishops from Chile during their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican Feb. 20. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN– For decades, the visits bishops are required to make to the Vatican were known for their formality and routine style, but Pope Francis launched “a whole new style of ‘ad limina’ visits,” a Chilean bishop said.

The bishops were expecting “to have a long meeting with a speech and then individual meetings,” as in the past, Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos of Santiago, secretary of the Chilean bishops’ conference, told Catholic News Service Feb. 24.

Instead, the Vatican informed the prelates before their departure from Chile that they were going to have a group meeting with the pope and the prefects of several Vatican congregations and offices.

“We were told that this was going to be a new way of doing things that was beginning with us, that looks for a more fruitful, more incisive dialogue between the representatives of the local churches and the pope with his main collaborators,” Bishop Ramos said.

After spending three hours with the pope Feb. 20, the Chilean bishops met again with Pope Francis Feb. 23. At the second meeting, the pope and Chilean bishops were joined by several top officials, including: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Also present at the meeting were: Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect for the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life; Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy; and Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Bishop Ramos told CNS that Cardinal Ouellet began the discussions, which focused on four principal themes: communion and collegiality within the church; the mission of the church in Chile; how to help clergy, religious men and women as well as the laity “in their Christian lives and in their pastoral service”; and pastoral guidelines for the future.

“It wasn’t about speaking about little things or a little problem over here,” he said. “This was more of a way of looking at everything together, for them to listen to our opinions and (we to listen to theirs) on these principal themes.”

“It was something completely different,” Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez of San Bernardo, member of the permanent committee of the Chilean bishops’ conference, told CNS.

“It was truly something wonderful from the perspective of collegiality, of synodality, of the church walking together. This doesn’t just respond to the realities in Chile, it’s a whole new (approach) that begins now.”

Bishop Ramos told CNS that although the bishops knew about the meeting with the pope and Vatican officials before they left Chile, they found out only when they arrived in Rome that Pope Francis wanted to meet with them privately as well.

After celebrating Mass at the tomb of St. Peter Feb. 20, the bishops were welcomed to the library in the Apostolic Palace by the pope.

“As we were seated around him,” Bishop Gonzalez said, “the pope — in his Argentine manner of speaking — told us: ‘Well, the soccer ball is in the center. Whoever wants to and is brave enough, give it a kick.” (The Argentine phrase is: “El que quiera y que tiene la cara mas dura, que le pegue una patada.”)

Bishop Ramos added that several bishops would speak and the pope would respond. “It was like talking after dinner while drinking some Bacardi, in a manner of speaking,” he said.

Bishop Gonzalez said at a certain point, a bishop said, “‘Holy Father, it’s a little bit hot in here, can we open a window?’ The pope said, ‘Yes, of course’ and stood up. The bishop said, ‘No, no don’t worry, Holy Father, I’ll open it.”

Bishop Ramos and Bishop Gonzalez said that the sincere discussion was “a turning point” that led to a more open dialogue at their second meeting with the pope and Vatican officials.

“It’s like that Scripture reading. Paul, after preaching, went to Jerusalem to speak with Peter and tell him what he had done. This is the same. We come to Jerusalem to tell Peter this is what happened and he guides us to see what else we can do,” Bishop Gonzalez said.  (Junno Arocho Esteves/Catholic News Service)

Ilagan bishop resigns for health reasons

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 14:23

Ilagan Bishop Emeritus Joseph Nacua

MANILA, Feb. 27, 2017– Almost two years of suffering from stroke have given toll on Capuchin Bishop Joseph Nacua of Ilagan. 

Pope Francis accepted Nacua’s resignation for health reasons on Feb. 25 as of Ilagan diocese in Isabela province.

In 2015, Nacua suffered stroke and was hospitalized. At 72, he is three years younger than the age at which bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation to the pope. 

Fr. Gregorio Uanan, Judicial Vicar of the diocese, said the prelate is slowly recovering but the stroke impacted on his mobility. 

“We have a huge diocese and it’s hard for him already so he thought that it would be best for him to just retire,” Uanan said. 

Nacua is the first Capuchin missionary in the country to be appointed bishop in June 2008. He served Ilagan diocese with more 1.2 million Catholics for almost nine years. 

Currently, six more dioceses in the country have no bishops. Aside from Ilagan, these include the dioceses of  Daet, Bayombong, Iba, Isabela, Kabankalan, and Mati. (CBCPNews) 

Parishes mourn death of oldest priest

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 09:24

Fr. Ivo Velasquez with Msgr. Adan Apostol (seated) (Photo: Fr. Ivo Velasquez)

TACLOBAN City, Feb. 27, 2017 – Palo Diocese’s oldest priest passed away on Feb. 24 at the age of 92, leaving wonderful memories among clerics here.

Parishes, mourning his death, included his eternal rest in Mass intentions such as at the Sto. Niño Parish in this city.

Msgr. Adan Apostol, who hailed from the distant southern Leyte town of Burauen, died of deteriorating health due to old age.

Confession in Spanish

In spite of old age, the priest remained one of the awaited guests in some church activities even in Masses.

Fr. Mark Ivo Acebedo Velasquez, Dean of Studies of Sacred Heart Seminary in Palo, reminisced about his days with one of the pioneers of the seminary, whom he described as “holy and approachable”.

“He was my confessor, and he always insisted that I listen to his confession (always done in flawless Castilian Spanish) and give him absolution afterwards. He was a holy priest,” he shared in a recent social media post.

“He was one of the priests whom I looked up to since the beginning of my priesthood,” he recalled.

In his account, Velasquez said he used to go to Apostol’s house in [Brgy.] Manlurip [San Jose, Tacloban City] to confess.

World War II seminarian

”After I confessed, he would ask me to hear his confession, which he always did in Spanish,” Velasquez added.

He said Apostol would remark on the age gap between them, about 50 years, and then he would tell the younger priest about the life of seminarians way back in World War II years.

Apostol served as parish priest of Holy Cross Parish in Carigara, Leyte from 1989 to 1990.

Velasquez said two other more senior priests in the diocese, Fr. Andres Villarente and former provincial board member Fr. Ben Aniceto, have been ill the past few days.

Aniceto, he said, has been in the ICU for two weeks now.

Apostol, Villarente, and Aniceto were all at one point time cared for at the archdiocesan institution Patmos located in between the Chancery and the St. John the Evangelist School of Theology (SJEST) also in Palo.

Although not yet final, the plan is to inter Apostol’s remains at SHS on March 6, said Deacon Angelo Nikko Brosas (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros / CBCP News)

By deceiving others, we deceive ourselves

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:00

Fr. Roy Cimagala
Candidly speaking


We have to be most careful in handling the truth. We already have been amply warned that when we play around with it, it will also make its sweet revenge on us in ways that we may not even notice.

