The Philippines for Christ:
Time to Launch a New Evangelization
A Joint Pastoral Letter of the Philippine Hierarchy
To the Catholic People of the Philippines:
Grace and Peace in our Lord.
Next year we shall celebrate the fourth centennial of the evangelization of the Philippines. On that subject and on the lessons it suggests We addressed a pastoral letter to you on February 2, 1964.
The memory of the evangelization of the Philippines compels us to consider how well the work which was begun on that happy day four hundred years ago is being carried out now. And when we reflect upon this question we are met by the sad truth that the Gospel is now not reaching millions of our Catholics, or is reaching them in a very inadequate manner.
According to statistics, over 70% of the Catholic children in public schools receive no religious instruction. That is alarming enough, but when one considers that the 30% who do receive religious instruction, in many cases receive very little, the picture is even more alarming.
There are several reasons for this. But, whatever the reasons, we must add that, under the present Government provisions, religious instruction will always suffer in comparison to other subjects in the curriculum of our public schools, simply because religion is not a required subject.
Pedagogical reasons, let alone human psychology, particularly of the young pupils, indicate quite clearly that, all other things being equal, a required subject in the curriculum stands always to gain over one that is not required.
On the other hand, what of those who receive no religious instruction in the public school, and what of the half of the student population which drops all schooling after the fourth grade? It is to be feared that most of them receive no instruction at all at home or in the parish, or if they do, it is very inadequate.
And finally — and there is danger of forgetting them — there are the adults, the end-product of the conditions we have just described. Many of our grown-up Catholics are almost completely ignorant of their faith. They cling to it with a tenacity that is edifying but they are missing much of its richness and beauty and one result is that they are easy victims of any persuasive speaker who happens along with a new religious or social gospel.
In the face of this discouraging situation, We hasten to add that We do recognize fully that there is much truly wonderful work being done, and that there is much heroic generosity being manifested by our Catholics in many places. For those Catholics the Bishops have only praise and gratitude, and We urge them to continue and improve their zealous apostolate.
The sad conditions described do not exist because your bishops are insensitive to Our duty or are not eager to make the efforts required to correct them. On the contrary, the needs of the flock weigh heavily upon Us. But two things stand in the way of a remedy, namely, lack of personnel and lack of funds. And it is to meet these two needs that We now turn to the faithful for assistance.
To care for that great multitude of Catholics who receive no sufficient religious formation, the whole Catholic people must be enlisted. A systematic campaign must be instituted to reach all who need religious instruction. Nor should anyone protest that this is an impossible task. The lack of priests must be supplied for by zealous laymen and lay women.
We have adopted as motto for our fourth centennial celebration: “The Philippines for Christ”. There is no better way of achieving this objective than by an efficient and sound religious instruction for every Filipino.
For this it will be necessary that all our Catholic organizations take an enthusiastic interest in the work and, in a manner compatible with the constitutions, participate in it. It is in these organizations that many of our most zealous Catholics are found, and hence, it is to these organizations especially that we must look for co-workers to implement this work.
The Catholic schools are already rendering excellent service in catechetical teaching. But they should ask themselves first of all, whether they are doing all they should be doing for their own students; and secondly, whether they are doing all that they can do for others who have not the good fortune to attend Catholic schools; and finally, whether they are instilling in their pupils an apostolic spirit which will remain with them after they finish school, keep them zealous for religious instruction, and make them loyal helpers of their bishops and parish priests.
What has been said up this point considers mainly the quantitative aspect of the problem. But it would be a mistake to think that anyone can teach religion or even, that any informed Catholic can do so. Certainly we would not admit any such principle in education in other disciplines. It is not more valid in religious instruction.
Therefore, it is necessary to set up a permanent system of teacher formation. For what We have in mind is not merely to bring the uninstructed in contact with any catechist, but with a trained teacher in religion, well informed about the faith and well prepared in pedagogical method.
Obviously, this can only be the result of careful planning. It is desirable to establish a higher institute of catechetics, not so much to train catechists as to train those who will train catechists. In this institute, priests, religious, laymen and lay women will study catechtical developments in the Church and be formed in the most effective techniques. Thus prepared they will return to the dioceses and establish institutes for the training of catechists, or provide expert personnel and assistance for the excellent institutes which already exist in many places.
This instruction will be carried out not only by this personal catechetical apostolate, but also by an effective use of the so-called mass media. We wish to recognize the work being done in this respect by the Catholic press, Catholic radio stations, Catholic radio and television programs and Catholic bookstores. However, it is imperative that a wider and more effective use be made of these modern facilities.
The Second Vatican Council in its Decree on the Media of Social Communication says:
These media constitute a providential instrument for the discharge of our duty towards the souls that are starving for the Gospel. How in the concrete this is to be accomplished is too lengthy a subject to be treated here. However, the national office, the establishment of which the same Decree enjoins, will issue pertinent suggestions.
The same Second Vatican Council has indicated another effective means for the spread of the knowledge of Christ, namely, the Liturgy. In the Decree on the Liturgy, the Sacred Council recalls that when Christ sent out His Apostles, His intention was that
It is therefore the work of the Liturgy to give living realization to the Gospel preached. Thus, preaching and Liturgy are two facets of the Church’s single mission, to be Christ to the world. Consequently, the Liturgy by reenacting the mysteries of our Lord’s life and bringing the faithful themselves to live these mysteries keeps alive and enlightens the truth of the Gospel.
To carry out this apostolate of instruction by catechism, by the social media and by the liturgical movement, active participation by the laity is indispensable. One of the characteristic notes of our contemporary Church is insistence on the importance of the laity. Though the apostolate of the laity has always been an important force in the Church, our times for many reasons demand a greatly increased activity on their part in the work of the Hierarchy.
