AN URGENT APPEAL FOR PEACE IN MINDANAO
TO THE MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT,
“Peace be with you!” This was the greeting of the Risen Christ to his community of disciples. It announced the breaking down of barriers between God and humanity, among all peoples, because of his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Peace is at the very heart of the Christian message.
“Assalamu alaikum!” This is the greeting of the people of the Qur’an. It is a greeting that connotes harmony, tranquility, and the absence of barriers of the heart between peoples.
Today the war in Mindanao has made the two greetings hollow.
1. The Gospel Basis of Our Appeal for Peace.
As religious leaders, we the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines appeal to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table.
We are clearly aware that our words for peace run against the prevailing opinion, including that of our own flock. We might even be misinterpreted as against the government.
But we must be faithful to the Gospel that we teach. Our stand is not political but evangelical, based as it is on the gospel teachings of Our Lord Jesus and the social teachings of the Church. For we follow the words of Jesus to us: “Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be called children of God!” (Mt. 5:9).
We also follow the words of Pope John Paul II, who calls the Church “to be deeply involved in international and interreligious efforts to bring about peace, justice and reconciliation.” The Church must “insist on the negotiated and non-military resolution of conflicts,” because “dialogue is the only just and noble path to agreement and reconciliation” (See Ecclesia in Asia, 1999, no. 38).
We as Pastors daily celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist where we relive the saving act of Jesus, an act of Peace, Love and Reconciliation. Hence, the Eucharist impulses to speak of the peace of the Lord, the peace of the Gospel of Jesus, the peace of the Kingdom of God. On this we stand. Especially is this so in the context of the great physical and spiritual tragedies of the war in Mindanao.
2. Our Concern for Unity.
We desire deeply to preserve the unity of the Filipino people. We are against any dismemberment of the nation by any group and by any force. But we believe that the war in Mindanao is intensifying and hardening the divisions between Christians and Muslims, creating anger and bitter resentment, and educating children in the destructive ways of war. From a political as well as from our own pastoral view, the task of building national unity out of bitterly divided and resentful hearts is well nigh impossible. But our hope in God’s grace of unity is unflagging.
3. Our Concern for Evacuees.
The war has mercilessly displaced more than two hundred thousand people. And the number grows as the war rages on. Living in great misery in many evacuation centers with inadequate basic facilities, the poor evacuees lack food, medicines, clothing, and shelter. Many of the children have died. But the evacuees refuse to return home. The limited resources of our government, of NGOs, and of the churches, cannot adequately cope with the needs of evacuees, amounting to millions of pesos daily. The psychological ravages of war are incalculable. Destruction of property and loss of lives continue. Only the end of hostilities would ensure the safe return and rehabilitation of evacuees.
We thank the hundred of kind donors who continue to assist the evacuees.
4. The Call for an Immediate Cessation of Hostilities
We, therefore, appeal to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and to our government to end all armed hostilities immediately and return to the negotiating table. Both must begin trusting each other and seek a political solution to the problem.
We unequivocally condemn all terroristic activities and violations of human rights and these have to be investigated.
To begin rebuilding the trust that has been destroyed, both groups have to cooperate in ensuring the safe and speedy return of all evacuees to their places, their secure rehabilitation, and the safety of all highways and roads.
Both groups have to begin implementing what is immediately doable in the substantive agreements already made at the level of technical panels and fast-track the rehabilitation and development of all areas affected by the war, especially of the most depressed areas of ARMM.
Trust, respect for cultural and religious differences, and understanding are the building blocks of a just and lasting peace.
To achieve this goal, we appeal to every Filipino, Muslim, Christian, Lumad to offer prayers and sacrifices. For God is the Giver of Peace.
5. Our Own Pledge of Action.
We observe the trauma, the bitterness, prejudices and biases, resentment and even hatred that are building up among our people because of the war. We, therefore, pledge that the pastoral programs of the Church shall assist in healing the psychological wounds and hurts of people, in reconciling conflicting groups, and in building a culture of peace in our country, especially in Mindanao.
Trusting completely in the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom both Christians and Muslims honor, we humbly call on her to guide us toward peace.
Only through establishing peace by way of peace could the massive human tragedy, created by war, be resolved and the greetings of “Peace be with you,” “ Assalamu alaikum” become once more pleasing to our common God of Peace.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
WATER IS LIFE
Twelve years ago, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, issued a Pastoral Letter on the Environment entitled “What Is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?” That Pastoral Letter described the devastation that had been inflicted on the environment, reflected, in the light of the Gospel, on what was happening to the environment, challenged us to develop a deeper appreciation for the fragility of the life systems in our islands and to defend the Earth, pointing to signs of hope, suggesting what we all could do to improve the situation.
