WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR BEAUTIFUL LAND
A Pastoral Letter on Ecology
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
The Philippines is now at a critical point in its history. For the past number of years we have experienced political instability, economic decline and a growth in armed conflict. Almost every day the media highlight one or other of these problems. The banner headlines absorb our attention so much so that we tend to overlook a more deep-seated crisis which, we believe, lies at the root of many of our economic and political problems. To put it simply: our country is in peril. All the living systems on land and in the seas around us are being ruthlessly exploited. The damage to date is extensive and, sad to say, it is often irreversible.
One does not need to be an expert to see what is happening and to be profoundly troubled by it. Within a few short years brown, eroded hills have replaced luxuriant forests in many parts of the country. We see dried up river beds where, not so long ago, streams flowed throughout the year. Farmers tell us that, because of erosion and chemical poisoning, the yield from the croplands has fallen substantially. Fishermen and experts on marine life have a similar message. Their fish catches are shrinking in the wake of the extensive destruction of coral reefs and mangrove forests. The picture which is emerging in every province of the country is clear and bleak. The attack on the natural world which benefits very few Filipinos is rapidly whittling away at the very base of our living world and endangering its fruitfulness for future generations.
As we reflect on what is happening in the light of the Gospel we are convinced that this assault on creation is sinful and contrary to the teachings of our faith. The Bible tells us that God created this world, (Gen. 1:1); that He loves His world and is pleased with it. (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25 and 31); and that He created man and woman in His image and charged them to be stewards of His creation. (Gen. 1:27-28). God, who created our world, loves life and wishes to share this life with every creature. St. John tells us that Jesus saw His mission in this light. “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (Jn. 10:10).
We are not alone in our concern. Tribal people all over the Philippines, who have seen the destruction of their world at close range, have cried out in anguish. Also men and women who attempt to live harmoniously with nature and those who study ecology have tried to alert people to the magnitude of the destruction taking place in our time. The latter are in a good position to tell us what is happening since they study the web of dynamic relationships which support and sustains all life within the earthly household. This includes human life.
A Call To Respect and Defend Life
At this point in the history of our country it is crucial that people motivated by religious faith develop a deep appreciation for the fragility of our islands’ life-systems and take steps to defend the Earth. It is a matter of life and death. We are aware of this threat to life when it comes to nuclear weapons. We know that a nuclear war would turn the whole earth into a fireball and render the planet inhospitable to life. We tend to forget that the constant, cumulative destruction of life-forms and different habitats will, in the long term, have the same effect. Faced with these challenges, where the future of life is at stake, christian men and women are called to take a stand on the side of life.
We, the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, ask Christians and all people of goodwill in the country to reflect with us on the beauty of the Philippine land and seas which nourish and sustain our lives. As we thank God for the many ways He has gifted our land we must also resolve to cherish and protect what remains of this bounty for this and future generations of Filipinos. We are well aware that, for the vast majority of Filipinos, the scars on nature, which increasingly we see all around us, mean less nutritious food, poorer health and an uncertain future. This will inevitably lead to an increase in political and social unrest.
We See the Beauty And the Pain of the Earth
As you read this letter or listen to section of it being read, scenes from your barrio may come to mind. In your mind’s eye you may see well laid out rice paddies flanked by coconuts with their fronds swaying in the breeze. Or you may hear the rustle of the cogon grass on the hills behind your barrio. These scenes mean so much to us and are beautiful. Yet they do not represent the original vegetation with which God has blessed our land. They show the heavy hand of human labor, planning and sometimes short-sightedness.
For generations the hunting and food gathering techniques of our tribal forefathers showed a sensitivity and respect for the rhythms of nature. But all of this has changed in recent years. Huge plantations and mono-crop agriculture have pitted human against nature. There are short-term profits for the few and even substantial harvests, but the fertility of the land has suffered and the diversity of the natural world has been depleted. So our meditation must begin by reflecting on the original beauty of our land, rivers and seas. This wonderful community of the living existed for millions of years before human beings came to these shores.
When our early ancestors arrived here they found a country covered by a blanket of trees. These abounded in living species–over 7,500 species of flowering plants, not to mention animals, bird and insects. These were watered by the tropical rains which swept in from the seas and gradually seeped down through the vegetation and soil to form clear flowing rivers and sparkling lakes which abounded in fish and aquatic life before completing the cycle and returning to the sea. An incredible variety of insects lived in the forest and were busy with all kinds of tasks from recycling dead wood to pollinating flowering plants. The community of the living was not confined to creatures who walked on the Earth. Birds flew through the air, their bright plumes and varying calls adding color and song to the green of the forests. Birds are also the great sowers. They contributed greatly to the variety of plant life which is spread throughout the forest. Finally small and large animals lived in the forest and feasted on its largesse. Our land born out of volcanic violence and earthquakes brought forth a bounty of riches. We stand in awe at the wisdom of our Creator who has fashioned this world of life, color, mutual support and fruitfulness in our land.
The beauty did not end at the shoreline. Our islands were surrounded by blue seas, fertile mangroves and enchanting coral reefs. The coral reefs were a world of color and beauty with fish of every shape and hue darting in and out around the delicate coral reefs. Perlas ng Silanganan was an appropriate name for this chain of wooded islands, surrounded by clear seas, studded with coral reefs.
Creation is a Long Process
You might ask: Why is it important to remeber the original state of our land? First of all, it reminds us of how God in his wisdom and goodness, shaped this land in this part of the world. It did not happen overnight. It took millions of years of care and love to mould and reshape this land with all its beauty, richness and splendor, where intricate pathways bind all the creatures together in a mutually supportive community. Human beings are not alien to this community. God intended this land for us, his special creatures, but not so that we might destroy it and turn it into a wasteland. Rather He charged us to be stewards of his creation, to care for it, to protect its fruitfulness and not allow it to be devastated. (Ge. 1:28, 9:12). By protecting what is left of the rainforest we insure that the farmers have rain and plants for the food that sustains us.
