1993 – Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
On the occasion of the celebration of the INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES proclaimed on December 10 of last year by the United Nations Organization, the church of the Philippines wishes to reiterate its solidarity with the nation ‘s indigenous cultural communities in their struggle to be recognized as distinct peoples – yet as Filipinos. These communities are found in the hinterlands of Mindanao and Luzon (the Cordilleras especially), in the island of Mindoro and parts of the Visayas.
Their cultures antedate the coming to our shores of Islam and Christianity and the establishment of the Philippine State.
In their world view, they look at themselves as one with the land, one with their ancestral domain. This domain includes burial sites, forests, rivers, pasture lands, not only fields and residential sites.
Basic to the notion of ancestral domain is the communal ownership of land, a system of land holding which is based on usufructuary rights. Working on the land not only establishes legal and spiritual relationships with it but also creates obligations which ensure the protection of the land for future generations.
Swidden farming, the common mode of agriculture among them, is often looked at as destructive and wasteful of land resources. But when practiced with all its traditional safeguards, it actually is most conducive to ecological balance and sustainable development.
The Church deplores and condemns the present treatment by government and big business of the indigenous peoples in their disregard of the latter’s rights to their ancestral domain. It borders at times on the dehumanizing.
Thus, the imposition without exception of the system of private ownership of land through the Torrens Title destroys their tradition of – and right to – communal ownership. It is a form of land-grabbing. So are the establishment of mines and geothermal plants, the building of dams, timber concessions, agri-business, in once forested areas. Under the guise of progress and development, their intrusion into the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain forcibly erodes their sacred traditions and cultures.
Their right to autonomy and self-determination within the sovereignty of the Philippine State must be honored. The Church hence deplores the inaction of Congress in passing adequate legislation (like House Bill no. 33881) that respects and protects this right.
The Church assures the indigenous peoples of the Philippines that in its evangelizing work among them it will strive to respect their cultures and traditions, learn from their values in regard to harmony with nature, engaging them in a dialogue of faith as it works together with them for a form and mode of development that will preserve and enhance their human dignity and cultural identity (cf. PCP-II, Acts and Decrees, no. 379).
The Church, finally, urges legislators and development planners, in drawing up policies and programs, to always keep in mind the promotion and protection of the interests of our indigenous people in the area of economic development, cultural preservation, and participation in political decisions.
For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
(Sgd.)+CARMELO D.F. MORELOS, D.D.
Bishop of Butuan
January 25, 1993
Make Yourselves a New Heart and a New Spirit – A Joint Pastoral Letter on Gambling
Beloved People of God in Northern Luzon:
As a result of our pastoral reflection in Laoag City, from December 9 -11, 1993, the exhortation of St. Paul comes to our mind: “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them …” (Eph. 5:11). And so, aware of our sacred duty as your Pastors to teach and instruct on matters of faith and morals, we write you this letter on an issue of grave importance.
The issue is rampant gambling in Northern Luzon, particularly in the form of jueteng.
As we listened to reports from various northern Luzon dioceses we came to realize more than ever before how widespread and insidious rampant gambling is in our northern region.
The Situation of Gambling in the North: A Social Cancer.
It is rampant not only in cities and big towns but also in the barangays and sitios of almost every province. Gambling agents are everywhere, at street corners, in front of school gates, near churches, and in markets. They go from house to house, from office to office.
People from all classes of society, from various professions, and the poorest of the poor contribute some of their income to the gambling till, for a chance at winning. Even school children with their meager daily allowance for the day are not spared from the temptations of gambling. In many places the cycle of gambling is at least 3 times a day, everyday of the year.
Its operations are managed by powerful people whose profits are untaxed. It hires thousands whose earnings are a mere pittance, compared to the gargantuan illegal profits that the operators and maintainers get. It is the way of easy money. Its clientele are thousands upon thousands of citizens, most of them very poor people, who dream of a “pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.”
Unprecedented in its frequency, widespread in its coverage, its profits are also incalculable. Popular estimates of gross income per day per province in our northern region runs into millions of pesos. Billions of pesos are lost every year by our people – and pocketed by gambling operators.
The Evils of Rampant Gambling.
The moral evil of such large-scale, systematic gambling is not simply because it is illegal. It is truly immoral under the circumstances that it operates and in the evil effects that it has spawned.
Today, gambling is, indeed, a social cancer, gradually and surely destroying a great many of our positive social and moral values. It is a social scourge that is debilitating even our moral sense, our ability to distinguish right from wrong. It is deeply infecting us as a people.
Rampant gambling, particularly in its form of jueteng, has become a way of life for many. People no longer care or dare to condemn it because: (a) no effective action against gambling has ever been taken by our political and police authorities, except through some token occasional raids against small-time gambling operators; and (b) very powerful people operate gambling.