His Holiness Pope Paul VI said recently:
To borrow again the words of our reigning Pontiff, “We, your Pastors need the laity to ‘lengthen the arms of the Priests, which do not reach into every sector and which do not suffice for all his labors’.” (ibid. p.177)
Beyond personnel there is another need: funds. Any satisfactory movement to promote religious instruction in the quantity and quality that the situation demands is obviously going to entail expenses. But We are confident that the generosity of the Catholic people will not refuse this challenge. Since there is question not of a passing event or a temporary effort but of a permanent system, permanent financing will also be required. Catholics must be ready to make regular generous contributions. Among the many claims already made upon their slim finances, surely there are some which must be considered of less importance than the religious instruction of our Filipino Catholics, especially of our children. A fraction of what is spent upon amusements would amply finance the catechetical work We contemplate.
Surely the sublimity of the task will inspire all to make great sacrifices. Faculties will be needed to staff the institutes; teachers to give the religious instruction; expert personnel for the employment of the mass media; all will be called upon to contribute time, energy and money.
We have stressed the human factors of the problem. We have not forgotten what must remain the two most important instruments of success. The first of these is the example of our Catholic people. If our children see their elders living the faith, especially if they see their parents in their home practising charity, justice, sound piety, faith, obedience to the Church’s law, zeal for Catholic Action, if they see them regular at Mass and the Sacraments, the task of the teachers will be lightened.
And finally, like all spiritual works our progress for success depends on fervent prayer. Our Lord Himself has told us this:
It seems hardly necessary to point out how pleasing to God is this work of religious instruction. St. Pius X said in writing on this subject:
And yet when we say the work is pleasing to God, we would not wish to imply that we are dealing here with a work that is merely an optional spiritual devotion. In the sermon previously referred to, our reigning Pontiff, Pope Paul VI said:
The Philippines is extolled as the only Catholic country in the Orient. Happily, this is true in many aspects. But, unfortunately, also because of this privileged position many of our Catholic fellow-countrymen are led into a state of deplorable complacency, seemingly unaware of the very ignorance with which they so proudly embrace the Faith. We cannot let this lamentable situation go on. The gift of faith alone is not sufficient for a complete Christian life. The teachings of Christ must be learned, and therefore they must be taught to all. And the remedy lies in our realizing more than ever before the responsibility of everyone to dispel the clouds of religious ignorance from our 7,000 isles!
We are the “People of God”, called to a close union of all in Christ. Given the new commandment, the love of one another, the People of God must share their spiritual gifts and apostolic labors. They have for their purpose the establishment of the Kingdom of God. They have the duty of professing their faith before men, of being witnesses in defending and spreading it.
Surely, a Catholic will never wish to escape this responsibility who recalls the words Christ will say to the just on the day of the Last Judgement: “Whatever you did to the least of these my brethren, you did to me. Come ye blessed of my Father”.
St. Pius X, to whom religious instructions was so dear that even as Pope he continued to give it personally to the children of the Vatican in order to test his famous Catechism, in concluding his letter on religious instruction said: “Permit us to close this letter by addressing to you these words of Moses: ‘If any man be on the Lord’s side let him join with me!’” (1.c.)
And we say the same to you. If any man be on the Lord’s side, if any man value his Christian vocation, let him join with us. Four hundred years ago the evangelization of the Philippines was begun. This anniversary is a suitable time to launch a new evangelization.
“Behold now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. We exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6,2)” The memory of the grace we received so long ago surely will not allow us to remain insensitive while we see multitudes of our fellow Filipino Catholics losing that divine gift through lack of new laborers in the Vineyard to bring them the good tidings. Then, indeed, shall we truly have a “Philippines for Christ”.
Given in Manila, on the 8th day of December, 1964, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.) +JULIO R. ROSALES, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu
President, CWO Administrative Council
“The name for peace is development.” This is one of the most expressive subheadings and one of the main thrusts in the encyclical on the Development of Peoples issued by Pope Paul VI in 1967. “Peace,” he said, “is something that is built up day after day in the pursuit of an order intended by God which implies a more perfect form of justice among men.”1 Today, the mystique of development has taken on universal proportions — national, international, and even cosmic dimensions. The spirirtual institutions on earth share in the building of a world that will be more humane. Theirs is a special mission, that of giving to the world and to development the spiritual dimension and the inspiration which it so badly needs, — in short, its soul.
It is in this context that we, the Bishops of the Philippines, address ourselves to you, on the anniversaries of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Celebrating its 350th anniversary is the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, until recently called the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. This department of the Roman Curia, charged with the supreme direction and administration of the missionary activity of the Church, works “to bring about more united and concerted missionary action by drawing up the fundamental principles governing all missionary activity, improving missionary methods, increasing the supply of laborers, and especially in fostering the development of an indigenous clergy.” The Society for the Propagation of the Faith is the “organ of the Holy See for the world-wide collection of alms of the faithful and their distribution among all Catholic missions.”2
Since the mission of the Church has been and still is intimately connected with both the preaching of the Gospel and the uplifting of everything that is human, it would be a most appropriate manifestation of our concern to speak on the subject Evangelization and Development.
We are now in the second development decade. In this hour, we make particularly ours what the Second Vatican Council has expressed in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World . “Holding faithfully to the gospel and exercising her mission in the world, the Church consolidates peace among men, to God’s glory. For it is her task to uncover, cherish and ennoble all that is true, good, and beautiful in the human community.”3
Our intent is not to consider all the aspects involved in the problem. We want to reflect together with you some ideas and facts which give solid foundation to a proper understanding of evangelization and development and its mutual relationship.4
This letter does not pretend to present startling, new ideas. We will rather try to offer basic relevant inspiration from official documents of the Church, such as the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, from Pontifical encyclicals such as Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris promulgated by the late Pope John XXIII and Populorum Progressio and Octogesima Adveniens of Pope Paul VI, and from the more recent document of the Synod of Bishops on Justice in the World. We will avail ourselves, too, of the documents issued by our fellow bishops from other parts of the Third World who have deeply reflected on the situation we share.