We focused then on what should be the Christian attitude towards nature and responsibility to care for our physical environment. That responsibility, we said, stems from this simple fact: we treasure God’s gift of life to us and all that he created to make life possible and human.
In this year of Jubilee, with its spirit of renewal, reconciliation and re-conversion, it is good that we recall once again our obligation to care for God’s creation in the face of its continuing degradation in this, our part of the world.
In this letter, we would like to focus on one critical environmental problem: water and the protection of our watersheds and aquifers. For water means life and life is God’s greatest physical gift to us.
That the country is facing water insecurity may come as a surprise. We have an average of twenty typhoons a year and yet despite the torrential rains and the all too frequent flooding, we do not have a sustainable supply of water. Water insecurity is one of the most serious environmental problems facing the country today and it is not the kind of problem that can be solved overnight.
Until quite recently water was not seen as a matter of concern. In parts of the country, even today, households and businesses have open access to this resource. Water is used freely for agriculture, industry, leisure and household purposes. The impression has thus been created that there is an endless supply. Water is taken for granted and like all things that are taken for granted, they are never really appreciated until they become scarce. We only really know the true worth of water when the well goes dry.
Every living organism in our environment depends on water: flowers, grasses, shrubs, trees, all our food crops. Animals depend on water. Every issue that affects the environment — whether it be the construction of a new road, the opening of a mine, the building of a golf course, the construction of a dam or an irrigation system, the conversion of land for residential or industrial use, the development of plantations, the preservation of biodiversity — all have to do with water.
Water goes in a cycle. It connects the earth to the sky, the uplands to the lowlands, the mountains to the coastal areas. Rain falls from the clouds, seeps into the ground and makes its way down into the aquifers. From aquifers it rises in streams, rivers and lakes and runs down to the sea. Water returns to the atmosphere again by evaporation from the surface of lakes, rivers and oceans through the transpiration of plants. The environment is intimately interconnected and water is the life-giving link.
The Destruction of Watersheds
Why is flooding in the lowlands occurring more frequently? Why are our watersheds not able to supply the waters we need at some times of the year? The simple reason is that we have denuded the uplands of forest cover and degraded our rivers with the subsequent soil erosion, and the waste too that we throw into the sea. Who is responsible for this destruction? One recent study, Decline of the Philippine Forest, states:
Since most of the Philippine forest was on public land, it was up to government to decide how to make use of it. They were responsible for the management of this national treasure. The situation today is the direct result of the non-implementation of policies and the corruption of former administrations. Deforestation did not just happen. It came about as a result of choices made by government, choices that in effect turned control of the forests over to a small group of people and sustained the marginalization of millions of people. i
It would be difficult to exaggerate the part played by elite control and corruption in explaining the destruction of the Philippine forest. Since the elite in effect participated in the government and the logging industry, this led to corrupt and inefficient regulation by government of the logging industry. To avoid initiating meaningful structural reform of the socioeconomic system, government encouraged the poor to migrate to previously forested areas. Data on forest cover released by government, instead of presenting a true picture of what was really happening, were designed to mislead the media and researchers. The analysis of data sets makes it difficult to draw any other conclusion. The destructive practices pursued by the logging concessionaires set the example for the poor migrants who followed. The financial returns from logging did not benefit the nation as a whole. Enormous sums were concentrated in the hands of the elite. This exacerbated the problem of the unequal distribution of income, the greatest structural problem in the Philippines today. The above factors have ensured and hastened the destruction of our forests and watersheds.
The direct causes of deforestation have been logging, upland migration, and agricultural expansion. These could have been carried out in a manner that would have contributed to the overall development of the country and thus benefited the majority of the people, but did not. However, they were not. Less than 500 individuals and corporations hold access rights to most of the forest resources. The fact underscores the great injustice being done to our people.
Ill conceived state policies and programs geared to exploitation have led to the plunder of a natural resource and ensured that meaningful development would never take place. The responsibility for the present sad state of the Philippines watersheds rests with past administrations, greed –” the most evident form of moral underdevelopment”– and social ignorance. There has been, needless to say, a near total failure on the part of government and society as a whole to recognize the sociocultural and ecological values of the forests. ii
It is necessary, hence, to understand the environment from the perspective of ecological services. Ecological services are the benefits we derive from the environment, such as, carbon sequestration, fertile soil, clean drinking water, sustained stream flow for irrigation and flood reduction. People in the uplands and lowlands depend on these services. If they are abused and exploited by the few then the many will suffer. An ecological services perspective means that we no longer view the link between the uplands and the lowlands as purely resource utilization. It is much more complex and includes the interrelations of social, cultural, economic, political, ecological, climatic and hydrological aspects of life. On all these counts the balance of the uplands has been marginalized and we have the anomaly of people in the uplands having the responsibility for maintaining the ecological services and those in the lowlands enjoying most of the benefits! Justice and an ecological perspective demand that the people in the uplands, who make such an important contribution to the well being of society as a whole and know how to balance the demands of a healthy environment against their day-to-day needs, should enjoy social, cultural, economic and political equity.