Yet, if we still have a modicum of moral sense, we have to be appalled by the callousness of big-time gambling operators, by the blatant openness with which they conduct their illegal operations, and by the shockingly huge amounts of money that are involved.
The truth is: The victims of gambling are the many thousands of credulous and generally poor people who risk their hard earned incomes to face odds that are heavily stacked against them. The situation is even aggravated, according to popular belief, by the manipulation of winning numbers – a likely possibility, given the secrecy with which winning numbers are often determined.
The whole racket constitutes a systematic fleecing of the poor. Whether the victims are willing or not, the end result is the same – objective exploitation of the poor by the powerful. As in our economic system in general, so in jueteng: the rich, powerful and apparently untouchable operators get richer while thousands of poor bettors get poorer. A situation which recalls the social evil condemned by the prophet Amos: “They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth and they force the lowly out of the way” (Am. 2:7).
For such social and moral evil to exist, can graft and corruption be far behind?
The popular belief has never been disproved that protection money is handed down in liberal proportions to police, military, and political officials. It is even said that the control and operation of gambling are in the hands of some politicians. If what many people say are true, and there seems to be no solid reason to disagree, then we have in the North a social plague of unrivalled scale.
The fact that gambling operations employ some thousands of people in the whole North has become an excuse for government officials not to abolish gambling. They stop searching for alternative and productive sources of employment.
Furthermore the popular belief remains that jueteng profits serve as bottomless “election war chests” from which unaccountable amounts of money are freely withdrawn to support political candidacies. Again, whether true or not, such a belief among ordinary people points to the values that have grown out of the vice of gambling.
Through jueteng and other forms of rampant gambling, values are distorted. Hard work, rational reflection and planning that are trademarks of responsible human work are substituted by irresponsible risk-taking. Laziness is promoted while the dream of easy money becomes an obsession. The poor are exploited. Power and money are used to protect – as well as to enforce submission to – the system. The values of the Gospel and of the Kingdom of God are put aside for the sake of profit. So long have we complained about the disappearance of such values as industry, thrift, truth, honesty and integrity, and justice.
Such a terrible situation is hardly to be helped by casinos. In fact, casinos give even more occasions to lose more money. Businesses have collapsed because of casino gambling. Jobs have been lost. Families have been broken. And in some cases, deaths and suicides have resulted.
We must moreover open our eyes to the close connection between the poor values promoted by rampant gambling and the disvalues (or lack of values) in public and private lives, that have wrecked great havoc on our country. A liberal attitude towards rampant gambling is linked to a permissive attitude towards graft and corruption. Because we do not act against one social vice, we tend not to act on other vices as well.
Declarations Related to Gambling.
In the light of such a deplorable social situation we recall the strong words of the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel:
I will judge you… each one according to his ways, says the Lord… Cast away from you all the evils you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit… Return and live! (Ez. 18:30-32).
Therefore, as Bishops of Northern Luzon, we jointly make the following strong declarations:
1. We condemn all rampant gambling, especially in its form of jueteng, as destructive of the moral values of our people.
2. We urgently call upon our government officials to dismantle all gambling operations, including casinos.
3. We call for the immediate prosecution of all persons who operate illegal gambling, especially those that are known as big-time gambling operators.
4. We urge government officials to create and promote alternative sources of gainful employment for people displaced by dismantled gambling operations.
5. We call upon educational institutions, churches, and social agencies to institute moral renewal programs to repair the great damage done by rampant gambling on our moral values .
In days of old, the prophets of God in Sacred Scriptures regularly called the people and their leaders to turn away from their evil paths and unto the way of God. Today, we call the people of God to a way of renewal and conversion, of holiness and righteousness. “Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph. 5:9).
May everyone hear and heed this call to renewal. “Let us not grow tired of doing good…” (Gal. 7:9). We call upon you, beloved sisters and brothers, to reflect, pray, and act together in solidarity to dismantle structures of death and build up structures of life.
May the strength, the power and love of the Lord be with us in this sacred crusade toward His kingdom of truth and justice, of peace and love.
(Sgd.)+EDMUNDO M. ABAYA, D.D.
Bishop of Laoag
(Sgd)+SALVADOR L. LAZO, D.D.
Bishop of San Fernando, L.U.
(Sgd.)+SOFIO G. BALCE, D.D.
Bishop of Cabanatuan
(Sgd.)+MIGUEL G. PURUGGANAN, D.D.
Bishop of Ilagan
(Sgd.)+JESUS E. CABRERA, D.D.
Bishop of Alaminos
(Sgd.)+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, OMI, D.D.
Archbishop of Nueva Segovia
(Sgd.)+CARLITO J. CENZON, CICM, D.D.
Apostolic Vicariate of Tabuk
(Sgd.)+CESAR C. RAVAL, SVD, D.D.