Our Forests Laid Waste
How much of this richness and beauty is left a few thousand years after human beings arrived at these shores? Look around and see where our forests have gone. Out of the original 30 million hectares there is now only 1 million hectares of primary forest left. Where are some of the most beautiful creatures who used to dwell in our forests? These are God’s masterpieces, through which he displays his power, ingenuity and love for his creation. Humans have forgotten to live peacefully with other creatures. They have destroyed their habitat and hunted them relentlessly. Even now many species are already extinct and the destruction of species is expected to increase dramatically during the next decade as the few remaining strands of forest are wiped out by loggers and kaingineros. What about the birds? They used to greet us each morning and lift our spirits beyond the horizons of this world. Now they are silenced. In many places all we hear now are cocks crowing. Where is the soaring eagle circling above the land or the colourful kalaw (hornbill)?
The Hemorrhage of Our Life Blood
After a single night’s rain look at the chocolate brown rivers in your locality and remember that they are carrying the life blood of the land into the sea. The soil, instead of being the seed bed of life, becomes a cloak of death, smothering, retarding and killing coral polyps. Soil specialists tell us that we lose the equivalent of 100,000 hectares of soil one meter thick each year. We are hardly aware of this enormous loss which is progressively eroding away our most fertile soil and thus our ability to produce food for an expanding population. Any comprehensive land reform must address this most serious threat to our food supply.
Deserts in the Sea
How can fish swim in running sewers like the Pasig and so many more rivers which we have polluted? Who has turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of color and life? Imagine: only 5% of our corals are in their pristine state! The blast of dynamite can still be heard on our coastal waters. We still allow muro-ami fishing methods which take a terrible toll both on the young swimmers and the corals. Mine tailings are dumped into fertile seas like Calancan Bay in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque where they destroy forever the habitat of the fish. Chemicals are poisoning our lands and rivers. They kill vital organisms and in time they will poison us. The ghost of the dreaded Minamata Bay disease hangs over towns in the Agusan river basin and the Davao gulf.
Recent Destruction Carried out in the name of Progress
Most of this destruction has taken place since the beginning of this century, a mere wink of an eye in the long history of our country. Yet in that time we have laid waste complex living systems that have taken millions of years to reach their present state of development.
We often use the word progress to describe what has taken place over the past few decades. There is no denying that in some areas our roads have improved and that electricity is more readily available. But can we say that there is it real progress? Who has benefitted most and who has borne the real costs? The poor are as disadvantaged as ever and the natural world has been grevously wounded. We have stripped it bare, silenced its sounds and banished other creatures, from the community of the living. Through our thoughtlessness and greed we have sinned against God and His creation.
One thing is certain: we cannot continue to ignore and disregard the Earth. Already we are experiencing the consequence of our shortsightedness and folly. Even though we squeeze our lands and try to extract more from them, they produce less food. The air in our cities is heavy with noxious fumes. Instead of bringing energy and life it causes bronchial illness. Our forests are almost gone, our rivers are almost empty, our spring and wells no longer sparkle with living water. During the monsoon rain, flash-floods sweep through our towns and cities and destroy everything in their path. Our lakes and estuaries are silting up. An out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality allows us to flush toxic waste and mine tailings into our rivers and seas in the mistaken belief that they can no longer harm us. Because the living world is interconnected, the poison is absorbed by marine organisms. We in turn are gradually being poisoned when we eat seafood.
We Can and Must Do Something About it
It is already late in the day and so much damage has been done. No one can pinpoint the precise moment when the damage becomes so irreversible that our living world will collapse. But we are rapidly heading in that direction. Even now there are signs of stress in every corner of our land. As we look at what is happening before our eyes, and think of the horrendous consequences for the land and the people we would do well to remember that God, who created this beautiful land, will hold us responsible for plundering it and leaving it desolate. So will future generations of Filipinos. Instead of gifting them with a fruitful land, all we will leave behind is a barren desert. We, the Bishops, call on all Filipinos to recognize the urgency of this task and to respond to it now.
As Filipinos we can and must act now. Nobody else will do it for us. This is our home; we must care for it, watch over it, protect it and love it. We must be particularly careful to protect what remains of our forests, rivers, and corals and to heal, wherever we can, the damage which has already been done.
The task of preserving and healing is a daunting one given human greed and the relentless drive of our plunder economy. But we must not lose hope. God has gifted us with creativity and ingenuity. He has planted in our hearts a love for our land, which bursts forth in our songs and poetry. We can harness our creativity in the service of life and shun anything that leads to death.
Signs of Hope
Despite the pain and despoliation which we have mentioned, there are signs of hope. Our forefathers and our tribal brothers and sisters today still attempt to live in harmony with nature. They see the Divine Spirit in the living world and show their respect through prayers and offerings. Tribal Filipinos remind us that the exploitative approach to the natural world is foreign to our Filipino culture.
The vitality of our Filipino family is also a sign of hope. Parents share their life with their children. They protect them and care for them and are particularly solicitous when any member of the family is sick. This is especially true of mothers; they are the heartbeat of the family, working quietly in the home to create an atmosphere where everyone is accepted and loved. No sacrifice is too demanding when it comes to caring for a sick member of the family. The values we see in our families of patient toil, concern for all and a willingness to sacrifice for the good of others are the very values which we must now transfer to the wider sphere in our efforts to conserve, heal and love our land. It is not a mere coincidence that women have been at the forefront of the ecological movement in many countries. The tree planting program of the Chipko in India, popularly known as the “hug a tree” movement and the Greenbelt movement in Kenya spring to mind.