The ruling value in present day society is short-term economic gain and vaguely tagged on is the promise of long term-stability. If real and meaningful national development were taking place, the country would not be facing water and food insecurity; we would not be facing the situation where the Philippines, once a leading wood exporter, is now a net wood importer. We would not have in the Philippines today some 32 percent of the people – or 27 million Filipinos, our brothers and sisters — living below the poverty line, struggling to survive on incomes of less than P15,000 a year or about a dollar a day. The fear today is that this short-term-economic-gain mindset will dominate in the exploitation of natural resources. Thus, in the drive to pursue mining as an answer to our economic development, what guarantee is there that what happened in the case of our forests will not happen again? To start with we need to conduct a responsible dialogue and to commit ourselves to a serious code of environmental practice. This code must be respectful of the people in the area, take account of the sustainability of the environment on the site and ensure full protection downstream.
This is said with hindsight, we know, and prescinds from the question of a paternalism in our culture, which, in the past, was not so readily considered as an obstacle to national growth. Neither does the above critique acknowledge that during the early stages of deforestation it was hard to draw the line and to know when the damage done was excessive. At a later stage when this was known politically and economically, controls were inadequate and a much broader social sin reinforced the wrong.
Today we have become more aware of “social sin” and the “structures of sin”. These are “situations of sin” that result from the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins. As a result of the acts or omissions of individuals, structures take root in society that influence behavior and are the source of other sins and injustices. These structures make it much more difficult to promote the common good and result in the exploitation of people and the destruction of the environment. In this Year of Jubilee we should resolve to examine and get rid of such unjust structures in our society and to eliminate or at least minimize social evils that result from them. However, as we set out to right social wrongs we should do so in a spirit of forgiveness for ” all have sinned and have need of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23). God has forgiven us and we should be ready to forgive one another and develop a sense of “social forgiveness”. It is only through forgiveness that we can heal the wounds in our society and move forward as a truly united people.
Uplands and Lowlands
One may not immediately connect the water shortage in the cities and towns with deforestation in the uplands, but in fact they do have a very close connection. Forest degradation impacts on the ecosystems. When mountains are denuded, watersheds are degraded and this means the loss of sustained water supplies for lowland communities. More than half of our major watersheds are now critically denuded.
With the removal of the forest cover soil erosion on a large scale follows especially on sloping land, water moves too quickly, not having a chance to sink into the ground. The uplands make up 52% of the total land area of the country. Typhoons sweep the country on an average of 20 a year. The absence of forest cover reduces the capacity of the soil to contain and absorb the water from the heavy monsoon rains. Generally the land has only a thin layer of top soil. Given the lack of forest cover, the topography and the heavy rains induce soil erosion, mass wasting and landslides. Not only are the watersheds destroyed but also the loss of top soil has serious implications for agricultural and food production. Aquifers are not recharged. Increased surface run off from denuded hillsides results in flash floods and silted rivers; sediment deposits shorten the useful life span of dams and clog irrigation systems. Coastal areas are degraded and coastal reefs are affected by siltation. Increased flooding during the rainy season and decreased flow in the dry season are other results of deforestation. The ecological stability of upland and lowland agricultural areas and coastal ecosystems are dramatically affected. The fact is, the environment is closely interlinked — what happens in the uplands has implications for the lowlands.
The destruction of our forests has led to another great social evil: Numerous ethnic groups in the country have been deprived of their homeland by commercial logging and the spread of agriculture and the insurrection that followed. The destruction of the forest in such cases is equivalent to evicting people and tossing them onto the street, a stark reality faced by urban centers that absorb most of out homeless brothers and sisters.
The Condition of Aquifers
Due to the lack of forest cover the unprotected soil on the denuded watersheds is unable to absorb the rainwater. This means that aquifers are not recharging fast enough, they are being depleted, and the levels of the water tables are dropping. Those who have studied such matters inform us that this is happening in different locations throughout the country. In one Cebu coastal area and in Metro Manila, Western Laguna and Cavite, a continuous decline in ground water levels has been observed over the past 10 years. In the Metro Manila, ground water levels have gone down from 10 to 20 meters above sea level to more than 100 meters below sea level in a number of locations. In coastal Metro Cebu, due to the continuous lowering of the water table, there is progressive salinization of its aquifer up to 2 kilometers inland. The decline of the ground water level of 4 to 6 meters per year has been reported in the Cavite area.