Former Bishop of Bangued
(Sgd.)+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
(Sgd.) JAMES RISSE, SVD
Apostolic Administrator of Bangued
(Sgd.)+LEO M. DRONA, D.D.
Bishop of San Jose, N.E.
(Sgd.)+ERNESTO B. SALGADO, D.D.
Apostolic Vicar of Baguio
(Sgd.)+JESUS C. GALANG, D.D.
Bishop of Urdaneta
(Sgd.)+DIOSDADO A. TALAMAYAN, D.D.
Archbishop of Tuguegarao
(Sgd.)+BRIGIDO A. GALASGAS, D.D.
Apostolic Vicar of Bontoc-Lagawe
(Sgd.)+RAMON B. VILLENA, D.D.
Bishop of Bayombong
Betania Retreat House
January 24, 1993»
Save the Family and Live
A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference
To our dear Catholic Families:
The United Nations has declared 1994 as the International Year of the Family. We welcome the event. It provides us with an occasion to focus on the Family, to heighten our awareness of its importance for society and the Church, and to clarify the identity of marriage and the family.
In concept, we may have no hesitation about identifying marriage or the family. It is a stable union between man and woman in view of children. But current practices, particularly among the young, have challenged one or another of those elements. And the United Nations has declared its openness to give recognition to a diversity of forms of “family”.
We can thank God that our people as a whole can still discern the TRUTH about family from deviations. But a growing minority is already challenging this truth by the lifestyles they flaunt.
Let us join the Holy Father in welcoming the year with high hopes. This year will be a year of grace for our families: one year in an ongoing process of renewal for our families. And we start by listening first to what GOD’S REVELATION tells us about the family, and then what NATURE says.
What revelation says
Human love is caught by divine love. That earthly reality of the mutual love between spouses is turned into a sacrament. So that spousal love is now moved by God’s Covenant with His people, of Christ with His Church. In the family there is created a true church in microcosm. Theologically, it is the family that is the basic ecclesial community. It is the Sacrament of the Covenant that has made of the family a true Church. The children are holy because they are children of the covenant. This is the first church for every christian.
It is here where the first steps in faith-life are taken, where all journey together in their pilgrimage. Is it by chance that significant religious affairs touching individuals–such as Baptism, First Communion and Weddings are also celebrated as family events? or that major statues of Saints or of Our Lady and Our Lord, used in parish processions are owned by private families? or that some holy image in a home can create a center of devotion? And this is what revelation says of the christian family: it is the first church of every christian, where he/she should experience what it is to be church.
What nature says
Nature tells us that it must exercise some control over creatures if they are to survive and to propagate. And the lower the level of the creature, the more absolute nature’s control. The young fish, soon after their birth, are left on their own, completely guided by instinct for their survival and nurturance. On a higher scale, young birds must be cared for and protected by their parents until they can fend for themselves. But even with birds, instinct still regulates.
Among humans, instinct merely initiates the relations between offspring and parents. Thereafter, there develops a freedom of choice in the action and reaction between offspring and parents. There are sites that nature has chosen for the different events in the nurturance and maturation of new human life–from womb to breast to family to society. We do not yet fully know the ultimate penalty for disturbing this process. It has been said that God forgives, but Nature never! But the most crucial in the development of a person is the development of his/her affectivity. The behavioral sciences tell us this. One of the primary educative tasks of parents is the development of the affectivity in the child.
It is in the context of their affective formation that we, your Pastors, are to reflect on family-related disorders in our society. Child abuse or spouse abuse–would they not have been facilitated by a training in competitiveness, conquest, aggressiveness, toughness but also dependency? Those wanting in compassion: have they ever been tender or caring in their growing years? Formation in the earlier years can be crucial because once an adult, one can put on the face of compassion while harbouring aggression in the heart. As a rule, in the education of the affective, the family can not be substituted for. But for the proper education of the child in affectivity, he/she will need to see adults who are caring and tender, while yet firm and uncompromising in the values they hold. And where might he/she find such adults if not in the family that nature had given him/her? This is what nature says of his/her family.
As the little church is, so is the larger
It is then in the church of the home where young christians are formed to take their place later as adult christians in the larger church. To take their part in the rites of worship for which they were prepared by the life of worship in the home; to share in the social concerns of the larger church, for which they were prepared by the active concerns of the church in the home; to be involved in works of charity as was the lifestyle in the church of the home.
Furthermore, what the model of the Church of the home is, will have its influence in shaping the larger Church. Was the church of the home an institution? or largely a prophet? or a community where life and love held the primacy? This will tell on the contribution he/she will make towards the shape that e.g. the parish will eventually take. The key to renewal in the Church is the renewal that takes place in the church of the home.