We call to mind that, despite the devastation which has taken place in our forests and seas, we Filipinos are sensitive to beauty. Even in the poorest home parents and children care for flowers. We are also encouraged by the growth in environmental awareness among many Filipinos. Small efforts which teach contour ploughing, erosion control, organic farming and tree planting can blossom into a major movement of genuine care for our Earth. We are happy that there have been some successes. Both the Chico dam project was suspended and the Bataan nuclear plant mothballed after massive local resistance. This year the people of San Fernando, Bukidnon and Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur defended what remains of their forest with their own bodies. At the Santa Cruz Mission in South Cotabato serious efforts are underway to reforest bald hills and develop ecologically sound ways of farming. The diocese of Pagadian has chosen the eucharist and ecology as its pastoral focus for this year. These are all signs for us that the Spirit of God, who breathed over the waters, and originally brought life out of chaos is now prompting men and women both inside and outside the Church to dedicate their lives to enhancing and protecting the integrity of Creation. In order that these drops and rivulets will join together and form a mighty stream in the defense of life we need a sustaining vision to guide us.
We will not be successful in our efforts to develop a new attitude towards the natural world unless we are sustained and nourished by a new vision. This vision must blossom forth from our understanding of the world as God intends it to be. We can know the shape of this world by looking at how God originally fashioned our world and laid it out before us.
This vision is also grounded in our Faith. The Bible tells us that God created this beautiful and fruitful world for all his creatures to live in, (Gen. 1:1-2,4) and that He has given us the task of being stewards of His creation. (Gen. 2:19-20).
The relationship which links God, human beings and all the community of the living together is emphasized in the covenant which God made with Noah after the flood. The rainbow which we still see in the sky is a constant reminder of this bond and challenge. (Gen. 9:12). This covenant recognizes the very close bonds which bind living forms together in what are called ecosystems. The implications of this covenant for us today are clear. As people of the covenant we are called to protect endangered ecosystems, like our forests, mangroves and coral reefs and to establish just human communities in our land. More and more we must recognize that the commitment to work for justice and to preserve the integrity of creation are two inseparable dimensions of our christian vocation to work for the coming of the kingdom of God in our times.
Christ Our Life (Col 3:4)
As Christians we also draw our vision from Christ. We have much to learn from the attitude of respect which Jesus displayed towards the natural world. He was very much aware that all the creatures in God’s creation are related. Jesus lived lightly on the earth and warned his disciples against hoarding material possessions and allowing their hearts to be enticed by the lure of wealth and power (Matt. 6:19-21; Lk. 9:1-6). But our meditation on Jesus goes beyond this. Our faith tells us that Christ is the center point of human history and creation. All the rich unfolding of the universe and the emergence and flowering of life on Earth are centered on him. (Eph. 1:9-10; Col 1:16-17). The destruction of any part of creation, especially, the extinction of species defaces the image of Christ which is etched in creation.
Mary, Mother of Life
We Filipinos have a deep devotion to Mary. We trun to her for help and protection in time of need. We know that she is on the side of the poor and those who are rejected. (Lk 1:52) Our new sensitivity to what is happening to our Land also tells us that she is on the side of life. As a mother she is pained and saddened when she sees people destroy the integrity of creation through soil erosion, blast-fishing or poisoning land. Mary knows what the consequences of this destruction are. Therefore as Mother of Life she challenges us to abandon the pathway of death and to return to the way of life.
Taken together the various strands of our Christian vision envisage a profound renewal which must effect our people, our culture and our land. It challenges us to live once again in harmony with God’s creation. This vision of caring for the Earth and living in harmony with it can guide us as, together, we use our ingenuity and many gifts to heal our wounded country.
This Is What We Suggest
In the light of this vision we recommend action in the following areas.
a) What each individual can do
b) What the Churches can do
Since programs, however laudable, will not implement themselves, we suggest the setting up of a Care of the Earth ministry at every level of Church organization, from the basic Christian communities, through the parish structure and diocesan offices right up to the national level. This ministry could help formulate and implement policies and strategies which flow from our new and wider vision. The idea is not so much to add another activity to our pastoral ministry, but rather that this concern should underpin everything we do.
c) What the Government can do
d) Non-governmental organizations have a very important role to play in developing a widespread ecological awareness among people. They can also act as a watch-dog to ensure that the government and those in public office do not renege on their commitment to place this concern at the top of their list.
This brief statement about our living world and the deterioration we see all around us attempts to reflect the cry of our people and the cry of our land. At the root of the problem we see an exploitative mentality, which is at variance with the Gospel of Jesus. This expresses itself in acts of violence against fellow Filipinos. But it is not confined to the human sphere. It also infects and poisons our relationship with our land and seas.
We reap what we sow; the results of our attitude and activities are predictable and deadly. Our small farmers tell us that their fields are less productive and are becoming sterile. Our fishermen are finding it increasingly difficult to catch fish. Our lands, forests and rivers cry out that they are being eroded, denuded and polluted. As bishops we have tried to listen and respond to their cry. There is an urgency about this issue which calls for widespread education and immediate action. We are convinced that the challenge which we have tried to highlight here is similar to the one which Moses put before the people of Israel before they entered their promised land.
“Today I offer you a choice of life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life and then you and your descendants will live.” (Dt. 30:19-20).
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+LEONARDO Z. LEGASPI, OP, D.D.
January 29, 1988
A CALL TO PRAYER
Statement of the CBCP Administrative Council
For the CBCP Administrative Council:
(Sgd.)+RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT
Following up the statements of Cardinal Vidal, Cardinal Sin and some other bishops on August 28, 1987, we, the undersigned Bishops gathered in Manila today for a workshop on inter-religious dialogue, take this opportunity
1) to re-assert that this government is the legitimate, constitutional government and hence deserves the people’s full support. We commend the soldiers who remained faithful to the duly constituted authority of the land.
2) The supremacy of civilian authority over the military must at all times be upheld. The military are to serve the people, never lord it over them.