A quote from St. Augustine’s Confession expresses this well: “They love truth when she shines on them; and hate her when she rebukes them. And since they are not willing to be deceived, but do wish to deceive, they love truth when she reveals herself and hate her when she reveals them.

“On this account, she will so repay them that those who are unwilling to be exposed by her she will indeed expose against their will, and yet will not disclose herself to them.”

St. Paul already made reference to the grave consequences of deception. “Evil men and impostors,” he said, “will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim 3,13)

The Book of Proverbs more or less say the same point: “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” (5,22)

It’s about time we review the crucial relationship between God and our capacity to stick to the truth or to distort it.

Nowadays, with the plethora of data and information, we have to remind ourselves constantly that truthfulness is not a matter of simply conforming these data and pieces of information to our own designs. We need to process these raw data by leavening them with the love of God and submitting them to God’s will and designs.

To put it bluntly, we can only be in the truth when we are with God. Outside of him, let’s wish ourselves sheer luck, because the most likely thing to happen is to slip from the truth. It´s like chasing the wind. For all the excitement and advantages a Godless pursuit of truth gives, everything will just turn out to be vanity.

With this new phenomenon about the so-called fake news, which is actually a rehash of the old evil tactics of disinformation and misinformation, of giving partisan spins to issues, we should feel the urgent need to be united to God to be really truthful and fair in resolving our problems.

Truthfulness therefore starts with our relationship with God, and with how well we maintain that relationship. This is something we have to realize more deeply, since very often we get contented with mere human criteria for truthfulness, that are often subjective, incomplete, imperfect, and vulnerable to be maneuvered and manipulated.

When we are not with God, then we can very easily play around with the facts and data, and pass them around as truth, but serving some self-interest instead of the common good, for example.

We justify such behaviour as a privilege of our freedom. But would that be freedom when one is plunging himself to the bondage of untruth and deception? Would that be freedom when it is exercised to violate the will of God who is the giver, the pattern and end of freedom?

Sand and Pebbles in Heaven

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 02:23

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), Matthew 6:24-34
February 26, 2017

By Fr. Mike Lagrimas

ONE of the stories that we are most familiar with is about the grasshopper and the ant. While the ant was always busy carrying huge loads of food to be stored, the grasshopper was just jumping and playing around. When the rainy days came, the ant was safe and warm, and with abundant food, while the grasshopper was dying of cold and hunger.

This story gives us the lesson on prudence and foresight–saving for the rainy days, we say. It is truly laudable to earn and save, and to procure health and life insurance plans, to prepare for any eventuality in the future. Right now, people are already putting in sizable savings to their retirement funds. There is nothing wrong with this–as long as we always remember that there is life hereafter. The problem is that people seriously prepare for tomorrow, but only in this world, without any thought of eternal life. Many times, we see people committing fraud, violence and all sorts of immoral activities just to have more money and secure a luxurious retirement. The Lord warned, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16: 26).

There is a story about a man who has become very rich through sheer honest and hard work. However, later in life, he became extremely attached to his riches. He finally decided to convert all his possessions into diamonds and other precious stones. He then put them all in one bag so he can easily take it with him all the time. After some time, he got sick, but he held on to his bag until he died. He finally came to the gates of heaven, still holding the bag. St. Peter met him and said, “You were an honest man on earth. You can come in but you have to leave that bag outside.” “What?” the man protested. “This is the fruit of my honest labor. I cannot leave it behind.”

“Then”, St. Peter said, “you cannot enter heaven. You will have to go to the other place.” “But please,” he implored, “let me bring it in with me. I cannot be separated from it.” “No way,” Peter said firmly. “You have to choose: heaven without the bag, or have your bag in hell. But I am a little curious. Let me see what is inside that bag.” He looked at it, and seeing the diamonds and precious stones, said in disbelief, “You mean to say, you are willing to go to hell for sand and pebbles?” “What do you mean?” the man asked. “Well, you see,” St. Peter explained, “the sand and pebbles in heaven are diamonds and precious stones, and the roads and buildings here are made of gold and silver.”

Who still needs gold and diamonds in heaven, anyway? And besides, what we will see in heaven is infinitely beyond human imagination. That is what St. Paul said: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1Cor 2: 10). This realization led him to conclude: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8: 18).

In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus exhorts us to cast off all kinds of fears, anxieties and worries. He invites us to simply trust in the loving providence of the heavenly Father. God provides. He never fails. As the prophet Isaiah points out, even if a mother forgets her own child, God will never forget us. St. Paul said, “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8: 32).

If we have enough faith in a God of love and providence, there really is nothing to worry about. Worrying is a sure sign of lack of faith. Jesus has made it very clear: “No man can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and mammon.” The word mammon is often translated as money, but it is something more. The Hebrew root word for it means, “to entrust”. Mammon came to mean, “that in which a man places his trust” (cf. Barclay). It represents an idol, a false god. A person who puts his trust in mammon will always be anxious and worried, knowing that these material things do not last for long.

Worrying also reveals a defective understanding of the purpose of life. We are not here in this world to amass wealth and success. As Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” This is what St. Paul expressed in the second reading, reminding us that we are “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” As such, therefore, we ought to serve God, and not mammon. Rather, we use our mammon–all our material possessions–to faithfully serve God.

One Sunday morning, before going to church, little Teddy received two quarters from his mother. She instructed him, “One quarter is for God. Put it in the collection. The other one is for your ice cream after Mass.” As Teddy and his friends walked along, he was playing with the coins, flipping them up in the air and catching them. Unfortunately, at one time he missed to catch one coin and it rolled down the street and into an open drain. “Oh, damn!” he said. “Now I have nothing to give in the collection! That quarter was for God!”

Generosity is alien to a person who worries a lot. Somebody said, “Always borrow money from a pessimist. He does not expect to get it back.” Well, that is, if he ever lends money at all! Only a person who has strong faith in God can be generous. He knows that giving does not mean losing something, but gaining freedom, joy and peace. An unknown author said, “When you let me take, I’m grateful. When you let me give, I’m blessed.” In his famous prayer, St. Francis of Assisi concluded, “For it is in giving that we receive, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

The Lord invites us to entrust ourselves completely to our heavenly Father, secure in His loving providence. He wants us to enjoy peace and happiness in life. St. Augustine discovered this peace, and said: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” When trials and problems come, let us set our focus on God and say to ourselves the words in today’s Psalm: “Rest in God alone, my soul.”

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road
Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422

Nominees sought for 11th Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 17:08

MANILA, Feb. 25, 2017 – Nominations to the 11th Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards are open until May 31, 2017.

To be considered, entries must be books authored by a local (Philippine-based) Catholic writer and published by a local Catholic publisher, printed from June 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017. Entries must be published for the first time during this period. Previous entries cannot be nominated again. Compiled or edited books will not be accepted.