There are two realities upon which the family is based: Love and Life. These two are intimately linked because lovemaking must always be open to the transmission of life. The most persistent attacks of evil today are on these two, because it is there where the image of God is to be found.
A subtle attack on human life is the erosion of esteem for it under the guise of good. Thus to limit your children to two–for what end? To increase the quality of life. It is intriguing how much acceptance that has found. For today that standard of only two children per family has been accepted worldwide, irrespective of conditions of life, in poverty-stricken as well as affluent societies. What is replacing esteem for young human life is the appeal of the good life.
As against this calculation in how much love to expend, we must praise and give public recognition to parents even among the poor who manage to raise a large family responsibly. And we are heartened to see this good news proclaimed by not a few. The mothers are no less fulfilled as mothers.
This is not necessarily to deny material assistance to the poor. But their stance is that of a beggar before Divine Providence. This is the stance of the church of the poor. And here we are affirmed by the witness of many couples. While thinking themselves poor, they actually possess the greatest gift one can have: to be able to love unselfishly.
Another indication that our people love children for their own sake is the readiness of couples to adopt the homeless or abandoned. Yes, even those with straitened incomes. And this despite the children they already have of their own.
We do not subscribe to the view that couples raise many children to serve as income supplementors. And that once their economic situation improves, these couples will automatically opt for smaller families. Watching children about their chore in a playful mood, e.g. fetching water for the family, we can say that they do not feel they are merely being used by their parents. And fathers give testimonial to their love for children by the attention they themselves give to the children when in public with their wives, and in the care of family resources needed for the proper upbringing of children.
We invite you first to reflect on conjugal love. The mutual love of husband and wife is both an institution and a mandate from the Creator for the increase of His family on earth. Marital love is sacred in its origin and destination.
Then reflect too on the quality of love that a woman gives to family. The womb qualifies a woman’s quality to love. Although many women work merely to supplement family income, in urban areas at least, there is a trend for work–or career–to exert such an appeal as to begin to alienate women from their womb. We belive that many of our women are still oriented towards motherhood. But there is a drive–a sterilization drive–that will eventually wear away the esteem and appeal of maternity. This drive is being pushed even in the rural areas. How will this affect the quality of love of the women of our future families?
A renewed church
PCP II invites us to renewal in our Church. It is calling us to join in that springtime in the universal Church that the 3rd Millennium will usher. This is the intuition and prayer of the Holy Father. Joyfully, we make that our own.
On what will the hope for renewal rest? On the growing awareness by the family of its nature: by God’s design to be the Church in microcosm, that like the Church, itself Evangelizer. And so, the Holy Father points, evangelizing the family is at the heart of evangelization. “Evangelization, in fact, necessarily passes through the family.” The family itself proclaims the gospel. And what in the gospel does it specifically proclaim? It proclaims the very core of the entire gospel: that GOD IS LOVE.
We can more readily accept his prediction that “as we look on the now imminent 3rd Millennium, the evangelization of families in the Dioceses will intensify”. This is what we now see happening.
Now God will no longer be thought of as only found in “sacred places, such as the chapels and churches. He will now also be found closer to all persons meaningfully in the churches of the homes, in the families, and in the daily realities of their lives. And wherever, too, they extend themselves–their workplaces, markets etc. There will no longer be purely secular realities. All earthly realities will have a religious meaning, and offer opportunities for experiencing of the sovereignty of God’s love.
To find God in all things–His presence and His workings. To experience His covenant with His people in the day-to-day life. That is the gospel which the Church of the home is called upon to proclaim. It is the entirety of the Church in the entirety of Life that is being opened to the invasion of the Holy Spirit. Yes, let us proclaim the family this coming year, and thereafter!
A cause for alarm
We wish to register our strong and unqualified objection to actions of the government and its instrumentalities which (despite any contrary intentions) work towards the destruction of the Filipino family.
The blatant promotion of direct contraception and direct sterilization which separate the two aspects of the conjugal act–the expression of love and openness to the transmission of life–is contrary to the will of God. Already the evils spawned by these practices have been abundantly demonstrated by the experience of many nations where contraception has met with common acceptance. The acceptance of abortion, the breakdown of families, the encouragement of pre-marital sex, the increased incidence of sexually transmitted diseases are only some of the evil consequences.
We especially object to the promotion of contraception as an abrasive act of insensitivity to the sentiments of the majority Church whose ethical principles prohibit such practices. This manifestation of insensitivity comes at a time when the President of the Republic is asking us to unite and work together for our countrymen’s welfare.
This insensitivity is compounded with injustice when the promotion of contraception is accompanied by undue pressure on health care workers to do acts which their conscience tells them are wrong.