3) To support this government does not mean to agree with its every decision and action. The people must make sure that the government works for their interest. Watchfulness and criticism on the part of the people always remain necessary. But the means used to effect change must be non-violent. Protest mass actions must have realistic aims and must lead to dialogue and not to violence.
4) We ask the present government to sharpen its perception of the real needs and situation of our people, including the military. President Aquino promised that her government would be a government of consultation. We ask that mechanisms of wider consultation be set up and made operative so that wrong decisions on important matters may be avoided.
5) While we thank the Lord that yesterday’s crisis is now over, we pray for those who died and sympathize with the wounded and the bereaved.
August 29, 1987
(Sgd.)+RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL (Sgd.)+SALVADOR L. LAZO
(Sgd.)+CARMELO D.F. MORELOS (Sgd.)+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, OMI
(Sgd.)+VICENTE T. ATAVIADO (Sgd.)+EDMUNDO M. ABAYA
(Sgd.)+FERNANDO R. CAPALLA (Sgd.)+ANTONIO R. TOBIAS
(Sgd.)+JOSE MA. QUEREXETA, CMF (Sgd.)+PATRICIO M. LOPEZ
(Sgd.)+MANUEL C. SOBREVINAS (Sgd.)+NESTOR C. CARIÑO
(Sgd.)+PORFIRIO R. ILIGAN (Sgd.)+DEOGRACIAS S. INIGUEZ
(Sgd.)+TEODORO C. BACANI (Sgd.)+CESAR C. RAVAL, SVD
RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
The new Constitution of the Philippines says:
This is an educational revolution. It ushers in a new era in the life of the Church in our country.
For years religion was taught before classes began or after they had finished, on staircases, or under mango trees in the schoolyard. Now religion has to be taught within regular class hours–up to 90 minutes a week, if requested by the parents.
This is a magnificent opportunity, placed in our hands with great love, by God. It is also a challenge, which the Church will not be able to meet without the collaboration of everyone in the community.
Therefore, we, your Bishops, appeal for many more volunteer catechists.
In this context the training for volunteer catechists become a crucial need. Therefore we urge
Finally the need to support the cost of providing religious instruction.
Teaching catechism is a pre-eminent apostolate. Those who teach are doing it from a deep sense of faith. But the professional catechists cannot live without salary and the volunteers need allowances for their training, their teaching materials and their transportation. Without funding, the apostolate of teaching catechism in the public schools will be greatly hampered.
There is then a need for a catechetical fund in every parish to cover the training of catechists, the salaries of professional catechists and the allowances for volunteers. Funding for catechists should be in the annual budget of every seminary, and of every school. This fund can be drawn from the sharing of parents, special benefactors and the like; but catechesis should be considered as a necessary activity of every parish, of every seminary, of every Catholic school.
We need more professional catechists, who will consecrate their lives to the beautiful task of forming the character of children–teaching them to know, to love, and to serve Christ, our Lord. But at this important period of our history we need more volunteers for this apostolate.
We appeal finally with equal urgency to the appropriate government authorities to facilitate the implementation of this important constitutional mandate.
It was the last word of our Lord to the Apostles, on the mountainside, before He ascended into heaven: “Go, therefore, teach ye all nations — teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” This mission, given to us by God, begins at home, with our own children. Parents are the first catechists. In our desire to equip parents to undertake this all important ministry, we launched, through the Episcopal Commission on Education and Religious Instruction (ECERI) a religious education Program for Family Catechesis entitled “The Filipino Family Growing in Faith.” We hope that this work of love will assist our parents in the fulfillment of their catechetical responsibility.
We cannot end this Pastoral Letter without expressing our deep gratitude to all those who brought about this educational revolution. With special mention, we are sincerely appreciative of the open cooperation of the public school administrators and teachers.
With a certain note of joy we convey to you, dear parents our warm commendation for the fidelity with which you help build up the Church in faith.
A most special expression of gratitude however we reserve to our catechists. To educate children in the faith, to assist the adults in their growth in the faith — you have made this your chosen ministry within the Church. The price has been heavy, and still is. But you carry out your mission, year after year, with perseverance, with fidelity to God, to the Church and to the world. May the Lord through Mary, the Mother and model of catechists, sustain you in your difficult but essential task. May your example inspire many generous souls to join your ranks in the service of God’s people.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL
July 15, 1987
THIRSTING FOR JUSTICE
A Pastoral Exhortation on Agrarian Reform
Beloved People of God:
Poverty and the Challenge of Faith: Solidarity
People thirst after an ever more perfect reign of justice (Ibid. 27)
Practically everywhere in the universal Church today, we are painfully conscious of that thirst. And we talk much of preferential (but not exclusive) option for the poor.
And we here in the Philippines?
Alas, there is no peace in our land today, though we all long for peace. And there is no peace, because we have not yet attained the justice that brings about peace.
Where 70% of the people live below the poverty line, we see the hand of injustice. For such a tragic situation is against the righteousness of God whose will is “that all created things would be shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity” (Ibid. 29). It is his will that every person “has the right to possess a sufficient amount of the earth’s goods for himself and his family” (Ibid.)
Poverty and inequity are a scandal of the first order for any national community, more so for one that calls itself Christian. They challenge our faith and move us to solidarity, the call of God for all of us to form one human family bound by a love that does justice.
Hence, we must ask ourselves: what are we doing for our own who thirst for that ever more perfect reign of justice that our faith speaks about?
Sharing in Justice
Today we are in danger of being torn apart as a nation on a problem that springs precisely from that universal “thirst for justice”: the problem of agrarian reform–and the government’s desire to meet it in a truly comprehensive manner.
We fight among ourselves whether the government should issue or not a comprehensive agrarian reform law. We argue among ourselves about whether we should have land reform at all; or if we accept it on principle, how compensation should be made, what the retention limits should be, whether by executive order or congressional legislation.
These are not problems we can easily brush aside.