There is a non-refundable nomination fee of Php3,000.00 per title. Check payment should be payable to: Asian Catholic Communicators, Inc. Two (2) copies of the entry form should be filled out.

Entry forms and nomination fees should be sent to the Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards Secretariat c/o Jesuit Communications Foundation, Inc. at Sonolux Bldg., Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The secretariat may be reached through email cardinalsincatholicbookawards@gmail.com or telephone numbers (632) 927-9659  or TL (632) 426-5971 local 121 (Dit Sablan) or 112 (Alice Bartlett).

E-books and more

Other guidelines are as follows:

  • Entries may be submitted by any person or organization. More than one entry for each category may be submitted.
  • Prepare three (3) copies of the nominated book. For E-Books, entries must be in PDF format, saved in three (3) USB flash drives. Entries will not be returned.

Nominations for the E-Books Category should observe the following additional guidelines:

  • The E-Book must not have been published in print form.
  • The publishing date must be shown in the E-Book.
  • The E-Book must be available for sale online; a link to the online bookstore must be specified.
  • The entry must be endorsed by a member of the ACCI who will certify that all requirements have been met.

Books from A to Z

It should be noted that the decision of the judges is final and irrevocable.

The CSCBA Trophy is awarded to a winning entry that scores 90% and above while a Special Citation Plaque is awarded to a winning entry that scores below 90%.

Finalists will receive certificates at the Awards Ceremonies on Sept. 13, 2017 during the 38th Manila International Book Fair.

Categories of the 11th Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards are as follows:

  • Spirituality. According to the secretariat of the awards these are “(b)ooks that serve and deepen prayer life, edify spiritual growth and give guidance and light to a real Christian life, including works in prayers, meditations, lives of saints and the likes.”
  • Ministry. Entries should “illustrate or document the varied forms of Christian ministry in the Philippines, including faith-based advocacies, social/civic apostolate and projects.”
  • Theology. “Books that aid study of and reflection on Catholic Christian faith and doctrine, including works in Scriptures, Patristic, Christology, Church and Morals.”
  • Liturgy. “Books that provide study and reflection on Sacraments, Worship Ministries and Devotion.”
  • Homiletics. According to the awards secretariat, entries are “(b)ooks written to aid pastors, resource speakers and church leaders in their study of the Word. These are usually a set of exegesis and personal reflections based on Weekday and Sunday readings. They benefit those seeking for a more comprehensive scriptural insight needed for their ministerial duties and apostolic work.”
  • Family Life. Entries to this category should “promote the value of the domestic church, including true to life stories about parenting, family relationships, struggles and accomplishments.”
  • Inspirational. Uplifting the spirit, entries to this cateogry “either contain inspiring stories of people or serve as resource materials for meditation. They influence the mind to reach a new level of understanding, which leads one to greater self-knowledge and deeper communion with God.”
  • Children. Aside from being perfect for younger readers, entries should have “appealing visuals that give values formation to children ages 12 and below including stories of faith, virtues, morals, heroic deeds, and special children’s documented activities.”
  • Youth. Nominees to this category are “(b)ooks that give values formation to young individuals ages 13 and above including stories of faith, virtues, morals, heroic deeds, and special youth documented activities.”
  • E-Books (Electronic Books). Entries for this particular segment are “(b)ooks covering the different categories above but made available in digital form consisting of text, images, or both, readable on computers or other electronic devices.”

There is a special category called the Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to a “Catholic writer whose lifework represents a continuing contribution to the propagation of the Christian Faith through the print media, in recognition of the exemplary Catholic life and apostolic zeal as reflected in the Christian values and ideals contained in his/her writings.” (CBCPNews)

The challenge to put our trust in the Lord

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 14:01

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), Matthew 6:24-34
February 26, 2017

By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB

AN excessive yearning for material things and comfort has been a constant temptation for all human beings. Those who succumb to it lose the sense of their dignity and become slaves of the very things, which were intended to serve them.

Buried, as we are, in a consumeristic society which bombards us with the most tempting commercials, we feel our natural eagerness for material things heightened to an unprecedented degree. Some are so concerned about their material needs that they appear to have become the main goal of their existence. This is a continuous challenge to our faith in a God who loves us and cares for us and our needs. To be excessively concerned about material things is a form of practical atheism.

Jesus warns us against this danger with words that are, perhaps, even more relevant today than they were 2,000 years ago: “No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot give yourself to God and money!” (Mt 6:24).

To all of us today, Jesus addresses his appeal: “Do not worry . . .” His words are not an encouragement to idleness and irresponsible carelessness, but an invitation to fully trust God’s care for us.

It is a question of proper priorities. We Christians do show concern for material needs, both our own and our neighbor’s material needs, especially the needs of the people for whom we may be responsible. We have to, for the material world has been entrusted to our care and it is meant to satisfy our needs.

But Jesus reminds us that we should care for all these needs within the perspective of the Kingdom, which has got to be our top priority (see Mt 6:33). Everything has to be seen as a means to establish and expand God’s Kingship on earth.

Within this perspective, not only a wise concern, but also prayers for material needs have their proper place as we find it stated at the beginning of the second part of the Lord’s prayer. And all these cares and petitions are trustfully presented to the Father, in the firm assurance that He who gives life and cares for all his creatures will also provide the means required to satisfy their needs, for as long as He deems it necessary.

Our God is the Lord of life and care. Verses 26-29 in today’s Gospel passage are a beautiful invitation to reflect on God’s providential care for all creatures, even if their life span is short and they are worth much less, than a single human being. God provides for them in a magnificent, fatherly way. The obvious, forceful conclusion of the poetic premise is found in v. 30b: “. . . will God not much more provide for you, O people of little faith?” To say that we believe in Him implies also that we believe in his loving care for us. And this makes all the difference.

Our trust in Him sets us free from unnecessary worries that vex the life of unbelievers. Trust in the Lord’s providence makes us enjoy the freedom of His children, even as it motivates us to become instruments of His providence for our neighbor, especially the neediest ones.

Where were you during EDSA I?

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 08:00

Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS
…and that’s the truth


Especially around this time of the year, I get to be asked that question: “Where were you during EDSA I?” For the life of me I could not tell anyone, all these years, where I was or what I did during “those days”, and so, because of my vague or evasive answer I would sometimes be made to feel I contributed nothing to “People Power” because I was not out there to stop a tank.