We ask our people–pastors, religious and lay people alike — to stand up in a united way for the teachings of the Church on contraception, sterilization and abortion, and to refuse to promote contraception and sterilization and abortion should they be ordered to do so by their superiors. There are times when we must bear witness to Christ and dare to say, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). The government itself has said that it will not order health workers to perform acts violative of their consciences and that those who refuse to perform such actions will not in any way be punished. We ask Catholic health workers to report to us, the bishops, violations of this standing government policy.
Structuring the apostolate
“Evangelizing the family is what we have at heart”, confesses the Holy Father. And he insists on the central position that should be given the family apostolate in planning the activities of Dioceses and Episcopal Conferences. And he adds, “No plan for organized pastoral work, at any level, must ever fail to take into consideration the pastoral care of the family”. And again, “the family should therefore, be at the center of the concerns of every diocesan community, of every parish and apostolate organization”.
But importantly there must be the integration of all family-related activities into the one vision and orientation of the Diocese. “In the Dioceses then, it would be important to establish some efficient coordinating agencies.. under the active and supportive intervention of the Bishops..”.
We applaud the many associations that are promoting family and child welfare.
The international year of the family
“The primary task then is to form the family so as to enable it to be .. evangelizer”, aspires the Holy Father. For our families to grow into the churches that God wants them to be. To awaken them to the gifts they have been endowed with–of prophet: to proclaim the gospel of love–of servant: to witness to service of neighbor–of priest: to sanctify their world through the sacrament of their covenant–to establish the sovereignty of love over all that they touch. This year will be a year of grace for God’s people in the Philippines. And this hope will rest on you, our families.
Let us on this occasion, entrust our inspirations and activities to the Holy Family for their blessing and guidance.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+CARMELO D.F. MORELOS, D.D.
July 13, 1993
Peace in Our Times
A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’
Beloved People of God:
When set in the context of our current situation, the above words written 30 years ago at Easter, 1963, by Pope John XXIII are words that both convict and inpire. They convict because the very absence of peace in our day implies the lack, too, of the values that make for peace: order, truth, justice, love and freedom. But those same words stir our hope. We need not look far and wide for the road to peace. The directions are there–in the very practice of those same components of peace. How easily said, how terribly difficult to do, and live!
Yet constantly, unceasingly, mightily must we “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps 34:24; 1 Pt. 3:11; cf. our pastoral letter of January 31, 1990). Peace is the cry and anguish of our people. It is also the prayer-greeting of the Risen Lord: “Peace be with you” (Lk. 24:36).
Although we have written you many times in the past about peace (e.g. pastoral statements of November 21, 1986; January 26, 1987; pastoral letter of January 31, 1990), still we must continue exhorting you, beloved People of God, that we might work together towards peace in our times. Together then, let us reflect, pray, and act on “the things that make for peace” (Lk. 19:42).
Order. It was the great St. Augustine who first defined peace as the “tranquility of order” (De Civitate Dei , XIX, 13). How true this is! There can be no tranquility when there is disquiet, unrest, confusion, disharmony. And there can be no order unless there is authority, law, obedience to it, discipline.
And yet we read everyday in our newspapers reports that seem to describe, not order, but anarchy: kidnappings, massacres, the involvement of “peace officers” in serious, even violent crimes. Our people cry out, “If such is the case, who can keep the peace? Who can enforce law and order?”
Again and again, we must say that keeping the law and observing order are the responsibility of each and everyone of us. We are not dispensed from this obligation, simply because there are police and military officers whose professional work is precisely to defend and promote law and order. Still it is this very responsibility that makes it doubly damnable when the violators are themselves officers of law and order. To them we proclaim the words of the Lord: “Repent and believe in the Gospel!” (Mk. 1:15).
Truth . The order on which peace is to be founded cannot itself be founded on a lie, on untruth. Order must be built on truth. “Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace…” Zech. 8:16). Otherwise order will collapse, it will disintegrate. And a most fundamental truth is about the human person: human dignity, human worth, the human imaging of God who is Truth.
Yet we look around us, we are barraged by various offenses against human dignity and worth, such as the glorification of sex and violence in cinema and television. Woman is degraded. Human life is bereft of immortal value. The truth about the human person is under siege. We exhort you, our brothers and sisters in the Lord, to join hands in a concerted and systematic campaign to cleanse our media of such untruth.
Justice . If to respect the truth of the human person is to honor and esteem God’s gift of dignity and worth, it follows that we must give what is due to another. This is justice in its most fundamental sense. There are duties to oneself, to other persons, to the community, to the nation, to God.
Yet we are appalled by the many injustices that are being committed, even more by the apparent lack of conscience with which they are perpetrated. Services, development, rights that are due to the people are not given. The wheels of justice turn agonizingly slowly, especially for the poor, and often not at all. Reports tell us scams in government projects, “hoodlums in robes,” ill-gotten wealth, the looting and plunder of public coffers past and present, billions of taxes not being paid. Such reports describe a people reeling under the weight of injustice.