According to hydrologists water-stressed countries are those countries with annual supplies of 1000 –2000 cubic meters per person. When the figure drops below 1000 cubic meters –about 750 gallons per person per day—nations are classified as water scarce nations. At this stage lack of water becomes a severe constraint on food production, economic development and protection of natural systems. The Philippines is fast approaching this stage.
Government has come to realize the sad state of our watersheds, rivers, steams, lakes, esteros and coastal waters and is taking steps to address the problem. But there are no easy solutions in sight and it is going to take time. But how much time will it take? That will depend on how we, as a people, respond to the challenge. The efforts of government can only succeed if individuals and communities decide to mend their ways and develop a much stronger sense of civic virtue. We need to grow in the awareness that we are all responsible for all. For we are one nation.
In the case of watersheds, communities and commercial enterprises have to realize their importance in our national life and have to be willing to do their part in managing them efficiently. Local communities have to realize that they are part of a national community and that the entire nation depends on the well being of our watersheds. These communities are managing a national resource and have a responsibility to the nation. If the uplands are destroyed, then everyone suffers. Lowland communities need to realize that they have an obligation to support upland communities and to make it possible for them to protect the watersheds. We depend on each other.
In many cases our streams, rivers, esteros, and in some cases, our lakes, have been turned into garbage disposal areas. The amount of toxic industrial wastes – trillions of tons every year – dumped into our waterways and systems, is simply horrendous. Some of our rivers are dead or dying and emit the stench of decay. Waterways do not pollute themselves. They have become polluted because of the way people have behaved, because of our lack of civic virtue, because of our lack of concern for others and for the health of our environment. We have no excuses. We have no one to blame. Unless we change our ways and attitudes, then things are not going to improve.
What are we to do about the situation? This has frequently been called the age of the laity. Ecclesia In Asia says:
It is not too late to save our critical watersheds. But it soon will be if we do not act. As pastors we want to encourage the laity, especially those with the competence and expertise to take a much greater interest in the environment and in solving the serious environmental problems facing our nation. There are too many of our professionals—economists, scientists, engineers, lawyers—who just happen to be Catholics. What we need are more Catholics who just happen to be economists, scientists, engineers and lawyers, such people who have assimilated thoroughly the Christian view of life.
They would still remain first class professionals but they would see things in a very different way because for the Christian, moral and spiritual vision has its roots in a Christ-like heart; they would be asking different questions and with a much greater sense of urgency.
Lay people live in the midst of the world and their job, their vocation, is to bring Gospel values, Christian principles, to bear on the affairs of the world, politics, society, economics, the environment, the world of culture, sciences and the arts. Their job, their vocation, is to transform the world and this means getting involved in politics, making government function more effectively, working for a more equitable distribution of wealth and opportunity, taking up environmental, industrial and developmental issues, protecting and enhancing the environment. The job, the vocation of the laity is to change structures that keep people locked in poverty, structures that encourage the destruction of the environment. Many of the problems in the environment are complex; good will and piety are not enough; their solution demands competence. The situation in the country, the environmental conditions in the country, will change when we all undergo a genuine conversion in the way we think and behave. We thus suggest the following:
The National Government
The national government needs to review all its policies regarding water and to review the performance of all agencies that have jurisdiction over the care of watersheds, water tables and aquifers. Appropriate structures have to be established to ensure effective coordination to address comprehensively the needs of households, business, agriculture and industry. This review should be undertaken with the widest possible public consultation to ensure that policies adopted enjoy wide public acceptance and support. As required by law, the national government should release the financial resources to LGUs, so that the LGUs can carry out the responsibilities assigned to them.
Incoherence in policy is an obstacle to effective watershed management; it is necessary to address areas of policy conflict, for example, in the National Integrated Protected Areas System (1991), Mining Act (1995) and the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (1997). These conflicts have to be resolved and much more support given to responsible community management. There are no real adequate alternatives for the 20 million people living in the uplands. Shifting people around as land is demarcated for different purposes is not a solution to the bigger social problems of livelihood, food security and stability. Solutions to these problems are needed for the sake of genuine national development. Serious efforts have to be made to give them resource rights and responsibilities in a manner that does not compromise the rights of lowland society or of future generations. It is not acceptable to continue to compromise the poor and marginalized in the interest of an economic growth that is not shared. For government to rely only on the promise of a trickle down economic growth only indicates its lack of real commitment to genuine development.
As the principal guardian of the uplands and upland peoples, the primary obligation and role of the DENR is to assist upland people. Its main focus is no longer merely resource extraction or corporate enterprise. For the next twenty years the primary task of DENR will be to ensure the security of uplands people and to provide education in responsible environmental management. As the main agency responsible for the uplands, it needs to review all its environmental policies and programs and to strengthen the forest-cover component in relation to community presence and the protection of biodiveristy. Vigorous promotion of community-based forest management, a program that has shown significant signs of success, should be developed as the major strategy. People participation is essential. Government should vigorously promote assisted natural regeneration programs, and communities should be supported and encouraged to develop their non-timber resources base and to strengthen our biodiveristy.