Overall View of the Present Situation
A. Underdevelopment in the Third World
Among these aspirations two persistently make themselves felt in these new contexts, and grow stronger to the extent that man becomes better informed and better educated: the aspiration to equality and the aspiration to participation, two forms of man’s dignity and freedom.
Equality means that every man, first of all, wants to grow to that full personhood through which he becomes, and can see himself, as truly an equal of every other man. Obviously this equality refers to man as man, as a human person; since there are necessary inequalities stemming from the very essence of human life in concrete situations, such as authority in the family, in society, in religious groups, or in the different capacity for leadership, natural qualities for leadership, or even age or health. Equality also means that he is the subject, the agent of his own destiny.
Equality and participation: the two go together. Participation means that every man is given access, given the possibility to participate in the decisions, activities, movements which involve and affect his own life, and the lives of those he is responsible for.5
On the other hand, among these changes the basic relationships of world wealth and world poverty remain unchanged. Seventy five per cent of the world’s resources are controlled and consumed by the third of humanity who are in the modern technological community where the great majority of Christians live.
There are several reasons why the situation has grown worse: first , even if in some developed countries more funding agencies had been opened or established to give aid to developing countries, it is still a fact that a number among the wealthiest nations appear steadily less committed, less concerned, less inventive in their approach to world development. Aid has been cut; new obstacles are being placed to exports from developing countries; prices of imports to developing countries have gone up.
Second , there is an increasing realization that development in the full social, cultural, and economic sense is much more difficult to achieve in the latter part of the 20th century. Population growth is twice as great as in the 19th century, resulting in the doubling of annual growth twice as much as population does, and we confront a new situation. Much of modern industry in developing countries is still under foreign ownership and control, and tends to require more capital which developing countries lack, and need less labor which they have in abundance. The result is a rise in unemployment, which in developing cities is already equal to a quarter of the labor force. Industrial unemployment is further aggravated by the obstacles placed by developed countries in the way of manufactured exports from developing countries.
Third , there is the issue of the distribution of the world’s resources. At least three quarters of the world’s supplies are consumed by the already rich. Their demand for energy, for instance, is increasing by at least 3% a year. Much of this energy comes from oil, coal and gas, and we are going through some of it, notably oil, at a pace that may lead to complete depletion early next century.
The use of resources becomes part of a wider problem: high consumption means high wastes. Wastes pollute not only the rich nations’ own streams and airsheds, but slop out into the oceans. What would happen to planet earth if three quarters of people in developing countries sought the same levels of income? Do the rich then say to the poor “Bad luck. While we keep our standards, you must hold down yours in the interests of human survival?” Once again, the ultimate issue of distributive justice stares us in the face.6
B. Evangelization and Underdevelopment in the Philippine Context
Let us present by way of example a few data taken from experts in the field of Philippine economics. If we examine the distribution of income the evidence on it seems to show that about 70% of all the families in this country earn less than P2,500 per year. And of the other 30, 20% earn less than P5,000; some 7% earn less than P10,000; 2% earn less than P20,000; and only six-tenths of 1% earn over P20,000. The average yearly income of the working Filipino is US$166.90 (at the present rate of exchange this is P1,131.58 a year). Although this is higher than the average earning in some Asian contries, this is ten times lower than in Western European countries. The average per capita income is P589 per annum or floating on the present rate of exchange the inhumanly meager sum of US$90.8
We are proud, and justly proud, of our system of elementary education. But to how many of the children in our rural and slum areas is it really free? To how many of them do the hard realities of life in a nipa shack or barong-barong afford the freedom to go to school for the full six years, and to learn something of value from that experience?9 The average number of years of schooling of the male members of our labor force is four years.
Of the 13 million or so in the labor force, 3 million are working part time; 24.1% are underemployed. Five per cent of our men who are looking for work, and 10% of our women who want to work, cannot find a job. Unemployment is highest among industrial workers, especially among day laborers and those who work with their hands. But unemployment has decreased steadily since 1965. The Filipinos who want to work have been finding their way into productive jobs.10
In the City of Manila alone until the very recent past, 1,102.554 persons were either squatters or slum dwellers. The average number of people in a squatter’s shack was eight.
No one seriously doubts that there has been some economic progress, but there is much evidence that the fruits of this progress have been periodically appropriated for the most part by a very small proportion of the population. Thus poverty has become the way of life for as much as 70% of all Filipinos on this land.
It is a well-known fact that until recently the distribution of land in the Philippines had been a constant source of strife and evil. Land Reform is a large problem not only in the Philippines but in the whole Asia. Many farms in the Philippines had already been mortgaged completely to the banks. In this situation, although Land Reform faces difficulties, it has far-reaching effects. The picture has considerably changed, at least in principle, when what had been legislated as Republic Acts 3844, 6389, and 6390 has begun to be implemented under the new decree making the whole country a Land Reform area.11 Christians should be sincerely happy that a positive step has been taken which is in perfect accordance with Christian principles repeated time and again by the Church magisterium and in particular by Vatican Council II. After having lamented the evils of unjust tenancy and the wages and income unworthy of human beings, the council says: “Indeed, insufficiently cultivated estates should be distributed to those who can make these lands fruitful.”12
The scandal of poverty in this country had been strongly intensified — at least until the very recent past — by the ostentation by which some rich individuals or families had flounted their easily earned wealth before the massive poor with extravagant parties, useless trips abroad, and outlandish fashions. More and more Filipinos have been seeking to live like Americans, but on the basis of an agricultural economy far inferior to that which made possible the American style of life. This brings up to the surface the existence not only of material poverty but of spiritual poverty as well, which itself demands spiritual development.