It is along the lines of justice that we have to reflect on loving forgiveness and reconciliation. Authentic love requires the exercise of justice. When thus a person repents–has a change of heart–and resolves to restore/restitute what has been taken unduly from another, or from the community or nation, forgiveness and reconciliation follows. Without justice love and reconciliation would simply be hollow.
Charity . Charity is love. There is first of all the love we must have of God. And God himself said that love for him is shown in obeying his law (cf. 1 Jn. 5:3), in keeping his word. But his word is also concernd about loving others as oneself, for if one hates his brother how can one say he loves God? (cf. 1 Jn. 4:11, 20). Love demands the kind of concern that will drive one to sacrifice self for the good of others. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).
But, alas, what do we see around us? A driving ambition for wealth and power at the expense of the law of God, the self-aggrandizement of the few at the expense of the many, exploitation of laborers, of farmers and tribal communities, the lack of concern for the “little people” who are already without voice and power, vendettas, kidnappings, massacres, crimes against persons and property. The law, the love of God and neighbor are thrown by the wayside in favor of power, possession and pleasure.
A return to God and one’s neighbor is, therefore, absolutely necessary for peace to be restored. “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (Ps. 119: 165). Every measure taken in the achieving of peace will always fall short without the fundamental ingredient of love.
Freedom . Peace cannot last when it has to be forever imposed and sustained by sheer force. This is one of the dramatic and tragic lessons of the breakdown of peace in many parts of the world today. We must, therefore, establish an order in which we freely choose the way of peace, freely do what needs doing for its attainment.
Military operations and armed insurgencies cannot establish such an order. This is why we are led to reflect at this moment on the ongoing efforts for peace in our land.
Today’s Peace Efforts. In the first three months of this year, a national consultation was conducted by the National Unification Commission. The haves and the have-nots , professionals and the basic sectors, people of various ideologies ranging from the extreme left to the extreme right all had their say. Unprecedented in its coverage the consultations resulted in the drawing up of a truly people’s agenda for peace. And their voices resounded as one, naming the root causes of unpeace such as povery and economic oppression, unequal power and its abuse–all traceable to a fundamental lack of truth and justice, the lack of freedom and charity.
One and all they expressed a strong desire and will for peace. We supprt and shall foster such desire and will. We welcome new initiatives and developments at peace-making resulting from the popular consultation. We pray that the holding of talks between dissident groups and the government be pursued to a just and peaceful conclusion.
We shall, by the means available to us, help sustain a climate of dialogue. We would only ask that solutions agreed on be not purely political quid pro quo compromises but always geared to the real good of the people–what makes for their peace, their development, the improvement of their living conditions. Let the people be the “third party” to the talks, whether they are bodily present or not. They must not be left out.
Social Pacts . From the experience of the recent past we have learned how futile it is to create peace without people’s participation. This is why Pope John Paul II, referring specifically to the Philippines (cf. Letter of Pope John Paul II on the eve of his birthday, 1991, to the Philippines Ambassador to the Holy See), suggested “a new forum of solidarity”:
The actual social pact arrived at in recent months has specified the Pope’s suggestion regarding “other forces of society”: Not just government and business and the more affluent private sectors are to be brought into the pact but the basic sectors themselves as well, labor, urban poor, peasants, fisherfolk, tribal communities, such of our people as suffer from inequities of our social order.
The pact looks ultimately to the re-structuring of our political-economic system, more immediately to the redressing of wrongs and the honoring of rights. All this by actual doing, by concerted action.
We encourage and will help promote the forging of similar pacts at all levels of society: not only at the national, but also at the regional, the provincial, the municipal, all the way down to the barangay.
A new forum of solidarity, people coming together to bring about a new social order–it is from such a process that peace will flourish forth. This is why Pope John Paul II is supremely confident that peace is the fruit of solidarity (cf. SRS, 39).
Christ our Peace . No human effort, no matter how brave, sincere and well thought of, can alone achieve the peace we desire. The making of peace is a journey that must be made with Christ. “Christ is our peace… that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of two, thus making peace” (Eph. 2:14-15). This is the reason that peace making initiatives cannot do without prayer to the Lord, who himself builds the house of peace. We, therefore, commend and continue to encourage the many groups of the faithful who have organized themselves to pray for peace. We ask that at the parish level such groups be also organized.
But even more, we remind the whole Church to be closely united to Christ–”you will have peace by being united to me” (Jn. 16:33). Separated from him, our efforts will be puny and futile.
United with one another, united with Christ. Such is true people power, inspired and infused by faith. Once in our recent history seven years ago at EDSA, in a manner that astounded the world, we demonstrated what people in solidarity can do.