But would they, we ask, be as insurmountable as they are now if we all decided to approach them from the perspective of our faith?
That faith in its essence is sharing –and should impel us then to sharing. God shared himself with us fully in creation; so we must share his creation with one another. Christ shared himself in becoming man for our redemption; so we must share him with others. The Spirit shares himself in his indwelling in us, so we in turn must share with one another in the spirit of justice and charity.
If we were true Christians, if we shared willingly as Christians, would we need a decree or an executive order from government to do what we should as Christians do as a matter of course–to share: the haves with the have-nots; the landed with the landless; the privileged with the underprivileged?
Option for the Poor and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
This year we celebrate a National Eucharistic Year. The heart of the Eucharist is sharing–Christ sharing himself with us totally.
In this celebration God is asking us to do what we celebrate: to share to the utmost of ourselves with others, especially with those with whom Christ himself identifies: the thirsty, the hungry, the naked, the homeless (Mt. 25:35-46). In the Philippines today, these are the landless, the exploited, the disadvantaged, the powerless. These have the single most urgent claim on the conscience of the nation. To opt for them, to share with them is a requirement of the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, under this perspective of a loving faith that does justice, we, your bishops, have no alternative as far as the question of agrarian reform is concerned:
We believe furthermore that a genuine agrarian reform program must be realistic. No program can be successful if it transcends the capabilities of government to manage and finance.
Pain and the Joy of Sharing: The Paschal Mystery
As Bishops we neither have the competence nor the call from God to design the specific and technical details of socio-economic programs. We can only point out to the proper authorities the principles of justice operative in a given situation. Even this stand of ours will surely create dismay in some quarters who would have us do more than we can.
As in the sharing of Jesus’ life with us on the cross, no sharing with others is painless. Whatever law or decree is passed in regard to the agrarian problem today, we knew it cannot please everybody.
Nonetheless, we urge those in authority to abide by the principles of social justice and preferential option for the poor in designing a truly realistic and comprehensive agrarian reform program.
We plead with all landed people to respond boldly and generously to the call of the gospel –to share not simply of their superfluous goods but out of their very substance (Vatican II, The Church in the Modern World, 69). Even superfluous goods must be measured today not so much in relation to one’s own status or accustomed way of life but in terms of the needs of others.
We highly commend those, who, prompted by the ideals of social justice are determined to share with others voluntarily without waiting for any legislative fiat.
On our part we will not seek exemption to whatever may be legislated towards a comprehensive agrarian reform program.
We urge moreover that beneficiaries of agrarian reform, motivated by the common good and in the interest of law and order, should not unjustly and forcibly pre-empt claims to lands in question prior to approval of the agrarian reform act. The contrary would further compound injustices on all sides and forestall immediate implementation of a truly comprehensive and just agrarian reform program.
Hence we must all work together — in a generous spirit of sharing, with all its pains and joys reflective of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus to come up with an agrarian reform program that will indeed be Christian and Filipino.
To our Blessed Mother, the Mirror of Justice, we commend for her intercession and guidance our country’s total effort towards quenching our thirst for an ever more perfect reign of justice.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)RICARDO CARDINAL VIDAL
July 14, 1987
THE FRUIT OF JUSTICE IS PEACE
A Pastoral Statement
of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
Beloved People of God
We write you once more during this hour of crisis, of transition for our nation, in order to guide and give hope, to strengthen and encourage.
We continue to long anxiously for a just and lasting peace. This hope was at the root of the dramatic change that overtook our country in February 1986. It motivated those who labored to draft a new Constitution, a covenant for peace. It has been the impulse for our political leaders to begin repealing repressive decrees, instituting changes in the government, and working out a ceasefire with rebels so that peace would finally have a chance, and end 17 long years of bloodletting.
But there are those who make it difficult for us to have peace, those who strive to sabotage the efforts towards peace, and wish to destabilize the present government. There are those who continue to believe that only through violence can radical change be possible. These various forces constantly exert such pressure as to make it well nigh impossible for trust to be built and for serene and rational conversation to take place among contending parties.
Rumors of war and coup d’etat, threats of violence and reports of massacres, continuing taxation by rebels and bandits, terrorism, warlordism and extortion make justice and peace-making extremely difficult agenda. The web of graft and corruption that has so long bedeviled our national life has not been swept away. The plight of the poor, of farmers and workers, of the ordinary person has yet to find substantive resolution.
Requirements of Peace
A just and lasting peace, we realize, is not the fruit of four days of people power nor of seventeen years of revolution. It is not the work of one leader no matter how respected, how sincere and peace loving.
Peace is the fruit of justice (cf. Is. 32:17; Jos. 3:18) patiently, consistently, and unceasingly pursued. It is the work of everyone.
The task of forging a just and lasting peace is as delicate as that of nourishing love between persons. It requires the building of trust upon trust, the healing of wounds, the humbling of oneself for the sake of the other, the respect for the other’s dignity, the sacrifice of narrower interests for the broad interests of the common good. For peace is not simply the cessation of conflict and hostilities, though this is necessary.
Peace is from the heart. We cannot build peace by way of force and violence nor by way of manipulation and deception — and injustice.
Peace has to be built on the values of the Kingdom of God, on Gospel values and on the authentically human values of justice and truth, of freedom and love. It is only on such a foundation that we can build genuine and lasting peace. That is likewise the only environment in which peace can flourish.
Therefore in the light of the Gospel values that are so necessary for all who strive for true and lasting peace, we as pastors declare the following shared convictions:
Conclusion: The Eucharist as Peace
As we see the magnitude of the problems before us, we are strengthened and encouraged by our faith in the Lord. “He is our Peace”. (Eph. 2:14)
The “great peacemaking act” of the Lord was his sacrifice on the cross through which we have become his brothers and sisters. Peace is now possible (cf. John Paul II, Homily at Quezon City Memorial Circle, Feb. 19, 1981). We believe that in the Eucharist “we re-present to the Father the sacrifice of His Son and we receive in return the gift of reconciliation and peace–the gift of Jesus Himself. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, communicates Himself and becomes our peace” (Ibid.).