It is at this point that the objective poverty of absolute difference in income levels translates into subjective poverty which is the consciousness of the relative gap between the haves and the have-nots.13
Our tax structure has also been generally regressive, i.e., the lower a family’s income, the higher a share of that income is taken by the government in the form of taxes. New trends though, seem to indicate an initial or partial revision and approach to the tax structure; but this needs to be pursued further and implemented without discrimination and within the appearances of favoritism or harrassment.
Both the changes and the situation described above bring with them an important implication for the life of the Church in general. While in the past the Church worked almost everywhere in a sacralized temporal environment, she now sees spreading out before her, around her, and even within her, a process of secularization. She does not have the power to stop it nor even the right to condemn it in toto, since it contains both positive aspects (the liberation from attitudes and practices that smack of magic) and negative ones (the danger of the disappearance of an authentic spiritualization).14
We turn now our eyes to the condition of the Church in the Philippines. When the Holy Father Pope Paul VI came to the Philippines on his historic visit, he said he had come in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ “to glorify and thank Him for the wonders accomplished in this part of Asia… Our first wish is to render heartfelt homage to the generations of missionaries who, from the first beginnings, have built up this admirable Christian community of the Philippines.”15
We also wish to offer to the Lord our heartfelt thanks for the gift of faith He has bestowed upon our country, making us, without any merit of ours, the only Christian nation in Asia. This is not the place to describe in detail the history of the evangelization of the Philippines nor do we intend to sing triumphalistically the glories of the Church in our country. Suffice it to say that since the celebration of the first Mass in Limasawa’s shores on Easter Sunday, March 21, 1521, and the establishment of the See of Manila first as diocese in 1579 and later as archdiocese in 1595, until the joyous days of the coming of Pope Paul VI to our islands, the christian faith has grown steadily in numbers and in depth in the hearts of the people.
Today 94% of the population is Christian, with the Catholic church comprising 84% of the total population. Our people’s faith is simple; their attachment to the Lord is sincere; the love for the Church lacks any kind of sophistication; they are inclined to devotion and there is a noticeable increase in the reception of the sacraments as a means of fostering a fervent Christian life. All this is God’s gift and at the same time a witness to the work of evangelization done in the past and continuing to be done today. We find then that the Church has been implanted, the gospel has been preached, and it has permeated the people’s culture.
However, we must acknowledge that in many instances it has done so only in a superficial or mediocre way. The community has apostolic personnel and pastoral structures, but the whole situation is rather precarious because many people have not come to understand the gospel as a living, personal commitment; the nation or community group as such has not yet carried out an adequate process of evangelization because not a few people have not received adequate Christian formation or do not evince an apostolic form of life. Often they see religion more as a ritualistic or pietist set of practice than as a life of fervor and active effort.16
We must acknowledge that for not a few of our countrymen Christianity has been and perhaps still is a social fact more than personal conviction, and the Church institution only rather than community.
There were and still are many, especially among the poor and uninstructed who clung and still cling to their catholic faith with tenacity, we would unhesitatingly die for it — and in this sense they have a profound “instinct of faith” — but would never be able to give reason for their belief. Catholicism has been and for many still is a landmark by which one steers, but which one takes for granted, a social fact.
The external reality which makes this fact visible is the Church, which many tend to regard as institution rather than community. Even today, when many Filipinos say that the Church must do this, do that, they mean the institutional Church, the bishops, priests, religious, hardly ever the ecclesia, the assembly of God’s people. The Church is sila , “they” who instruct us, direct us, give us counsel or consolation, strengthen and nourish us with sacraments, offer the holy sacrifice in our behalf, and in the end, bury us with a blessing. “They” are those who make decisions for us, decisions which we did not, as a community, participate in. The Church is sila, “they”, not tayo, “we”, you and I and all of us.17
We have to acknowledge that not a few Filipino Christians, especially among the youth and among the intellectuals, seem to have experienced in their daily lives the distance that tends to separate the Church from her roots in the gospel, and some lack of harmony with the real world of the Philippines. She is also being called into question by many people who are far away from her — many more perhaps than our traditional pastoral outlook is willing to admit — who see her as an obstructive force in the effort to construct a more just society.
Since the end of the last century, the Philippine Church, like the Church in many other countries has been marked by an attitude of defense, a defensive posture which has led her to engage in silent retreat on occasions, when perhaps she could have been more vocal.
Today the Church in the Philippines is confronted in a special way with “happenings” and with Christ, the Lord of history, through them. There is every indication that the coming years will provide us with very different ways of viewing the Church, that we shall view her presence in ways that are quite different from those which we have been accustomed to in the past or which we might formulate today.18
It is within the framework of an old paternalism that many people (including perhaps some of us) approach present-day realitites and social problems. They attempt to solve them by appealing to the duty of fraternal charity. They establish countless charitable organizations, social programs and money campaigns. They launch philanthropic initiatives that are dear to the middle class, and still more to the rich, because the latter can thereby work off their feeling of guilt and the responsibility they bear for the gap which separates their standard of living from that of the impoverished people around them. Some of these initiatives or acts of Christian charity are definitely good. But this is not enough. People may try to alleviate the effects produced without tackling the causes behind them. But with our new insights we discover here a misguided effort to solve poverty and illness on an individual basis.19
However, the root of the evil is deeper: we would not be far off the mark in saying that the one sin which summarizes our collective guilt is the sin of internal colonialism, in a word open to misinterpretation, although to understand it aright, we need only to think of the relationship between underdeveloped areas and developed areas within our own country.