Today it is a challenge that is thrown at us once again: by our faith to our faith. May we all rise to this challenge and be equal to it.
May God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, give us grace, mercy, and peace; may they be ours in truth and love (2 Jn. 1:3).
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+CARMELO D.F. MORELOS, D.D.
12 July 1993
Pastoral Statement of the CBCP
Dearly beloved countrymen:
Peace be with you all!
We are fully aware that as we wish you peace, there is no peace in our land. That is why we pray for this peace upon you and upon us all.
Even as we write to you, the armed conflict between the government and insurgent groups continues. Political factions and feuding families engage in their own wars of attrition. Added to this are the almost daily reports of kidnappings for ransom, and crimes of unimaginable cruelty. The words of the prophet Jeremiah ring true today: “We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead” (Jer. 14:19).
But some bright rays of hope have shone on the horizon. The National Unification Commission established by the President of the Republic has succeeded in making contacts of varying degrees with different rebel groups.
We express our whole-hearted support for the work and impartiality of this commission.
We now feel there is real hope for the cessation of hostilities at least in some fronts.
We must nurture this hope. We must decide for peace, work for peace together as Filipinos.
In a way we have no other choice but this if we want to survive as a nation and progress as a people. Either peace, or we perish.
For without peace we cannot remain as one. Without peace we will continue to be left behind by our neighbors who are making giant strides on the way to economic progress. Peace is the most important element of the common good, which is the good of each one and of all.
Because of this, peace must also be the work of all. No one is exempted from making peace. Each one and all together must be peace-makers.
The peace we must work for is not only the cessation of armed conflict. The parties in the peace discussions being conducted by the National Unification Commission are convinced that even if the present protagonists were to stop fighting today, other armed conflicts would arise unless the more fundamental issues of poverty and injustice, the inequitable distribution of wealth, and the abuse of power, are addressed radically. Pope John Paul II is certainly correct when he tells us, “If you want peace, reach out to the poor” (Message on the World Day of Prayer for Peace, January 1, 1993).
Only all of us together can address these issues and the armed conflicts they spawn. Peace cannot be the work only of the conflicting parties but must be the work of all of us. In the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines we on our part directed the concrete implementation of the 10-point Agenda for Peace elaborated in our Pastoral Letter, “Seek Peace, Pursue It” (January, 1990).
But now we ask you:
But most important, let us all pray for peace, singly in our hearts, and together in our homes, churches and public assemblies. Peace is God’s gift to us even before it is our task. He wants to give it to us. We open our hearts to this gift of peace in prayer. Let us all pray for peace. A people at prayer will be a people at peace.
We must add to prayer acts of penance for peace especially during this coming Lenten season.
This prayer and acts of penance will be both a sign and an incentive of that fundamental turning to God without which there can be no peace. All human conflicts begin with the turning away from God in the hearts of persons. Peace begins with turning to God in those same hearts. Hence, our Lord Jesus summons us, “The time has come and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News!” (Mk. 1:15) Repent: “Magbalik-loob kayo sa Diyos at gawin ninyo and kalooban ng Diyos!” For in God’s will is our peace.
We have the Lord’s assurance: “… then if my people who bear my name humbled themselves, and pray and seek my presence and turn from their wicked ways, I myself will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, “give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, and… guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk. 1:79). May Mary, His Mother, Queen of Peace, obtain this most precious grace for us.
For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
(Sgd.)+CARMELO D.F. MORELOS, D.D.
PASTORAL STATEMENT OF THE CBCP ON KIDNAPPING
The kidnapping of innocent persons is one of the most disturbing facts of the present times, and one that has done incalculable harm not only to individuals but to the whole country. Hardly a day passes by without news of some kidnapping. Victims vary — children, adults, Chinese, Filipinos, Americans, and now Spanish nationals, married people, religious priests, sisters or a brother. Places vary: urban and rural areas, crowded streets and beaches. The only unvarying element is the demand for ransom money in exchange for the safe return of the victims.
Sometimes kidnappings happen in broad daylight, in crowded places, in open defiance of the law enforcers who more often than not are exposed as incapable of retrieving safely the victims. Worse even, many people have lost their trust in the law enforcers who have been entrusted with the duty to protect them but who are suspected to be in connivance with the kidnappers.
We condemn unreservedly these kidnappings even as we sympathize with the victims and their families and beg the Lord to touch the hearts of the kidnappers.
We appeal to the kidnappers: “Release your victims. Mend your ways. Kidnapping is a despicable crime, a violation of the human dignity of the victims, a traffic in human beings, robbery of the first magnitude. It causes untold anguish to the victims and their families. It sabotages our economy and destabilizes society. You will pay dearly for this crime. You may evade the police but not the justice of God. ‘Vengeance is mine’ (Rom. 12:19), says the Lord. It will be terrible for you to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).”