The Lord is bidding us in this National Eucharistic Year to work for justice and peace. He is bidding us to live the peace we have received, to proclaim and communicate it to our nation in travail so that we may, indeed, be One Bread, One Body, One People.
May the Eucharistic Lord quench our thirst for justice and bless our efforts for peace.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(SGD.)RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL
Archbishop of Cebu
January 26, 1987»
STATEMENT OF THE
We are saddened by the bloody incident last Thursday, 22 January 1987. We deplore the use of violence in the confrontation.
We commend those who died to the loving mercy of God our Father. We pray for strength for their bereaved families. For those who are still in hospitals and clinics, we ask the Lord for their speedy recovery.
As the investigation is being conducted by men of integrity and competence, we appeal for sobriety, restraint and patience. We also appeal to everyone to refrain from irresponsible comments and destructive rumormongering. We have hopes that truth will come out and justice will be done to those concerned.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL
January 26, 1987
“ONE BREAD, ONE BODY, ONE PEOPLE”
A Pastoral Letter on the National Eucharistic Year
To God’s Beloved People in the Philippines:
Pax et Bonum!
I. Proclamation of the National Eucharistic Year
II. The Eucharist and Our People’s Hunger
III. Objectives of the Eucharistic Year
IV. “One Bread, One Body, One People”
V. Some Concrete Tasks and Some Celebrations
The Eucharist and Our Country
Fruits of the Year
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL, D.D.
23 November 1986
A COVENANT TOWARDS PEACE
A Pastoral Letter
Beloved People of God:
Our country is undoubtedly at the crossroads of its history. As a people we are searching for peace, and looking for directions to raise up from our situation of instability and poverty.
Not too long ago we asked you to follow and pray for the work of the Constitutional Commission appointed to draft a new Constitution for our country. The new draft Constitution was finished on October 15, 1986. Recent events have since shown how important for the stability of our country’s political situation the ratification of this Constitution is.
We are aware of the imperfections of the draft Constitution. Therefore we realize that some will reject the draft while others will approve it. Many, at this point in time, may not have made yet their decision. Whatever decision is made by an individual, we urge that it be on the basis of an informed and formed conscience. We respect the freedom of the individual conscience.
The formation of conscience will require study and consultation. For this reason it is our moral duty to study well, to discuss, and to pray over the draft Constitution.
As pastors it is our duty to help in the formation of conscience of the Christian people. For this reason, we have studied and discussed the draft Constitution in its historical context and have arrived at a collegial decision.
We have read the draft’s many pro-life, pro-poor, pro Filipino provisions that are consonant with authentic human values. But as pastors, we look beyond these human values and see them in the light of faith. We have come to the conclusion that the provisions of the new draft Constitution are consistent with the teachings of the Gospel.
Therefore, we make known to you what we arrived at collectively as pastors. We opt for the ratification of the 1986 draft Constitution. We express this stand, moreover, to assist you in the formation of your own conscience.
At this historical moment, many forces are striving mightily to destabilize what we have gained dramatically in February 1986. We believe that this new Constitution will provide a firm basis for governance, a clear direction for national renewal and development, and a covenant towards peace.
Cast your vote in the coming February 2 plebiscite so that you will have a hand in building the structure for peace which is the Constitution.
May Jesus, our Eucharistic King, and Mary his Mother, bless us all and continue to assist us in our common effort of forging our covenant towards peace.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL
November 21, 1986
ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF PRAYER AND PENANCE
22 August 1986 to 29 November 1986
A Pastoral Letter Addressed to Priests and
In the National Marian Year of 8 December 1984 to 8 December 1985, we called all our Filipino Catholic people to a year-long effort of Renovation of Life through profound CONVERSION of heart, penitence and amendment; through the OFFERING of the tasks and duties of our daily lives, performed with greater fidelity; through REPARATION, by time spent in eucharistic worship and by deeds of justice, compassion and sharing with those in need.1
We asked all of you to enter this project of personal and collective renewal in union of spirit with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, joining her intercession for our people on a time of trial and crisis.
The message which our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, addressed to our people on 8 December 1985 ended with these words:
The events which took place in the month of February of the present year are now part of our history. And whatever be our own political stances, past and present, we are one, we believe, in the conviction that if Mary’s supplication for us and if prayer and penance played a role in bringing about the dramatic changes that have taken place in our country, they must again play a role in the “new journey” that our people are embarked upon, as our new leadership and government pursues our way towards tomorrow.
In the same 8 December 1985 Papal Message we have already cited, Pope John Paul II says:
It is with these reflections in mind that we bring now before you, our dear Catholic people, a “new crusade” which has been proposed to us by several Marian organizations in our country: ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF PRAYER AND PENANCE FOR RECONCILIATION, UNITY AND PEACE.
We ask all our believing people, all Christians, our Moslem brothers and sisters, all those who believe in the power of prayer before God, to join us (each person and community in the way that shall seem most appropriate), in this “new crusade” of prayer and penance. For our own Catholic people, we urge that their prayer and penance, directed to our Father in Heaven through His Son Jesus Christ, be offered in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that the symbolic image of the crusade by Our Lady of Peace and Safe Journeying –for what we ask is peace and safe journeying for our nation, for the new government, through reconciliation and unity: the reconciliation and unity we all seek, so that we may work together towards rebuilding our new nation in truth and justice, in freedom and love.