Today, 31 years after the fact, I feel I must disclose with a mixture of hesitance and ease that during “those days” I was writing a “pastoral letter”. I was moved to write it by what I observed to be a division brewing in the Church which was concretely manifested by certain walkouts during Mass when the real pastoral letters from the Archbishop of Manila were being read. In essence my letter rallies the faithful to an examination of conscience and to be one with the people in EDSA through contemplative prayer, inviting readers in their homes to join me in praying one Our Father for one hour each night the fate of the nation hung in the balance. I sent it to the editors of Manila Bulletin and Daily Express under the pseudonym “Magdalena Torres”—I believed that if they thought it was worth the space they would publish it regardless of the author’s identity. Both dailies published it in full in the opinion page; the Bulletin entitled it “A Pastoral Letter from an Obscure Churchgoer” while the Express used “A Pastoral Letter from a Laywoman”. It follows:

Forgive me if this “pastoral letter” bears no Imprimatur save that which issues from the conscience. I know I may be severely criticized, ridiculed, even ostracized, for taking the liberty to write this but I as a Christian have no choice—I would rather break tradition than break God’s heart.

I lament the fact that “the only Christian nation in Asia” seems to be forgetting Christ in these troubled times. I agree, it is nearly impossible to feel secure when it seems your only avenues to truth are press releases and politickers’ prejudices. It is frightening to make a move when you are caught between the immovable object and the irresistible force. Inside you there is a vague longing to hear God’s voice amidst the din, but when you realize that fireworks has replaced Fire in the pulpit, where do you go? When you are but an obscure sheep in the fold, it is indeed alarming to feel that the shepherds themselves are apparently lost.

Yet we must believe that all will be right—if we but leave all to God. I’d like to think that we are a “Christian nation” because we’ve got Christ in our hearts, not just because we all sport Christian names. But the way we’re getting enmeshed in politics these days makes me think we’re making a farce of Christ’s sacrifice, thereby hurting our Father who loves us so much.

As Christian children we learned to say The Lord’s Prayer early in life. Handed down to us by Christ, it is a most touching prayer, intimately uniting child and father. And if we say it from the heart we will be made to see that it contains all the politics we will ever need in our whole life. Yet, what have we done with The Lord’s Prayer? We’ve been given a most potent weapon for absolute invincibility and we still choose to resort to puerile means in championing our cause.

The Father knows all, yet we don’t really approach Him for His sake. Convinced of our own superiority we scheme, we hatch up plans for a perfect society according to our “noble” intentions, and then we go to Him and say “Please bless our plan; we’re doing it for your glory!” we so lose ourselves grappling with the whats and hows of our problems that we totally forget to ask the Father why we have such problems in the first place.

We think the problem is politics? It is not politics—let us not fool ourselves. Our miseries are not caused by the rise in galunggong prices over the past 20 years. For the past 20 centuries Christ has knocked outside our hearts and we have remained deaf to Him—that is the problem. We have disobeyed in spite of Christ. We are token Christians. We go to Mass, we receive Communion, we flash a smile as we give the “peace” of Christ to our seatmates, and then we go out to flash the Laban sign and hold in contempt those who ignore us. If we were true followers of Christ we will do as Christ did: obey the Father’s will. But how can we discern His will if we do not want to surrender ours to Him? How can we know what the Father wants for us if we are so preoccupied with what we want for ourselves?

We insist on wanting change when what we need is a conversion. Who reigns in our hearts—God, or self? So many rival loves crowd out the Lord’s presence in our minds. He aches for our love, for us to empty ourselves so He may come in to let us know love as we have never known before. But what do we do to Him?

We allow sin to stand in the way of love. We are all sinners and yet we refuse to face the truth. I know it’s no longer fashionable to be crying “Repent! Repent!” these days, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Please—next time we say “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”, let us mean it. If our righteousness blinds us to our own sins, let us use one another as mirrors. For every evil we see in our neighbor, there are surely two in us: the very same evil we recognize in him, plus our denial of its existence in our souls. Before we malign a neighbor for being a thief, let us recall the last time we cheated people out of their rightful places in the supermarket queue. Before we condemn a brother for being power-hungry, let us ask the Lord if we’ve never been intoxicated by our own authority. Have we never begrudged a housemaid a prolonged day-off? Never short-changed anyone, used abusive language, coveted our neighbors’ possessions, bought ourselves out of a traffic cop’s clutches, bribed our way through Customs for convenience? If we cannot stand the sight of killers, could it be because we are always murdering someone in our thoughts?

We are worshiping false Gods and that is why peace remains elusive. Would the Father who loves us all want our blood on our brother’s hands in a fight over election returns? What do you make of nuns and priests ferociously guarding the ballot box as though it contained the Body of Christ itself? Sanctity of the ballot? Would any other kind of sanctity matter more to the Father than the sanctity of our souls? Why can’t we admit that our society is rotten because we are?

Please—let us not hurt the Lord further by believing too much and too long in our illusory genius to set things straight. We’ve done enough damage to ourselves by placing too great a premium on matters concerning Caesars. It is time to rechannel our energies towards more spiritual goals. Let us not exhaust our faculties fighting evils larger than ourselves. Instead let us contemplate the Lord’s goodness and remember that evil contains within itself the seed of its own destruction. Can anything be hidden from the Father?

The world may not think it’s smart to follow the example of Jesus—to forgive, to love—but I assure you, it’s dumber still to rely on human leaders for salvation, in spite of their lofty ideals, their praises and promises are but noise to the spirit. As a people let us accept the Father’s invitation to His world, now. He has given us Christ to lead the way—let us follow. Let us not divide ourselves into factions and say “God is on our side”—when we can all be on the side of God.

That our country is undergoing this purification process during Lent is no coincidence. For Christ’s sake let us abstain from all mundane and inordinate attachments and direct our thoughts to the mystery of the cross and the empty tomb. Let us pour more of ourselves into what we do as Christians. Let us explore the profound meaning of the songs, symbols, sounds, smells and colors of our liturgy—they are not there for nothing. They are meant to reveal a reality far beyond the physical plane that, with the grace of God, we can believe in spite of ourselves.
If Jesus is not yet alive in us, let us turn to our Blessed Mother—offer her our doubts even if it’s all we have at the moment. Just ask, and she will speak to the Lord for us. Let us take a fresh look at the Sacraments—how we contribute to the scourging of Christ by taking them for granted! Baptism is much more than an occasion to hook the boss into godfatherhood. Next time we meet our parish priest, let’s ask him not whom he voted for, but why water is poured into wine at Mass. Few things can be more moving than the mystery the act speaks of, and embracing it should help us love even those we don’t like. And the Consecration—do we really know what goes on in the world we can’t see, during this sacred moment? If we did we’d be in love with the Lord and desire the Eucharist forever. If nonbelievers make a mockery of our faith it is because we ourselves turn our churches into stages for sham religiosity.