From the moment the Philippines was discovered by the Western world, her societal life has grown and developed under the influence of the Church. Her social, economic, political, and cultural structures were poured into the molds of Iberian Christianity. Even the Philippine revolution and the war for independence did not provoke any structural changes in this general situation outside the general policy of separation of Church and State which was implanted with the new regime. Today, for the first time, we are seeing the prelude to substantial transformations. The Church is inextricably linked to this historical past by her positive values, her authentic achievements, and her moments of glory, and also by her failures, aberrations, and false values.20
However, the religious fervor of the Filipino people is a rich treasure. Even if the underlying motivations are not always clear, the practices do at least suggest that our people are open to God. This basic treasure has not been utilized adequately to form living habits that are authentically Christian.21
But still today the Church in the Philippines has age-old structures, solid and respectable. If she moves, she is still widely followed. If she makes her voice heard, she is still widely listened to. She must, therefore, show her vitality and take full advantage of her great opportunities to act with a pastoral dynamism that is in proportion to the rhythm of the changes taking place.22
This fact imposes undeniable responsibilities and clearcut obligations on the Philippine Church in the face of the new challenges. Since Christians can no longer appear as those who simply endure history and let it happen, the Church now locates herself not on the periphery of man’s pilgrimage, but at the center of it. Not as an alien behind cold, institutional walls, but as the sacrament of salvation, embedded within the flesh of humanity.23
Confronted with this situation the hierarchy of the Philippines feels obliged to condemn the collective sin of unjust and anachronistic structures — not as if the Church were some innocent outside observer but fully acknowledging her own share of responsibility. She must be courageous enough to admit her solidarity with the past, and to acknowledge her responsibility to the present and the future. However, reluctant though we may be to admit it, there is hope.
Hence we can speak of development — and development in the context of the Gospel of Christ, of evangelization. These are the basis of our hope. We must therefore rethink and apply these two concepts of development and evangelization to our present national condition: for we are an economically undeveloped people; but we are also, by and large, a Christian people. And as a Christian people, we have an apostolic vocation with regard to the proper proclamation of the Gospel of Christ; and we have to see this vocation as it must be lived in the political and economic realities that we have spoken of above as the Third World, our world.
Integrated with the framework of God’s salvific design, the pilgrim Church is necessarily an active missionary organism.24 She carries on the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit,25 which derives from the Father’s plan to recapitulate all things in Christ.26 Thus her missionary activity is not a marginal thing; it is the fundamental duty of the Church27 as a messianic people involved in human history.28 The Gospel must be preached sincerely and openly. And the Gospel reveals man’s infinite destiny and his salvation through Christ and His Church. The Savior Himself gave a strict command that this message of salvation was to be preached to all men, everywhere and always — to the ends of the world and till the end of time. The cry of St. Paul, “Woe to me if I preach not the Gospel” (I Cor 9:16), rings in the conscience of every Christian and judges him. No other duty can take precedence over the duty of announcing Christ; and if it is true that we shall be judged on our charity, at the last judgment we shall be examined on the specific obligation in charity of announcing Christ’s truth. The whole Church is missionary, because every baptized person is by his very nature a missionary. The words of St. John Crysostom are fundamentally true: “Christian, you bear the burden of the whole world.”
As for the substance of the Gospel message, there can be little doubt: it is there, in the teaching and the life of Our Lord, with such explicit clarity that to bring forward arguments in its favour would be superflous. The Gospel is what it is, and there can be no question of watering it down or altering it in any way. The mission means above all and before all, the preaching of the Gospel.29
The missionary responsibility, rests with the whole Church and all its members by virtue of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.30 So there is authentic equality among all with respect to the common effort to build up the Body of Christ.31
The Church is the sign and instrument of God’s plan of salvation for the whole of mankind;32 and those who wish to really live their Christianity should realize its essential dynamism,33 its innate urge to spread, its intrinsic duty to communicate the faith to all men.34 In the post-Conciliar period the duty of spreading the faith imposes itself with even greater urgency on all, though in different ways and degrees.
The Church’s mission, is religious in nature. She must prophetically proclaim the message of salvation, for from this message derive tasks and energies capable of endowing all man’s daily activities with a deeper meaning.35 Fundamentally she has one single mission: to pour out God’s light and life on all the dimensions of man’s personal and social existence.
Faith is the fundamental element both in the Christian life of the ecclesial community and its formation. Thus we can readily see the essential importance of the Christian initiation process. A sound education in the faith is needed if the believer is to live out his membership in the Church in a conscious and responsible way.36
There is no doubt that the spreading and the defense of the faith must take first place in our spiritual expression, and must be the prime object of our pastoral care. We bishops are the teachers of the faith. This is our main task and commitment. We must strive to make the faith the fundamental driving principle of the Christian life of our communities.37
At the same time the Church gives due consideration to all human beings of other faiths. “A sense of the dignity of the human person has been expressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man. And the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty… The Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.”38 In recognizing this freedom the Church strives to promote fellowship and unity among all men. “For all peoples comprise a single community and have a single origin, since God made the whole race of men dwell over the entire face of the earth (Acts 17,26). One also is their final goal: God.”39
In respecting the rights of others, the Church still strives to deepen the faith of its members. The life of faith cannot be regarded simply as an intellectual exercise; it must be regarded as an attitude or commitment, in the light of God’s plan, to everything that makes up the human world on the individual, social, economic, political, and educational plane.
In many areas and due to factors beyond our control the expression of Christian faith has been reduced to ritualism and sacramentalization at the expense of a more dynamic proclamation of the Word and the formation of the human person. It is man, not only his soul, that has to be converted and saved. Thus, salvation is the salvation of the whole man, as development is total human development.40
The true Gospel is not this kind of mechanical religious practice that certain poorly enlightened Christians have reduced it to. It is definitely necessary to terminate the separation between faith and life, “because in Christ Jesus… only faith working through love avails.”41 As James the Apostle says: “Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.”42 It is only by living a Christian life that the Christian faith will operate our salvation.
The Church has endeavored to maintain her evangelizing heritage, using methods that were certainly valid for a long period of time. But in recent times some bishops and priests have raised an important question: What is the real status of faith among the people? With the great changes taking place in the world, we may not yet have a clear idea of the new demands placed on proclamation and catechesis for our own people.