The problems that beset our nation at present are known to all; the media, often in a sensationalist way, parade them daily and in detail before us. The economic disaster, the billions of dollars in foreign debt, and the consequent climate of uncertainty that make up the major roadblock to national recovery; the massive issues of poverty and social and economic injustice which have been with us for decades, which have worsened in more recent years, with the growing insurgency as their most visible and most violent manifestation; the uneasy mix of divergent and opposed power groups within our present society–differences reflected within the new coalition government itself; the need of untangling interlocking networks of corruption, cronyism, and warlordism, and the like which prevent the setting in place of an effective machinery of democracy and justice; the impatience of people who want almost immediate miracles of reform and renewal… The new regime, and all of us, face a situation of undeniable difficulty. A long and ardous journey lies ahead to peace, progress and justice for which we have longed and sacrificed.4
But despite all these problems, there remains with our people at this present time, a genuine sense of hope. This is no small thing. The events of February have renewed in us our faith in each other, our faith in our people, and deeper still, our faith in God. Today we possess a confidence that if somehow we can come together truly as one people, setting aside factional differences and finding a common ground in our love of country and our faith in God’s help, we can together build a future in hope, a more prosperous, more humane, more just, more responsible society. Today we have regained the confidence that we can–given time and good will–turn together to the tomorrow we want, and construct it with joined minds and hearts, side by side as one nation under God.
The past few months especially have taught us to take with all seriousness the words we meditated on, from the 2nd Book of Chronicles:
So many of our fellow Filipinos believe that we have seen the fulfillment of that promise God made to this own people–in our regard, in the recent developments in our national life. They have thus been strengthened, and in different ways all of us have been strengthened too, in the conviction that even if a new “miracle” is necessary, we can pray (and work too!) for such a “miracle”, by taking God’s word into our lives, by renewing once again our efforts with God’s prevenient grace, of course–in prayer and penance, in conversion, life-offering and reparation. There are mountains of problems and difficulties our nation and our new government confront, no doubt about it. But there is once again a sense of hope, rooted in faith, that if we listen to God’s promise in all seriousness, and do what the Lord bids us do, then “new miracles” are really possible, through the goodness and mercy of God. Once again we can say: this is no little thing.
It is within the context of all that we have just said that we, the CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES, desire to launch the crusade of “ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF PRAYER AND PENANCE” for reconciliation and peace, for unity in our effort at national reconstruction.
We do not say–far from it–that prayer and penance are by themselves enough to make national reconciliation and reconstruction possible. We do not say–far from it–that well-considered, wisely-chosen, massive efforts in the economic, socio-political and cultural areas are not necessary and urgent; they are! In fact we believe that rarely in our history has the national situation demanded from all of us such a total, all-encompassing, decisive unity of mind, heart and hand,–such a collaboration “with blood, sweat and tears” toward the realization of common goals of our nation. We cannot say this strongly enough or insistently enough.
And yet, as Bishops and pastors of our faithful, it is incumbent on us to remind our people of the faith-dimensions, the spiritual dimensions of the task at hand, to recall to them the words of the Psalmist that we labor in vain to build even the earthly city unless the Lord labor with us.6 It is our part to remember that as we believe the Lord in his providence brought about our passing over to a new moment in our history, so he will bring about too, a lightening of (and hopefully, in time, deliverance from) the burdens of want and poverty, and of so many other burdens which press so heavily on the backs of the majority of our people.
Hence the ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF PRAYER AND PENANCE should serve to keep before our eyes our debt of gratitude to God for the gifts he has already given us, and our duty to learn from those very gifts the lesson that we must now not “grow faint in prayer”7 as we strive for genuine reconciliation, peace and unity. In a special way, these days should keep alive in our hearts our special love and affections toward our Blessed Mother, to whom we turned so fervently during the Marian Year and who, we believe, accompanied us in the days of our struggle and deliverance.
Concrete Programs for “The One Hundred Days of Prayer and Penance”
In this part of the Pastoral Letter, we will try to spell out in some detail what each diocese, each parish, each family can try to do, as a possible program for these “100 days”. These are suggestions merely; we must leave it to you, dear pastors and people, to work out concretely what will seem to you the best ways of practicing deeds of prayer and penance in your own situations.
Our Lady of Antipolo, Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje, has her feast celebrated on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December. She is thus–as Mary of the Immaculate Conception –patroness of our nation and our people. (The Jesuit Fathers who took over the mission of Antipolo in 1591 dedicated it to the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception). Thus we invoke Mary, Patroness of the Philippines, in a special way during this period. And these one hundred days will end just the day before the Novena to the Immaculate Conception begins, just before Advent begins.
Is it not altogether fitting that we pray for RECONCILIATION, PEACE AND UNITY, with Our Lady of Peace; that we pray for a happy and safe journey forward for our nation,with Our Lady of Safe Journeying? For are we not embarked on a new journey forward to our future?
We might recall the words of our national hero, Jose Rizal, addressed to Our Lady of Antipolo, in his Junto al Pasig:
salve, blanca estrella, fiel iris de la paz…
Antipolo, por ti solo, fama y renombre tendra:
De los males, los mortales, tu imagen nos librara.12
We ask our beloved priests and other pastoral collaborators, teachers in our schools, diocesan and parish groups, especially Marian organizations, to take active leadership in this campaign for the “things that are to our peace.13 Let all the People of God show their Christian spirit of responsible citizenship, by fulfilling their tasks, in this difficult period of national reconstruction. Let us all without exception do this with the dedication, the spirit of sacrifice, to which our Faith summons us. Let us thus give witness to the Hope that is in us and the Love which urges us14 to the tasks of both the City of Man and the Kingdom of God.15
As we end this pastoral letter, we recall the words of Pope John Paul II which we cited at its beginning:
May Our Blessed Lady, with her loving Son Jesus, accompany these one hundred days of prayer and penance.
May the God of Peace, Father, Son and Spirit, bless our beloved people and our beloved land with their gifts of unity, of justice and freedom, enduring peace.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
(Sgd.)+RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL, D.D.
Feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration
A SUGGESTED “LITANY” TO BE ADDED AFTER THE ANGELUS PRAYER
(to be translated into different languages and dialects)
That in the midst of conflicts and enmities, we may be granted the grace of reconciliation in truth and justice, Our Lady of Peace and Safe Journeying, Pray for us to God.
That we may have peace throughout our land, in our hearts and in our homes, wherever we live and work together; that unity and solidarity may be both God’s gift to us and our earnest task, Our Lady of Peace and Safe Journeying, Pray for us to God.
That our people and our government may safely make this journey forward to national recovery, reconstruction and the renewal of our society, despite the troubled times and seasons, Our Lady of Peace and Safe Journeying, Pray for us to God.
A MESSAGE FROM HIS EMINENCE JAIME L. CARDINAL SIN
The motto, the leit-motif of our 1985 Marian Year was C-O-R; it was a program of Conversion, Offering of our daily lives, Reparation . Based on the message of Fatima, it stressed three “basics” of the Christian life, which Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on Penance and Reconciliation, a text summing up the teaching of the Synod of Bishops of 1983, also proclaimed.
In all Christian renewal of life, there is a call to CONVERSION, a “turning around” from sin and evil in our lives, towards God and obedience to His will. Without conversion, constantly renewed, we build on shaky foundations.
In all Christian renewal of life, there must be the core-effort of making the tasks and duties of our daily existence the “stuff of our dedication and consecration to God”–hence our lives, our “day to day living and being,” –are offered in mind and heart and deed, OFFERED too in the worship of the Church, in the Eucharist above all.
Finally, in all Christian renewal of life, there must be a “setting aright” of whatever we have turned from the right way –undoing injustice and harm done to others, righting wrongs which have brought evil in our neighbors’ lives, and the like; there is need of REPARATION. We cannot just walk away from harm done to others, from sin’s rebellion against God. Reparation completes Conversion.
The new program we now propose to ourselves must link the objectives of C-O-R to the urgent, pressing task of national reconstruction, of building our country again from the ruins which the overthrown dictatorship has left us, renewing Filipino society itself from the devastation that was our heritage from the two decades of mismanagement and corruption, waste, pillage and injustice. We must continue C-O-R on a personal level, on the level of family, yes, but now we must consciously project it onto the social and even political scenes. Now the “social dimensions” of C-O-R must be especially the object of our care and concern, commitment and collaboration.
Our President, in her address of 30 April 1986, outlined a three-fold set of priority goals for economic and social reconstruction. These objectives were:
1. The alleviation of mass poverty;
2. the generation of jobs and employment;
3. the more just and equitable sharing of the fruits of development.
These, rightly understood, may truly be made equivalent to “social translation” of C-O-R.
1. To turn to the alleviation of mass poverty as a first priority is an effort at social conversion . It means turning away from the pursuit of personal profit as our first concern. Pope John Paul II has repeatedly spoken of the”preferential option for the poor ” as a truly Gospel-based priority, as a Christian option. Making the alleviation of mass poverty our first priority is making, in fact, this “preferential option for the poor.” That is the first step in our national conversion, our conversion as a Christian society.
2. Secondly, when we generate more jobs for the millions of our unemployed or under-employed brothers and sisters, we give them the possibility of fulfilling themselves in productive work, restoring to them their human dignity and sense of personal worth, enabling them to become co-creators of the society and community within which they live their lives. We enable them, through their human work, to offer their daily lives and tasks to God. This becomes the “social translation” of the objective of the offering of our daily lives and duties to the Lord . Thus, more and more of us can become co-creators, with each other and with God, of the human city and human culture which is the task God has given man to do in the world.
3. Lastly, as we work toward a more equitable sharing of the fruits of development we do a work of reparation. We foster the rule of justice, that justice which is the basis of peace. Opus justitiae pax was the motto of Pope Pius XII: the work of justice is peace; peace is the flowering of justice . If we, as a nation, are to move toward progress and prosperity for all Filipinos, the secure foundation for that striving must be social justice. And since there has been and is so much injustice in our society, the task of promoting, struggling for, justice and human rights, takes on the character of an effort of reparation, renewing our society by righting injustice and removing oppression wherever we can. If only we could really work toward the justice in all areas of our society then we could bring about social peace which will, in turn, flower in further progress and a society of true brotherhood, in hope and love.
We can work toward these three objectives drawn from the President’s program for national recovery, from the motivation of the Gospel, and with the energy which Christian love gives us. If we do this, we will have at hand a wonderfully apt way of “REAL-IZING C-O-R” at the present moment of our nation’s history.
May Our Lord and his Sacred Heart, may Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart gain for us both the light and power of grace “to do the works of faith, justice and love” at this crucial hour which we face, as a people and a nation under God. God grant us the power to accomplish this, for “without Him, we can do nothing”. As we believe He worked in us and through us and with us “the miracle at EDSA,” so –with our President –we believe God can work this new “miracle” of deliverance, not only from bondage, but also from want and need.
We join our hearts to “the Alliance of the Two Hearts” of the Son of the Mother (Pope John Paul II). Trusting in their help, we cannot fail. We will not fail.
(Sgd.)+JAIME L. CARDINAL SIN, D.D.
Manila, 6 June 1986
1 Cf. “CBCP Proclaims 1985 a Marian Year,” and ” A Pilgrimage of Hope”, CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on the Celebration of the Marian Year, 8 December 1984 to 8 December 1985, in BIMILLENIUM, p. 5.
2 “Message of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II,” 8 December 1985, BIMILLENIUM, P. 5
Hail, white star of morning, rainbow at day’s end, promising us our peace!
Alone, you will give Antipolo her fame and renown,
And your image there enshrined will grant us deliverance from death and from every harm.
Vid. Monina A. Mercado (editor), ANTIPOLO: A Shrine To Our Lady, 1980,
Craftnotes/Aletheia Foundation, Makati, Metro Manila, 1980, p. 23.
13 Cf. Luke 19, 42.