Local Government Units
Every town needs to identify a sufficient and secure source of water, and local communities to be made aware of the importance of the area to them, and of their responsibility to maintain it. People living in the watershed need adequate support so that they can contribute to the sustainable management of the resource and to ensure that their practices do not contribute to or create a problem. The priorities of meeting domestic need over agricultural expansion and industrial development need to be maintained. It is urgent that practices of better land use, improved water quality and retention developed in a few years, be disseminated to other areas. Only in this way will declared watersheds be really protected.
The importance of building up the capabilities of LGUs is recognized so that they can undertake comprehensive land use planning and efficiently manage the natural resources of the area. Since watersheds are frequently divided by political boundaries, local governments need to dialogue and establish joint management of resources and cooperate with each other in the interest of the common good of the region. Since marginal barangays and sitios have now become central to watershed management, they require special attention in the area of basic services and sustainable livelihood. LGUs should also be capable of conducting meaningful dialogues with indigenous people in their areas so that a more effective and efficient system of governance can be achieved.
Non Government Organizations (NGOs)
NGOs can play a crucial role in helping people to organize, to articulate their concerns and compel government to listen. They can help communities become environmentally literate, focus their attention on supporting the local government in doing its job and in responding to the real concerns of the people.
NGOs can help communities shake off the victim syndrome and help them see that if they are not willing to take a stand, if they are not willing to help themselves, nobody can do it for them. The political system will work for the common good when enough people decide they are going to make it work. Many problems can be solved at the local level if there is involvement and commitment to seriously improve the situation.
The NGO role in establishing a national effort for environmental review and exploring new opportunities and approaches is essential to out growth as a society in responsible environmental management
The Scientific Community
The scientific community has a major role to play in the rehabilitation and management of our watersheds. Scientists can provide valuable inputs and conduct environmental awareness programs for communities, NGOs, church social action groups, and for alternative and non-formal education centers. It is imperative to mobilize the scientific community to contribute to an overview of the physical, biological, social and organizational problems and strategies of a comprehensive and effective response to water management. Good will alone is not sufficient; local government and local communities need to gain wider experience and be educated in the basics of water management and their technical understanding and social capacity need greater development.
Communities can be involved in scientific projects in the monitoring of the condition of watersheds. Under the guidance of scientists, communities can make an important contribution by collecting data. It would also give communities a lot of confidence to know that they have established links with our scientific community. Our scientific community can provide them with basic but accurate information and build with local skills management schemes that can deal with the small-scale local needs. The support of the media in disseminating scientific information on the environment and its protection is crucial, and they should be encouraged to help generously.
The Church has a major contribution to make by presenting and explaining the grandeur and beauty of the Christian vision of creation. The New Catechism of the Catholic Church treats of the importance of catechesis on creation. It is clear that without belief “in the Creator of heaven and earth”, the other articles of the Creed lack any foundation.
The laity do not expect their priests to be experts in economics, political science, sociology or ecology. They do expect, however, to hear solid teaching on the Christian meaning of life, on the meaning of creation, and why as Catholics when they get involved in environmental activities they are doing God’s work. They need to be inspired and enlightened about their role in the secular arena. As the only Catholic country in Asia, the Philippines has to bear witness to Christ and one area where we can do this is in our concern for the environment. If, as a people, we allow our faith to guide our conduct, then we will soon experience the renewal of our environment.
The philosopher, Etienne Gilson, talking about the meaning of being catholic, said that we should be: “Not indeed Catholics, who would wear their faith as a feather in their cap, but Catholics who would make Catholicism so enter into our daily lives that the unbelieving would come to wonder what secret force animated that work and that life, and that having discovered it, they would say to themselves: he is a very good man, and now I know why: it is because he is a Catholic.” iii People ought to be able to look at the Philippines and come to the same conclusion.
Our social action centers and directors can play an important role by teaching people how to respond to the many environmental programs being introduced to communities. Sometimes the implications of these programs are not understood, or conflict with one another, or need much better coordination. When people are unsure or afraid, they tend to say, “No.” In a world that is becoming more complex, a more nuanced and thought out response might better serve their interests. Our social action centers can help people assess and evaluate these programs and react to them in a manner that unites the community.
Our social action centers can play a crucial role in inviting scientists and planners to give a clear analysis of problems. In most areas these people are available and would probably appreciate being invited to share their knowledge.