If only for Lent let us begin to cherish the Sacraments as God-made pathways to the Father’s Kingdom. Trust the Lord to lead us to that ultimate reality that is just out there for the asking. If we Christians cannot have faith in a reality that transcends the expediencies of this material world, then those cynics must be right: Holy Week is for the beaches.

Allow me to urge the faithful to continue hearing Sunday Masses. The Body of Christ we receive from the priest’s hand is still the Body of Christ even though the priest’s hand is stained with voter’s ink. Let us not boycott the Sacraments simply because we can’t bear the politicking sacrilegiously veiled in liturgy. Walkouts may demonstrate courage to the world but mortification of the will for the love of Christ brings a secret strength no worldly force can match.

Furthermore, let us not crucify Christ again by harbouring hatred in our hearts. Let us strive for a vigorous prayer life. Let our faith alter our perspectives so that we may see our ambitions, our dreams, our emotions, our concepts, ourselves through the eyes of God. Consider this: the sun is the star nearest to our planet Earth. The star nearest the sun is about 26 trillion miles distant. The galaxy where our solar system belongs contains more than 100 billion stars. Our universe has 100 billion other galaxies, each containing an average of 100 billion more stars! Dazzling? And our Father whom we call upon when we say “Our Father who art in heaven…” is the creator and governor of all this. Do we suppose the Divine Intelligence that controls over 10,000 billion stars in 100 billion galaxies wouldn’t know what’s going on in this minute archipelago in the Pacific? So as not to boggle the Earthling’s mind the Father already condensed the Divine Intelligence in the words of Jesus: “Not a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father willing it.” Do we think this Father allowed the Feb. 7 elections so we would kill each other over the tally sheets?

Forgive. Obey the Father’s will. Disobedience not only leads to loss of Paradise. Let us move towards reconciliation, let us love. Don’t we often hear that our Father, out of His great love for us “sent His only begotten Son”? He did not send His Son only so that one day we would make a movie on “Jesus Christ, Superstar”. The Son embraced His cross. And died—for love of God and neighbor. By dying on the Cross Jesus made us feel, “Jesus loved me so much that He went to that extent obeying a power He couldn’t see?” If such perfect love does not enkindle in our hearts a similar love for others, then ours indeed is the Church of the Living Dead! If the empty tomb and the fact of Jesus Christ’s resurrection in our hearts do not attest to the existence of the Infinite Power that He prayed to in Gethsemane, what for is The Lord’s Prayer?

How much longer must the Father wait? When are we going to lift the barrier of sin blocking the flow of God’s love for us? Let us embrace one another. We are all spiritual lepers—no one is clean among us! If a brother offers his hand in reconciliation, let us not allow our pride to freeze us. If we cannot trust our brother’s hand, we can always trust our Father’s healing. If we’re afraid to be “contaminated” by brothers we deem terminally leprous, we must remember that the Father sent the blind, the epileptic, the possessed, so that through the touch of Jesus we might be witnesses to the awesome power He alone can wield. There is no one the Father wants more than the prodigal son.

Let us stop stoning each other and leave the rest to the Father. If amidst the noise, confusion, and emotional sizzle, we find it hard to love our “enemies”, consider what Christ would have done under the circumstances. Two thousand years ago, when Israel was in turmoil and agitating for a Messiah—Christ did what? Order His people to stop paying taxes to Caesar? Build a makeshift grandstand to proclaim Himself as the much awaited Messiah? Give His apostles a list of which money lenders to patronize? Write pharaohs, kings, and rulers of other lands to snub the Roman Emperor? No! Christ did only one thing: He kept in touch with the Father!

He would withdraw from this world to draw strength from another world, pray to His Father in secret, obey the Divine Will as it unfolded from moment to moment. Thus, through this humble surrender of His will to the Father, all of Jesus’ moves became no longer His, but the Father’s.

What would the only Christian nation in Asia in Lent of 1986 do?

Allow our quixotic illusions to usher in another Ides of March and then march on to a death without resurrection? Insist on our way because we know better than the next fellow? Who knows better than the Father? At this point when we can no longer “solve” one problem without creating ten in return, there is only one thing left to do: keep in touch with the Father. Submit our lethargic souls to the True Power, and believe that by our sufferings He is preparing us for a more profound grace!

It is time to become children again, to relearn The Lord’s Prayer. The Father waits in the silence of our hearts.

Tonight, at 9, I will again respond to the Lord’s invitation to “watch one hour” with Him. I will pray, for one whole hour, just one Our Father. I ask those who still have faith in in God’s peace to join me—we spent days watching election results; surely we can spare one hour to touch the eternal? Together in spirit let us offer, in the silence of our hearts, our love to the Father. By the economy of God’s grace, this love will embrace all creation, especially those who have forgotten how to pray.

As I end this “pastoral letter” allow me to extend my touch of solace, if it be God’s will, to those who may have felt slighted by my candor. It is not my desire to wound you. It hurts me to hurt you, but it hurts the Lord more not to love you.

So there, dear Monitor readers, the “pastoral letter” by Magdalena Torres. But why the pseudonym? That’s another story. If these days people ask me again where I was during EDSA 1, I will just tell them to find my answer in the CBCP Monitor. And that’s the truth.

Access to water is a basic human right, concerns ‘the common good’

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 07:49

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, speaks at a press conference on Laudato si’ at the Vatican, June 18, 2015. (L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN, Feb. 24, 2017-– A Vatican seminar on water held this week highlighted the complex challenges faced around the world in making the basic human right to water a reality for all people.

Reliable access to safe and clean water for everyone is an issue close to the heart of the Church, Cardinal Peter Turkson told CNA Feb. 23, because it has to do with the fundamental dignity possessed by every human person.

Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Turkson wasn’t a formal participant himself, but sat in on a few of the sessions. He said that “on the level of the Church” the point of departure for the issue of water access is “certainly dignity.”

“Because we affirm the dignity of people, we also affirm anything that is needed to make this dignity realized,” he said.

Hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Argentine organization Catedra del dialogo y la cultura encuentro, the workshop brought together scientists, scholars, business and non-profit leaders, clergy, and educators for an “interdisciplinary discussion.”

During the seminar, participants agreed that there is a fundamental human right to water, but differed on the exact approach to take to combat the issue. Overall, the major problem isn’t the resource, several noted, but its distribution.

Participants highlighted the issue’s interconnectedness to other worldwide problems, such as poverty and gender equality. Difficult or limited access to water, especially clean water, contributes strongly to poverty and increased susceptibility to disease. (Hannah Brockhaus/CNA)

Gratitude is central, Pope Francis tells Spanish footballers

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 07:45

Pope Francis receives a Villarreal CF jersey during his meeting with the club, Feb. 23, 2017.(L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN, Feb. 24, 2017-– Meeting with the members of the Spanish football team Villarreal CF on Thursday, Pope Francis stressed the importance of gratitude in the life of an athlete.