It pains us to see that few are the Christians who see Christianity as a personal commitment to Christ, as a sharing in his life, leading them to examine and implement the social implication of the faith. Many Christians and perhaps quite a few priests may stand in perplexity when faced with new opinions. If some theologians insist on the primordial and irreplaceable character of the proclamation of God’s Word and of the sacramental ministry, those who are taken up with the task of development, are troubled by an uneasy conscience. If other theologians stress the primary role of development, then those whose task are those which belong to the more traditional patterns of the apostolate begin to question the value of what they are doing.43
As we have noted above, diverse circumstances create differing missionary situations and give rise to different modes of activity. These circumstances depend fundamentally on the degree to which the Church is alive and firmly rooted in a given situation, and on the degree to which the gospel is implanted in the life and culture of the people.44
“Without giving way to confusion or complete identification, we must make clear the deep underlying unity between God’s salvific plan, carried out by Christ, and man’s aspirations; between salvation history and human history; between Church, the People of God, and temporal communities; between God’s revelatory activity and human values. We may thus rule out any and all dichotomy or dualism in the Christian…”45
We must see to it that our preaching, catechesis and liturgy take due account of the social and communitarian dimension of Christianity, forming human beings who are committed to building a peaceful world.
Cardinal Pignedoli has put it forcefully: “We are not suprised that there are people who ask themselves in good faith: Which duty should be given precedence: evangelization or development? Is it possible to preach the Gospel without having first fed one’s hungry listeners, without having first satisfied their basic human needs in matters such as housing, education and medical care?”
In reply, we must first of all point out a fundamental truth, namely that the two duties should not be considered as if they were separate and, still less, as if they were mutually exclusive. They are not opposed to each other, but are complementary. To try to oppose religious values to earthly values is to show that one understands neither God nor man. God wishes to save the ‘whole’ man, with both the temporal needs of his body and the eternal aspirations of his soul. But it is his eternal destiny that has the priority; it conditions his earthly existence and gives its meaning. Eternal values provide the only real safeguard for earthly values: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all the rest shall be added unto you …” (Mt. 6:33; Lk 12:31). One does not need to be a specialist in theology in order to realize the essential link between earthly values and eternal ones, and, here in his native land, I may quote Goethe in support of this: “We are here on earth,” he said, “to make what is temporary eternal, but we can do this only when we are able to appreciate both”.
“Missionaries of all times have perfectly well understood this harmony between the two values and have acted upon it; all missions have been like a Benedictine Abbey, which, alongside the church, has a school, a dispensary, a guesthouse, a farm. The history of ‘Propaganda Fide’ is rich in directives and initiatives of a social nature. “Pure evangelization,” in a disembodied form, has in fact never existed. The theorists of development as an aspect of evangelization are in danger of inventing what was invented ages ago, though we must thank them for having given us a deeper realization of the need for social cooperation and for having pointed out that it is a duty, not merely in charity, but in justice.”46
In the midst of this apparent confusion it is important to stress that the Church has the prophetic task of awakening the conscience of the public, especially of those who are the decision-makers, in the light of God’s demand for justice. The Church has received from Christ the mission of preaching the Gospel message, which contains a call to man to turn away from sin to the love of the Father, universal brotherhoood and a consequent demand for justice in the world.47
Briefly stated, therefore, by evangelization we mean the strictly religious activity of preaching God’s kingdom, the Gospel as a revelation of the plan of salvation in Christ, through the action of the Holy Spirit’s activity that has the ministry of the Church as its instrument, the building-up of the Church as its aim, and God’s glory as its final end: this is the traditional doctrine and to it the Council has given its authoritative support.48
Development: Its Relationship to Evangelization
Let us consider now the notion of development. It goes far beyond the socio-economic level. What is called perhaps too emphatically, the auto-creation of man, is also concerned with his culture and includes all that makes man a free and conscious being. Development always postulates even a “mystique”. We mean by this a vision and goal beyond man directing his searching, going beyond the individual to the limits of mankind, beyond the visible to the invisible, beyond time to the hope of eternity.49
By the word development we mean what the encyclical Populorum Progressio means: we are dealing with integral development of the whole man and of every man. This is first of all the working out of the new commandment of the Gospel: “as Christ has loved you, love one another.” In this perspective, work undertaken toward integral development is a genuine way of evangelization. Its thrust goes beyond the temporal; this work, taken concretely, is a task which involves the whole of man, a task which demands a radical option of his spiritual freedom.50
Thus development is a series of changes, well or poorly coordinated, abrupt or gradual, from a phase of life perceived by a population and all of its components as being less human to a phase perceived as more human.51 Development is thus social and individual, material and spiritual.
The Church conscious of human aspirations towards dignity and well-being, pained by the unjust inequalities which still exist and often become more acute between nations and within nations, while respecting the competence of states, must offer her assistance for promoting “a fuller humanism”, that is to say “the full development of the whole man and of every man.”52 This is a logical consequence of our Christian faith.