Our social action centers should take the lead in promoting genuine dialogue over issues that divide communities. A united community is a strong community and genuine dialogue promotes unity. Furthermore, we need to take upon ourselves the responsibility of assuring that our children’s inheritance is protected. Many of the problems facing the nation, and this includes environmental problems, can only be solved if we act as communities. It is only by acting collectively, as a community, that we can hope to ensure that our cultural and environmental options are secure for future generations.
The Church has another great resource in the millions of dedicated members of “mandated organizations” and Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). They must begin to be more deeply involved in the solving of ecological problems at their level of the community.
To share in the great blessings of this Year of Jubilee we must strive to be reconciled with one another, to forgive and to ask for forgiveness; we must remember that the riches of Creation, the wealth of our land, have been given by God so that a life of dignity can be enjoyed by all the inhabitants of our country and by future generations. Our homeland has been entrusted to our care and we are responsible for passing on a sound environment to generations yet unborn. We can be grateful for the keener sense of responsibility towards the environment that is developing among us — a true sign of hope.
In this Year of Jubilee, it is our prayer that our Catholic Faith will take hold of our minds and hearts and become the wellspring of our thoughts and actions. To receive this great grace, we need to spend time silently meditating on the great truths God has revealed. For our minds and hearts to be transformed we need to spend time quietly in the company of that same Christ who was conceived in Mary’s womb, who was born of the Virgin Mary, who died on the cross and rose from the dead, and who now in his resurrected and glorified humanity is present in heaven and in the most Blessed Sacrament in our churches.
The Holy Father wants this Year of Jubilee to be “intensely Eucharistic.” At the Offertory in the Mass the gifts of bread and wine are placed on the altar. We know that the bread is made from wheat, wheat that grew in a field watered by rain from the clouds; the wheat was ground, mixed with water that also came from the earth, baked in an oven and made into bread. Wine comes from grapes that grew in a vineyard; the vines shot their roots down into the soil and drew their nourishment from the good earth. It is important to reflect deeply on this. Christ accepts the gifts we offer, “which earth has given and human hands have made” and the “fruit of the vine and work of human hands” and at the consecration transforms the bread and wine into his glorified humanity. Pope John Paul II writes: “Under the sign of the consecrated bread and wine, Christ Jesus, risen and glorified, the Light of the nations (Luke 2:32), reveals the continuation of his incarnation. He is still risen and alive in our midst, to nourish believers with his body and blood.”iv Christ, the Lord of Creation, takes bread and wine, parts of the material creation, sprung from the soil of the earth, and transforms them into his glorified humanity to become present among us. Out God is truly Emmanuel–God with us.
If we learn to really love Christ present in the Eucharist, then this love should express itself in a deep concern for Creation because:
He loved it, because it was created by His Father from nothingness to be Life’s temple. v
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
i Environmental Science for Social Change, 1999. Decline of the Philippine Forests, Phils: Bookmark.
iii Gilson Etienne, 1939. Christianity and Philosophy, London: Sheed and Ward.
iv Paul II, John Paul. The Mystery of the Incarnation, quoted in Gift of Divine Life, prepared by Theological and Historical Commission for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Phils: Paulines Publishing House, 1999.
v O’Malley, B. 1989. A Welsh Pilgrim’s Manual, Gomer Publisher, quoted in The Elements of Celtic Christianity by Anthony Duncan, Element Books Limited 1997.
“MISSIONS” AND THE CHURCH
A Pastoral Letter on the Church’s Mission In the New Millennium
Recalling this great commission of Jesus, the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in February 1991 affirmed that the Lord’s words have a special resonance for us, the Church in the Philippines, since the Philippines is the country in Asia with the largest Catholic population. PCP II speaks of the Philippine Church as “a communion in a state of mission” because “the community of disciples does not exist only for itself… It exists for the world.” (102)
PCP II also reminded us that Pope John Paul II spoke with a special clarity when he said to the Philippine bishops in 1981, “There is no doubt about it: the Philippines has a special missionary vocation to proclaim the Good News, to carry the light of Christ to the nations.” And in January 1995, Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day called Catholics in the Philippines and Asia to proclaim Christ, his Gospel, his love to Asia. His renewed summons for the Church in the Philippines was in direct continuity with the often reiterated declaration of a special vocation to mission, specially in Asia, given by the Roman Pontiffs, (at least) from Pope Pius XI to our time: all the Popes of our time have spoken of this Philippine vocation-to-mission.
Then, in November 1999 at New Delhi, the Holy Father, promulgating his Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, declared that the new millennium is the millennium for Asia, when we must proclaim Christ, his Gospel, his love, to billions of Asians who have not yet come to know Jesus.
With the foregoing as context, we, the Bishops of the Philippines, address this pastoral letter to Catholics in our country, as the new millennium of Christianity opens. Our letter looks forward to the National Mission Congress in Cebu this September 27 to October 1, which we hope and pray will be one of the most significant events of this Holy Year of Jubilee in our country.