“One of the characteristics of the good sportsman is gratitude. If we think of our own life, we can call to memory the many people who have helped us, and without whom we would not be here,” the Pope said Feb. 23 in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall. He spoke to the club’s players, managers, and coaches

Villarreal is in Rome for a Europa League match against A.S. Roma. After their meeting with the Pope Villarreal won the match 1-0, but bowed out of the tournament nevertheless.

“Football, like other sports, is an image of life and society,” Francis reflected. “In the field, you need each other. Each player brings his professionalism and skill for the benefit of a common ideal, which is to play well in order to win. To achieve this affinity, much training is needed; but it is also important to invest time and effort in strengthening team spirit, to create that connection of movements: a simple look, a small gesture, or an expression communicate so many things on the field.”

This can be done “if you play in the spirit of fellowship, setting aside individualism or personal aspirations. If you play for the good of the group, then it is easier to win. Instead, when one thinks of himself and forgets others, in Argentina we say that he likes to ‘eat the ball’ by himself.”

Francis added that “On the other hand, when you play football you are at the same time educating and transmitting values. Many people, especially the young, admire and observe you. They want to be like you.”

“Through your professionalism, you are communicating a way of being to those who follow you, especially the new generations,” he said. “This is a responsibility, and should motivate you to give the best of yourselves, so as to exercise those values that in football must be palpable: companionship, personal commitment, the beauty of the game, team spirit.”

“We can recall those we played with as children, our first teammates, coaches, helpers, and even the supporters whose presence encouraged us in every game,” Pope Francis said. “This memory is good for us, so that we do not feel superior but instead become aware of being part of a large team that has been forming for some time.”

He said this “helps us grow as people, because our ‘game’ is not merely our own, but also that of others, who in some way form part of our lives. And this also strengthens the spirit of amateur sport, and must never be lost; it must be recovered every day, so that you can maintain this freshness, with this greatness of soul.”

The Pope encouraged the Villarreal members “to continue to play, giving the best of yourselves so that others can benefit from these pleasant moments, which make the day different. I join with you, I pray with you, and I raise my prayers to God, imploring the protection of Our Lady of Grace and the intercession of St. Pascual Baylón, patron of the city of Villarreal, so that you may be sustained in your lives and be instruments to bear God’s joy and peace to those who follow and support you.”

Being himself a football fan, Pope Francis said that “It helps me a lot to think about football because I like it, and it helps me. But when I do so, I usually think of the goalkeeper. Why? Because he has to catch the ball from wherever they kick it, and he does not know where it will come from. And life is like that. You have to take things from where they come, and how they come.”

“When I find myself facing situations I did not expect, which need to be resolved, that come from one place when I expected them from another, I think of the goalkeeper, and keep him in mind. Thank you.” (CNA/EWTN News)

Bishop condemns killing of Church worker

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 07:33

A portrait of Wilerme Agorde is displayed outside his home in Brgy. Illustre, President Roxas, North Cotabato. Agorde, a social action worker of the Kidapawan diocesan, was gunned down by unidentified men on Feb. 19. (Nassa photo)

MANILA, Feb. 25, 2017— A Catholic bishop has condemned the assassination of a social action worker of  the Diocese of Kidapawan in southern Philippines. 

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said it is alarming that even a Church worker who has been working for the poor fell victim to ‘extrajudicial killings’.  

The prelate deplored the killing of Wilerme Agorde, a 64-year-old peasant leader and worked as project coordinator of the agrarian reform program of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa). 

“We condemn the many extrajudicial killings happening today which have become so common,” Bagaforo said. 

The recent murder of Wilerme “Ka Wiling” Agorde, according to him, is causing fear and insecurity among civilians particularly among the human rights and peace advocates in the area. 

Agorde, 64, was stabbed and gunned down in the presence of his grandchildren by unidentified assailants  in Brgy. Illustre, President Roxas, North Cotabato last Feb. 19.

He has been at the forefront of a campaign with his fellow farmers who have been struggling for decades for ownership of the unused agricultural land-reservation in Arakan town. 

About 5,000-hectare property is owned by University of Southern Mindanao but the 1,000-hectare portion was allocated to the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology. 

According to Nassa, the disputed land had been occupied by the farmers for several decades. 

Last Feb 9, the Department of Agrarian Reform voiced support for the the distribution of land reservation for the 2,110 potential beneficiaries during the dialogue conducted with the Commission on Higher Education. 

The Nassa said this recent development indicates that the farmers “are winning in the agrarian campaign”. 

“However, the killing of Ka Wiling is interpreted by the community as a way to silence the leaders in defending their land rights,” it said. 

“The land conflict is escalating as the farmer groups are momentum in pursuing their land rights,” the Nassa added. 

The killing of  Agorde was reportedly the third farmer-leader slain in North Cotabato this February alone. 

Church leaders are appealing to the authorities to stop the escalation of killings among farmers and their leaders. 

“Other farmer leaders in Arakan are now in hiding for fear of their lives. They must not be included in the list of casualties in the on-going land rights problem within the school reservation,” the Nassa said. 

Agorde was also known as a long time church worker in various ministries. He was a lector, Basic Ecclesial Community Coordinator, and coordinator of the Justice and Peace Integrity of Creation Program.

He was also a member of the Arakan parish team since the time of Italian priest Father Fausto Tentorio who was brutally killed in 2011 and whose case remains unsolved until now. 

“We do not know of their deaths can ever obtain justice since Fr. Tentorio’s murder and other killings are still waiting for fair investigation,” Bagaforo said. (CBCPNews) 

Anti-death penalty advocate cries railroading

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 07:19

Rodolfo Diamante of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (Photo: (CBCP-ECPPC))

MANILA, Feb. 25, 2017– A lay prison ministry official of the Catholic Church scored the undue haste of the House leadership to pass a measure seeking to revive the death penalty by next week.

Mr. Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the CBCP Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said the termination of the plenary debates ahead of schedule is tantamount to railroading the passage of the bill.

Diamante said this happened after seven session days and with only seven of the 50 agreed lawmakers who wanted to interpellate the bill’s sponsor were given the floor.

“The House leadership is hell bent to pass it even as it appears during the debates that our side is winning the arguments,” he said.

Diamante called on lay groups and anti-death penalty advocates to make their presence felt in Congress as the House leadership may put the measure to a vote next week.

He said Feb. 29 and March 1 are “crucial dates” as the majority “will most likely exert its will on the Congressmen and call for party vote on the matter”.

“May we therefore call on you to please be at the House of Representatives on the said dates from 4pm onwards and let us fill-up the gallery,” added Diamante.