We appeal to our government authorities to do all in their power to render our society safe from kidnappers and other disturbers of the peace. We ask for more effective enforcement of the law and a speedy execution of justice, especially in kidnapping cases. We ask for the full protection of witnesses so that they may not fear to come forward. We also ask that all efforts be made to restore the confidence of the people in the integrity and capability of our law enforcers. To this end we ask that resolute action be done to weed out and prosecute those suspected of masterminding or protecting kidnappers.
We appeal to our law enforcers in the PNP and in the military: “Cleanse your ranks of kidnappers accomplices or masterminds and improve your own competence in dealing with kidnappers. No one can restore the confidence of the people in you if you do not do so yourselves.”
We appeal to the different insurgent groups to exert their influence on members of their groups or of other armed groups in order to stop kidnappings and to obtain the release of kidnap victims. Such action will certainly contribute to the atmosphere of trust necessary for peace-building.
And we appeal to you, our fellow citizens. Immediately report any kidnappings you may know of and any details which can lead to the speedy arrest and conviction of kidnappers. By common action with others, express your indignation against all kidnappings. And pray that our society will be cleansed of this scourge. Kidnappers are the instruments of evil powers greater than themselves which can be overcome only by prayer and penance.
While we sympathize with the victims of kidnappers and with their families, we wish to point out that the payment of ransom encourages further kidnappings.
Let us implore our Almighty Father who loves us to save from harm all His children and to mete out justice to all kidnappers.
May Mary Help of Christians obtain from her Son, Jesus Christ our Savior, solace and hope for the families of kidnapping victims and the grace of security and peace for all of us.
For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
(Sgd.)+CARMELO D.F. MORELOS, D.D.
January 25, 1993
In the Compassion of Jesus
A Pastoral Letter on AIDS
Our dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The words of St. Paul strongly remind us that we are responsible for one another. They reverberate in the declaration of Vatican II: “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the peoples of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (On the Church in the Modern World, no. 1). More recently the words are echoed by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in its clarion call for solidarity (PCP-II Acts and Decrees, e.g. no. 295).
Today, the call for mutual caring and solidarity is more urgent than ever as we Filipinos face a threat of potentially more catastrophic proportions than volcanic eruptions, floods, and conflicts. The name of this threat — the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — or HIV-AIDS for short.
The AIDS Situation: A Pandemic
First identified in 1981, the dread disease has swiftly spread in the space of less than ten years to every continent of the world. It is truly a pandemic, ravaging millions of lives, the lives of those infected, of their families and other loved ones as well. It cuts across all geographical and cultural boundaries, all classes and ages, although the young generations are particularly hit.
While statistics from 1984 to October, 1992 tell us that in the Philippines only 356 had been diagnosed as HIV infected, including 84 AIDS cases, health officials believe that the actual number is hidden behind fear of exposure and ostracism, stigma and shame.
AIDS is transmissible by exposure to HIV-infected blood through transfusions, administration of blood products, organ transplants from infected donors, use of unsterilized, HIV-contaminated needles and other equipment by drug users and in health care facilities. It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn child.
But the most common means of transmission is through promiscuous sexual behavior.
To date, no known vaccine or cure is available to combat the disease. Those who are infected with HIV will remain infected for life. Although they may live for many years without symptoms, they will eventually develop serious illnesses which will lead to death. The grim image of the Apocalypse comes almost inexorably to mind: “I looked, and there was a pale greeen horse. Its rider was named Death” (Rev. 6:8).
Moral Reflection and Response
It is clear that the situation demands the pastoral care of the Church. For the Church must continue the mission of Jesus. In announcing the Good News of salvation, in healing the sick, in forgiving sinners, in being compassionate with the multitudes, Jesus showed what the Church must do. God’s people must be at the side of those who suffer. Especially for the needy and the suffering of today, the Church must be the Compassion of Jesus.
Our ministry of compassion for the afflicted must overcome fears and prejudices. Jesus has shown us the way, through the manner in which he dealt with lepers, the ostracized and “untouchables” of his time. “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean” (Mk. 1:41).
For us, an encounter with people infected with HIV-AIDS should be a moment of grace–an opportunity for us to be Christ’s compassionate presence to them as well as to experience His presence in them.
We invite all persons of good will to be in solidarity with HIV-AIDS patients. They are our sisters and brothers. We see in their faces the suffering image of Jesus himself: What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me (cf. Mt. 25:40).
As we minister to the afflicted, we proclaim to all the infinite compassion of God and the redeeming passion and death of Christ, the Savior of all.
May our Blessed Virgin Mary whom we invoke as Mother, “Health of the sick” and “Comfort of the afflicted” accompany us through this passion of modern times.
For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine
(Sgd.)+CARMELO D.F. MORELOS, D.D.