The Church, indeed, is not alone responsible for justice in the world; however, she has a proper and specific responsibility which is identified with her mission of giving witness before the world of the need for love and justice contained in the Gospel message, a witness to be carried out in Church institutions themselves and in the lives of Christians.53
Seen in depth in this way, evangelization and development far from being in opposition, or even being separated from one another, compenetrate each other in the concrete in a unique movement of progress and of salvation, embracing every man and all mankind. From this and only from this point of view will the discussion concerning the exact frontiers separating the temporal from the spiritual, the sacred from the secular be replaced with more profit by a convergence into the manifold concrete symbiosis of one and the other. This symbiosis discovers its principle, its unity and its richness in man; it is man who reunites all. But it belongs to Christians, in the light of Revelation and by the strength of the Spirit, to bring about a more profound unity perceived and seen in God by Jesus Christ, as Image and Head.54 As we said on another occasion: “Christianity and democracy have one basic principle in common: the respect for the dignity and value of the human person, the respect of those means which man requires to make himself fully human.” (9 July 19.0)55
When we try to look for this meaning in our national life and culture, we find we have a socio-cultural basis which facilitates the endeavor. As a well-known writer has put it we have, embedded in our souls and culture, qualities of the spirit that are of no little significance to the task at hand. He uses five pregnant words: pagsasarili, which means the will to secure for every Filipino the means to develop himself as a responsible human being; pakikisama, the willingness to share with one another the burdens as well as the rewards of living together; pagkakaisa , the building up of an articulated national community through forms of social organizations understood, accepted, and undertaken by the people themselves; pakikipagkapwa-tao, which is human solidarity, but human solidarity understood as, first of all, a dedication to the development of one’s own nation that will enable it to participate on free and equal terms in the total development of mankind; finally, pagkabayani, the readiness to put the common good of the nation above private interests, whether of one’s own personal group or class.56 Is it not our common task, then, as Filipinos and as Christians, to try imbuing these basic attitudes of our people with a Christian spirit, to use them to the full in the service of the development of the whole man and of every man?
Coming back to the relationship between the two concepts of evangelization and development, we see that the first one, in the traditional sense, is constituted by the ministry of the word and the sacraments; and as such it reveals to men the deepest, the ultimate meaning of development, and gives to it a dynamism which is no longer a merely human thing. To the extent that Christians are the visible instrument of the mediation of Christ, they render an irreplaceable service to the task of development. For one’s acceptance of, and faithfulness to the Word gives him a new sense — a new understanding — of his responsibility for, and of the oneness of, the history and adventure of man.57
“It is in the name of this principle that the Church must support as best she can the struggle against ignorance, hunger, disease and social insecurity. Taking her place in the vanguard of social action, she must bend all her efforts to support, encourage and push toward initiatives working for the full promotion of man. Since she is the witness of human conscience and of divine love for men, she must take up the defense of the poor and the weak against every form of social injustice.”58
On the practical level , those who are engaged in “preaching the Good News” must realize that evangelization is helped by activities concerned with the temporal and human development of the peoples being evangelized. Those activities can become one with evangelization when, raised to the level of charity, they become ends, as it were, themselves, and also when, used rather as means, they precede and complete the work of evangelization. This is especially important for the laity, called as they are to “seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs,”59 for they are fostering the full growth of man within this new framework of development.
It is important therefore that they do not lose heart, believing that the mission of Christ has been drowned, submerged, in a great technical or human enterprise, when in truth this same mission is its very soul and life-giving force.
To the extent that this task involves man, development becomes for us a reality which is not merely an “object lesson”; it is a living and eloquent witness of the Lordship of Christ over the world. This witnessing should be acknowledged as a work of evangelization in its strict sense, as an act which is explicitly religious. This witness which is one of the ways by which evangelization is carried out, requires in turn the proclamation of the genuine word of salvation, thus revealing to men the mystery of our divine calling and answering “the problems and longings of the man of today.”
Wherever the personal preaching of the Word is not possible, the task of development, inspired by this spirit, retains a truly evangelizing significance. It is a witness, a living and eloquent one at that. For Christ “began to do and to teach.”60
Consequently, a Christian, a community — both Christian and missionary at once — will undoubtedly perceive in them a mystery. And this mystery will already be a proclamation, not yet of Jesus explicitly preached, but at least of the presence in man of an ideal, of a faith, of a life which surpasses man and already has a reference to Jesus Christ although this reference does not appear clearly yet.
As Paul VI put it: “If the debate between evangelization and development is considered on the doctrinal level , in terms of end and purpose, then the answer is to be found in the words of the Council decree: “The specific purpose of missionary activity is evangelization and the planting of the Church…”61
The debate between evangelization and development will be rather, then, a question of method: which should be attended to first. The answer cannot be the same for all cases, but must depend on particular circumstances, faithful to the apostolic spirit and to the needs of different situations, always with a view to the efficacy and sanctity of the work.62 There should be no dilemma therefore.
The Church however must make her contribution to the task of development, a contribution that should be rendered in a spirit of service and not of paternalism. “I have come, no to be served, but to serve.” It is in the light of this principle that we must decide as to the opportunities of setting up or keeping alive certain institutions and as to the desirability of involvement in ways and structures which are not those of the Church itself: we are here to serve.
It is against this background that we as bishops of the Philippines, commit ourselves resolutely to the concern for the total development of our people. We believe that man’s humanity is God’s gift and making, and its promotion a task and duty laid on all of us by Him.
In Christ, God radically took on humanness: “For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.”63 All the dimensions, aspirations, and potentionalities of man are given divine confirmation. Thus, the necessity of human development is affirmed and assumed in Christ. “Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom.”64 “Taking on human nature, He bound the whole human race to Himself as a family…”65 Therefore, there is need of fostering development based on Christian spirituality. Without it something is missing in the whole human dimension. And if the lack of cooperation for development comes from radical selfishness, then man becomes disloyal to man, then he is disloyal to the God who became incarnate in concrete, historical human nature. Man’s authentic and integral development finds its source and summit in Christ.66
When we examine the activity of Christ, the lessons of the finest missionary tradition, and the teachings of the Council, we see that proclaiming the gospel involves more than preaching and catechetics. Every effort of evangelization must take account of the real life of the people at whom it is directed. It must start from their life, their needs, their problems, and their aspirations. Then it must go on to reveal and develop in them the values of the Gospel — particularly the Sermon on the Mount and Chapter 25 of Saint Matthew’s Gospel. It must reveal these things in words, and then explain or bear witness to them in deeds when possible; this will put demands on us and call for some basic commitments. The Church’s mission, then, must involve the proclamation of the Gospel message and the witness of the ecclesial community, for these things help human beings to carry out man’s integral development.67
Hence the reason why the Church should foster and promote development is theological and religious. Ultimately it is not threatening features of a changing society nor human suffering, but the Gospel and God himself, that oblige the Christian to participate in the work of development. The Church’s place however is not to direct this task since it is a properly temporal task that falls within the competence of civil authority and societal institutions. The Church participates in this work of civilizing society with her eyes on the Gospel, knowing that all human culture misses its true end without the Gospel.68
For a great majority of Christians in the Philippines, development and the structural changes it entails have no connection with faith and the sacraments. Injustice and ignorance are not among the sins ordinarily acknowledged. Thus Filipino Christians must become keenly aware of these things. For poverty, violence, and the task of building a new society with its own intrinsic values are questions that relate to salvation itself. Man is not saved by activities that take place on the outer rim of his life, but by the meaning that he gives to his own personal life and that of the community.