“This will definitely inspire our allies in the House to vote according to their consciences and junk the death penalty bill,” he also said. (CBCPNews)

Anti-death penalty advocate cry railroading

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 02:22

Rodolfo Diamante of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (Photo: (CBCP-ECPPC))

MANILA, Feb. 25, 2017–A lay prison ministry official of the Catholic Church scored the undue haste of the House leadership to pass a measure seeking to revive the death penalty by next week.

Mr. Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the CBCP Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said the termination of the plenary debates ahead of schedule is tantamount to railroading the passage of the bill.

Diamante said this happened after seven session days and with only seven of the 50 agreed lawmakers who wanted to interpellate the bill’s sponsor were given the floor.

“The House leadership is hell bent to pass it even as it appears during the debates that our side is winning the arguments,” he said.

Diamante called on lay groups and anti-death penalty advocates to make their presence felt in Congress as the House leadership may put the measure to a vote next week.

He said Feb. 29 and March 1 are “crucial dates” as the majority “will most likely exert its will on the Congressmen and call for party vote on the matter”.

“May we therefore call on you to please be at the House of Representatives on the said dates from 4pm onwards and let us fill-up the gallery,” added Diamante.

“This will definitely inspire our allies in the House to vote according to their consciences and junk the death penalty bill,” he also said. (CBCPNews)

Cardinal Tagle urges all Manila parishes to mark EDSA anniversary

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 14:33

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle speaks during the “Walk for Life” at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila, Feb. 18, 2017. (Analyn Perucho/CBCPNews)

MANILA, Feb. 24, 2017— In an unprecedented move, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has called on all parishes in the Manila archdiocese to mark the EDSA People Power anniversary on Saturday, Feb. 25.’

He said the event should be done with “simplicity but depth” and coupled with public prayer events such as processions, rosary rallies, prayer worship, among others.

“What is important is the space offered for a religious experience that could transform our parishioners on the ground,” Tagle said.

He encouraged parish priests to incorporate the examination of persona and communal consciences, formation of conscience and repentance.

“Confessions and penitentiary services are also appropriate,” he said.

Read: Archbishop Soc decries ‘rape’ of EDSA spirit

This is the first time in recent years that all parishes in Manila are urged to organize events to mark the  1986 peaceful mass uprising that overthrew the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

For several years, the commemorations were only held at the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace, or more popularly, the EDSA Shrine.

Just like any “great events,” according to Tagle, the people power revolt has many aspects with various levels of meaning.

“For us in the Church, it was an event of people relying on their faith for social transformation,” he added.

“In full view of the world, the Filipino people showed the power of prayer that begets courage that begets solidarity that begets change.”

“Thirty-one years later we thank God for the gift of faith, as we also ask pardon for our personal and communal failure in consistently living that faith in justice, love and peace,” he said. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)

Press Statement on the arrest of Sen. De Lima

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 06:32

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president (Photo: CBCPNews)

FOLLOWING the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima, we turn to God in fervent prayer to heal our land.

We beg the Lord to pour forth upon us the passion NOT for vengeance but for justice.

We humbly pray to the Lord who called Himself the Truth to set our hearts aflame for the truth, the truth that sets all of us free.

Let all who have been charged be accorded their fair day in the court of laws.

As we deplore what is wrong, let us always allow the reign of charity to prevail in imitation of Christ in whose heart was a special love for those whom all else rejected. Mercy without justice is weakness. Justice without love is tyranny.

It is unchristian to find secret pleasure in the sufferings of others. May we recognize in ourselves the awful power of sin and our need for God’s help! We need the Lord even more now!

I pray for the healing of our land and for the reign of harmony.

February 24, 2017

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

Friday is ‘free wedding’ day at this parish

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 23:15

The Parish of San Pedro Bautista, Old Moriones, Ocampo offers weddings for indigent couples every Friday. (Photo: Fr. Eric Bobis)

OCAMPO, Camarines Sur, Feb. 24, 2017 – A parish in Old Moriones, Ocampo holds a regular wedding schedule for those who wish to have their union blessed as a sacrament even if they are strapped for cash. Parish priest Fr. Emmanuel Mojica thought of doing this so simple folks can avail of the Sacrament of Marriage sans lavish decorations and grandiosity but without losing the essentials of the sacrament.

On all Fridays of the month, the parish opens the said celebration to indigent couples. Following the same process and canonical requirements, the parish has celebrated the marriage of more than 20 couples in four months. “It’s a joyful celebration for me and my husband, Roberto. To have joined our love even in the simplest way. We realized love is not in the decorations but in the way we care and love,” said Maricel Sideco, a bride who got married on one such Friday in December.

Mojica thought of the program as a means to help address the increasing number of couples who choose to live-in or co-habitate without the Sacrament, especially for those whose reason for putting off getting married is financial.

After all, Canon law states that anyone who seeks to receive the Sacraments must not be deprived of them.

“It is a surprise for me to see the increase in the number of those who avail the Sacrament. It is inspiring to see people going back to the Church to receive the Sacrament because they think [and feel] they belong to the Church,” said Mylene Agravante, parish secretary.

The Parish of San Pedro Bautista, Old Moriones, Ocampo, celebrated its 20th parish fiesta last Feb. 5 and has began its Basic Ecclesiastical Communities (BEC) Program. (Fr. Eric Bobis / CBCPNews)

Archbishop Soc decries ‘rape’ of EDSA spirit

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 18:28

Cardinal Jaime Sin (File photo) 

MANILA, Feb. 23, 2017— Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan has decried the “rape” of EDSA People Power with the “four glorious days of February 1986 now dimmed”.

Amid the “relentless killings of the poor in the name of change”, he said “the glory now flickers in the darkness of fear and terror again”.

As the number of suspected drug users and pushers reaches more than 7,600 in seven months, he said it is quite possible the death toll exceeds the number of martial law victims.

“It is a nightmare, Your Eminence! It is a shame,” Villegas said in a letter to his former boss, the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, who played a major role in the relatively peaceful uprising.

“The bloodless revolt now stained by the blood in our streets and street gutters. The statistics of unresolved murder continues to rise and not a single one has been investigated and brought to justice,” he said.

The protégé of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin also lamented the hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos as well as the attempts to “rewrite the history”.

“History books are rewritten. Historical memory is revised. The hero is a villain. The plunderers are now heroes,” he said. “Thank God, Eminence, you did not see these days we are going through.”

But the archbishop said there is always reason to celebrate the spirit of Edsa and for Filipinos to live up to its meaning despite some attempts to “prostitute” its meaning.

For EDSA, according to him was not about the enemies of peace and democracy but the faith and bravery of  Filipinos “who called upon the Lord in their distress and whose cry the Lord has heard from heaven”.

“EDSA is our people’s cry and our God’s loving reply,” Villegas added. “The EDSA spirit is worth celebrating always. It is people who have raped it.”