The Holy Father and the Asian Bishops tell us that this moment of history presents us with this amazing reality: about two-thirds of humanity today, i.e. some four billion people, make up the vast portion of the world which the Special Synod of Asia in 1998 included. Here live four billions of people, in an “intricate mosaic of many cultures, languages, beliefs and traditions”. Christians make up only about three percent of this truly immense mass of humankind, only some 125 millions. We could say that, roughly speaking, 97% of Asia has not yet come “to the knowledge of Christ and His Gospel of God’s love and grace.” Thus the task of the Church in Asia, as she crosses the threshold of the new millennium, is to proclaim God’s Word to Asian peoples, “to tell the world of His love“. That is, to make known to our brothers and sisters in Asia, to share with them as gifts we have received, the person of Jesus, the grace of His Spirit, His good news of unbounded compassion and love for sinful humanity, of communion in God’s own life, in truth and freedom, in solidarity and peace.
Of the 125 million Christians in Asia, some 70 millions are Filipinos, that is, more than one-half are from our country. It is clear that the challenge of proclaiming Christ in Asia is a summons addressed first of all to us, to share the gift of faith that we ourselves received. It is a challenge we cannot refuse: surely at this moment of history the Lord is calling us. “The harvest is great, the laborers are few. Come with me to the golden fields of harvest.” The hour of that challenge is now. Now is the kairos, the hour of the Lord’s call. And “the grace of the hour” is now.
We believe that, surely, there was a divine providence at work in our turbulent history, leading our people through centuries of struggle and suffering to the present hour. Through this, Filipinos kept their Faith alive, enduring and even joyful, devoted to the Jesus of Bethlehem, Calvary and Easter morning, “in love with our Mother Mary” (pueblo amante de Maria). With deep gratitude we wish to cite the labors of the foreign missionaries who were God”s instruments in planting the seed of the Faith among our people. So that now, as the 21 st century begins, despite all the forces that have tried to destroy the Faith we have received and made our own, we can yet clearly hear the summons which the Lord of history and the Church address to us, showing us the immensity of Asian multitudes, and bidding us to ” tell the world of His love.”
Every Christian is called to take part in the mission of Jesus, and the mission the Church has received from him. Baptism inserts us into Christ and into the Body of Christ, which is the Church. Baptism inserts us into the Christ-life, calls us to his discipleship, calls to take part in Christian mission to the world in our time. Every baptized Christian is thus called to believe in the Gospel of Jesus, to make it his/her own, to respond to it and to live it out integrally in his/her life.
This call is also a call to the community, which the Spirit of Jesus indwells, the community which, in each one’s own place and time, is Christ’s Body, the Church. In this community one learns to commit himself/herself to the work of Christ and his Church in the world; one is called to respond to his/her own vocation within God’s plan of salvation. Each is called into the mission of Jesus, and under the Spirit, one is invited to take part in God’s redeeming work in history. Thus Vatican II (Ad Gentes, 2) teaches that mission is intrinsic to Christianity, and that to be Christian is to be missionary.
Every Christian is thus asked to follow Jesus-in-mission. Jesus himself described His own mission in the terms we find in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 4, 18-19):
Here Jesus gives us his own personal job-description, so to speak; this is his own mission statement. This text is also a basic mission statement for every Christian, because our mission is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus-in-mission.
The “great commission” of Matthew 28: 19-20, the solemn sending forth of the Eleven, is addressed first of all to the leadership of the Church. However, Christians of all times have seen in this classic Gospel text a missionary mandate addressed to the whole Church. It tells the disciples to “go”, to move from where they are, to “the nations, the peoples”. It tells them to “teach, baptize, make disciples.” And as Jesus says “go”, he promises, “I am with you always, until the end of time.”
Here then are two great mission texts found in the Gospel. The message and meaning of both Matthew 28 and Luke 4 must be heard by all of us, for they describe what mission means for all. Both texts challenge us to continue the mission which Jesus received from his Father and which he hands on to us, for our own time and place, in this moment of human history.
Mission, then, cannot but be “outgoing”. It is a “reaching-out ministry”: in Jesus’ own life, his ministry was his exercise of mission. He went first to his own people to proclaim the message of the Kingdom to them, reaching out to all of them, especially to “the lost sheep of Israel”. He went to the nearby towns and places, “so that I can proclaim the message there also, for this is what I came out to do” (Mark 1, 38). But “outgoing and reaching out” do not have a primarily geographical meaning, as if there is mission only if it takes place in “faraway places with strange-sounding names”. Missionary activity can (at least in a wider sense) take place wherever one is situated, as long as there is a reaching out to others for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
We want to insist that every Christian is a missionary by his/her baptism and confirmation. What we do, at home or in “other places” at the service of the Kingdom of God can be called both ministry and mission, mission at least in its most fundamental sense. In such mission, we actualize the truth that we are bearers of Christ and his Gospel wherever we may live and work, and that we are keepers of our brothers and sisters in the love of Christ.