Hence springs our duty of promoting the betterment of man: “In the socio-economic realm, too, the dignity and total vocation of the human person must be honored and advanced along with the welfare of society as a whole. For man is the source, the center, and the purpose of all socio-economic life.”69
The specific function of the Church is to communicate to civil society the light and inspiration that wells up from the gospel rounded vision of man and humanity. “For the force which the Church can inject into the modern society of man consist in that faith and charity put into the vital practice, not in any external dominion exercised by merely human means.70 Addressing himself to the political aspect of society, Pope Paul VI says in his Apostolic Letter to Cardinal Roy:
This is why the need is felt to pass from economics to politics. It is true that in the term ‘politics’, many confusions are possible and must be clarified, but each man feels that in the social and economic field, both national and international, the ultimate decision rests with political power…
Politics are a demanding manner – but not the only ones — of living the Chrisitan commitment to the service of others. Without of course solving every problem, it endeavors to apply solutions to the relationships men have with one another.
The domain of politics is wide and comprehensive, but it is not exclusive. An attitude of encroachment which would tend to set up politics as an absolute value would bring serious danger. While recognizing the autonomy of the reality of politics, Christians who are invited to take up political activity should try to make their choices consistent with the Gospel and, in the framework of a legitimate plurality, to give both personal and collective witness to the seriousness of their faith by effective and disinterested service of men.71
The last Synod of bishops, in their document Justice in the World, spoke forcefully when they said:
As it was also well expressed in their document on The Ministerial Priesthood, the Synod of Bishops had this to say of both the priest and the entire Church:
Finally, Pope Paul VI wrote in a letter to CELAM in 1966: “In its overall view of development, Gaudium et Spes clearly insists upon the need for thorough-going structural reforms and social changes.”74 Hence his forceful stand: “Continuing development calls for bold innovations that will work profound changes. The present critical state of affairs must be corrected for the better without delay.”75
In this connection we must remember again that the thrust of development has to be conditioned by the needs and peculiar characteristics of each people. There is not one single or unique model for development, and nothing can replace the initiative of the people themselves. No external force can bring development to them, if they have not determined to commit themselves to their own development.
But we must acknowledge that it would be futile to work for development in our country without working for moral and religious vitalization. Marxism is not entirely right when it tries to suggest that “better men will come only from a better structure.” Reason and human experience show rather that there is a mutual interplay between men and the structures they build and it is faith that gives the whole process meaning. Man is saved insofar as he adds a human dimension to his own existence, but he cannot reach total human fulfillment without God. Man does not live by bread alone.76 A humanism without God is incomplete and in the end inhuman.77
In the Philippines today, especially under the rule of martial law and the avowed aim of the Government to create a “new society”, our service as Church, as Community, must take the form of support all that is genuinely good in the new directions being taken. For these new directions are nothing more than concrete means towards the development we have been speaking of here. Thus, the Government’s programs of land reform, peace and order, good government, more equitable distribution of wealth — all are worthwhile in themselves and look towards the total human development of our people, of the common tao especially, the great mass of the underprivileged among us.
But this service of ours, as we have time and again indicated in this letter, must always be in the light of the Gospel. Hence we must seriously ask, in view of recent events, whether indeed development is taking place with justice, with truth, and above all with Christian charity.
We speak of justice. For in the current striving to bring about a “new society” there is ever the danger that basic human rights will be pushed aside and ignored, due processes of law conveniently bypassed in the name of reform. We have to be all the more wary about this danger then, in the light of what we said earlier about the common aspirations of modern man to participation and equality to the safeguarding of his dignity and freedom. Our people are no strangers to these aspirations. For in their ancestral wisdom, they know that the rights that these aspirations connote spell out most concretely for them what it means to be a Filipino. Hence we must ask that in the new order of things, in the exercise of government and political power in our nation today, these rights remain inviolate.
We also speak of truth. For if our people are to participate with freedom and dignity in the making of decisions that touch their very lives and persons; if they are to develop as a people in the integral manner we have been talking about here; then their right to the truth must be respected at all times. “The truth will make you free.” (Jn. ) This solemn declaration of Christ takes on a deeper meaning for us today in the limitation — temporary, we trust — of our people’s right to full information of events. And for that same reason, we see all the more clearly its place in the right ordering of life itself.
And lastly, and above all, we speak of charity. For it is Christ’s love that we have been concerned with here all along: a love based on justice and on truth; a love that impels us to commit ourselves to the great task of development and evangelization. Under conditions prevailing in the country today, this means for all of us, both as individuals and as community, unstinting service to the common good of all our people, be they Christian or Muslim, native or foreign-born, rich or poor. It is in this service that we will incarnate that self-same charity in our lives and give witness to its transforming power.
May Christ’s Spirit guide you in your witness of service to His justice, His truth, and His love.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO, D.D.
July 4, 1973