“This land may be ruled by tyrants and killers, murderers may win in elections, plunderers may grin at the ignorant voters they have cheated, trolls may keep hurling invectives at their peace loving countrymen, commanders may prostitute the meaning of EDSA… but we will still celebrate,” he said. (Roy Lagarde / CBCPNews)

42nd International Bamboo Organ Festival

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 18:13

The Ateneo de Manila College Glee Club with soprano Stefanie Quintin perform during the closing concert of the 42nd International Bamboo Organ Festival at the San Ezekiel Moreno Oratory in Las Piñas City, Feb. 22, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Atienza)

Pope meets families of victims from deadly Bangladesh attack

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 14:30

Pope Francis meets victims of the Dhaka Cafe attack in Vatican City, Feb. 22, 2017. (L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN, Feb. 22, 2017-– Pope Francis met Wednesday morning with the families of nine of the victims of a terrorist attack which took place in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, last summer.

The attack was carried out July 1, 2016 during a hostage scenario in the Hotel Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka. Twenty-eight people died in the attack – including six gunmen and two police officers.

Most of the 20 hostages killed in the attack were foreigners from Italy and Japan, with one from India and one from the U.S. Although the attack was staged by radical Islamist militants, authorities said the gunmen had no ties to the Islamic State, the BBC reports.

Pope Francis met Feb. 22 with 36 family members of the nine Italian victims of the attack. During the visit he embraced and comforted the families, Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reports.

“It’s easy to take the road from love that leads to hatred, while it is difficult to do the opposite: from bitterness and hatred to go towards love,” he said.

“You are left in anger, bitterness and desire for revenge, but you have embarked, with the pain inside, on the path of love to build and help the people of Bangladesh, especially young people so that they can study: this is to sow peace and I thank you, for me it is an example.”

The bishop of Alife-Caiazzo, Valentino Di Cerbo, was also present at the meeting and presented profiles on the lives of the nine victims to the Pope. During the visit, Francis was also presented with nine olive tree seedlings with the names of the victims written on pictures of doves attached.

Those present also shared about special projects they are working on following the tragedy as a way to honor their loved ones: one brother of a victim is leaving soon to volunteer in Dhaka with Aid to the Church in Need and another family has helped to build a church in a small town in the south of Bangladesh.

Another project provides study grants for young people in Bangladesh.

One day after the attack, the Pope sent a letter expressing his heartfelt condolence and condemning the “barbarous” act as an offence “against God and humanity.”

Signed on behalf of the Pope by the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the letter said that in commending the dead to God’s mercy, “His Holiness gives the assurance of his prayers for the grieving families and the wounded.”

As he often does following violent attacks or deadly natural disasters, Pope Francis also remembered the victims during his Sunday Angelus July 3, praying for the conversion of persons “blinded by hate” who commit such acts of violence.

“I express my closeness to the families of the victims and the wounded in yesterday’s attack in Dhaka,” he said after the Angelus, also leading the crowds in praying the Hail Mary.

It is believed that Pope Francis may make a trip to Bangladesh sometime in 2017, although no dates have been announced.

Newly installed Cardinal and Archbishop of Dhaka, Patrick D’Rozario, the first prelate from Bangladesh to receive a red hat, told journalists in November that if the Pope comes, it will likely be near the end of 2017, after the country’s monsoon season.

Pope Francis’ visit to Bangladesh will be “a great event for the whole Church in the country, especially for interreligious harmony, the rights of government workers and for climate change,” Cardinal D’Rozario said.

“He’s a kind of ‘spiritual guru,’ the Holy Father,” the cardinal said, predicting the visit will “boost-up the spirituality, the communion of all the people.”

It is possible the Pope’s visit with the families of victims Feb. 22 means he will not be visiting the country after all. However, if he does go, it is a strong sign of Francis’ connection to the reality the country faces.

Islam is the major religion in Bangladesh by far. As of 2013, some 89 percent of the population was Muslim, with only around 10 percent Hindu, and Christians and Buddhists making up less than 1 percent of the population. (Hannah Brockhaus/CNA)

Vatican to crack down on illegal sale of papal symbols, coat of arms

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 14:28

A view of the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vaticans Apostolic Palace. (Lauren Cater/CNA)

VATICAN, Feb. 22, 2017-– On Wednesday the Vatican announced plans to monitor with a more careful eye those who print official images of the Pope or the Holy See and sell them for profit, intervening with “appropriate action” when necessary.

A Feb. 22 communique issued by the Secretariat of State said pointed out that among its various tasks, it also has “that of protecting the image of the Holy Father, so that his message can reach the faithful intact and that his person not be exploited.”

Because of this, part of the department is dedicated to protecting “the symbols and coats of arms of the Holy See” through appropriate channels on an international level.

In order to make this “protective action” more effective and to “halt situations of illegality that arise,” the department said they will begin carrying out “systematic surveillance activities apt to monitor the ways in which the image of the Holy Father and the coats of arms of the Holy See are used,” intervening with “appropriate action” if and when needed.

The announcement came just weeks after posters critical of Pope Francis appeared on the walls and buildings of the city center of Rome, depicting a sour-faced pontiff with a list of grievances regarding his recent reform efforts.

A few days after the posters appeared and quickly went down, a spoof version of the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano was sent to members of the Curia claiming the Pope had answered the five “dubia” on Amoris Laetitia sent to him by four cardinals in September, which were subsequently published.

However, the Vatican was quick to clarify that there was no link between the anti-Francis propaganda and the Secretariat of State’s decision.

In a Feb. 22 communique, the Holy See Press Office clarified that Secretariat of State’s decision to crack down on the illegal sale of papal symbols and images “does not originate from any recent news report,” but is rather aimed at protecting the image of the Holy Father and his official coat of arms “against cases of illicit use and exploitation for unauthorized profit.”

Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice-spokesman for the Holy See, told journalists that the decision “deals with all things of value which are sold or used to earn money.”

“We’re talking about the product and the use of the image of the Pope or the Holy Father’s coat of arms or that of the Holy See which are exploited” for economic purposes, she said.

“So no posters, no Osservatore…It has nothing to do with the posters or the fake Osservatore Romano,” she said, “because they weren’t sold.”

The Secretariat of State’s crackdown is a follow-up of their 2009 decision to issue a strict copyright of the Pope’s name, image and symbols.

In the Dec. 19, 2009, statement announcing the copyright deal, the Vatican stressed that “it alone has the right to ensure the respect due to the Successors of Peter, and therefore, to protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope from the unauthorized use of his name and/or the papal coat of arms for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church.”

“Consequently, the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff… and/or the use of the title ‘Pontifical,’ must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See,” the statement read. (Elise Harris/CNA)