Such mission is possible for all, for lay Christians specially, whatever their state of life and personal situation might be, even if they can not engage “full time” in it, even if they have not received ordination in the Church, even if they do not live the life of the vows of religious. The Spirit calls all the baptized to participate in the ministry and mission of Jesus. The Spirit inspires all who will open their hearts, calls them to let Christ enter into their daily lives and activities. The Spirit sets them free to join in renewing and transforming the milieux in which they live and work, and the greater world of humankind around us, – to the measure of their gifts, their capabilities and possibilities, according to the grace given to each one. As sons and daughters of the Church we are bidden to exercise and to share the Faith, Hope and Love that are God’s gifts to us, through the Christ-life he has given to us.
The Federation of Asian Bishops” Conferences (FABC) has for more than 25 years tried to articulate again and again what response the Church in Asia should give to the Lord”s call to mission. It is the purpose of the National Mission Congress this year that we, the Church in the Philippines, may gather together at Cebu and undertake a life-task for this Kairos, this hour of grace given us as the People of God journeying with our Asian brothers and sisters toward his kingdom.
We as Church are called to be in our part of the globe “the universal sacrament of salvation”, sent out by the Lord on a mission to the whole of the human race (Lumen Gentium 13). The Church universal is Catholic because of this mission. But each particular or local Church, being Catholic, shares in the same mission. Hence to each local Church the mandate is also given to proclaim Jesus’ message and invitation to give living witness of God’s love in Christ Jesus, and to share the gifts it has received from the Lord. For the Church in the Philippines, for every one of our local Churches, there is a new insistence and a new urgency to fulfill this mandate.
We believe that in recent years the Spirit has awakened among us a new awareness of the Church’s missionary task, and has also poured out his gifts to begin to realize it in deed and in truth. For in recent decades, a constantly increasing number of our brothers and sisters, – priests, religious brothers and sisters, laypeople, – have left our shores to share their Faith with peoples of other lands, in every continent on the face of the earth. The Mission Society of Philippines has sent several priests as missionaries in many parts of the world. Many Filipino priests, brothers and sisters belonging to different religious congregations as well as diocesan priests are now working in the foreign missions. Several lay missionaries, both men and women, who underwent training through the Catholic Lay Mission Program, are also working in the foreign missions. New movements of faith such as the covenant communities, initiated by the Filipino laity under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, have spread to particular churches of other countries and have surely contributed to the efforts of evangelization of those sister churches. Our overseas workers have in so many instances become missionaries, bringing the Gospel and Faith where these have not been present, renewing and reactivating Christian life and practice where these have been in decline. Through Radio Veritas Asia, based in Manila, the saving message of Christ has reached millions of people living in many parts of the vast continent. May we not see in these events the hand of the Lord, and the movement of his Providence?
It is imperative then that we – all of us – renew our own understanding of mission. We urge most especially the formators of our seminarians, the candidates for the priesthood, to help the future leaders of the Church to develop a personal and profound understanding of mission during their priestly formation. Our young priests should experience life in the missions either here or abroad so that they can become effective agents of renewal in mission consciousness among the faithful.
Mission is the proclamation of the Good news of salvation given by the Father in Christ Jesus. It is about the forgiveness, the communion, peace and hope Christ brought to us for all time, and unto everlasting life. Mission is the sharing of the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, the ultimate triumph of life over death, of grace and glory over evil and sin in the new Jerusalem which will be given to us by God. But mission does not proclaim only God’s victory in the life to come, but also the redemption of time and history in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Mission is about the presence and action of the power of the Spirit of Jesus in the struggle against sinfulness in the heart of humanity, in individual lives and in the relationships and structures of injustice, domination and alienation which sin establishes in society. In our present context mission will therefore mean the elimination of graft and corruption and the active pursuit for peace. For mission is about creating and transforming communities that shall live in God’s shalom, communities of truth and justice, of solidarity, freedom and love.
1. The Mission of Jesus: Since Christian mission is a “following in the footsteps of Jesus”, we need to return to the person and ministry of Jesus as the Gospels reveal him to us. If we lose sight of Jesus, we may lose our way. Perhaps we may simply remember that Jesus’ mission was rooted in his “incredible intimacy” with Abba, his Father. All mission begins in that experience of Abba, in that unique relationship of Jesus with his Father in heaven. It is there, then, in our own relationship with the Father, that our mission is rooted; we may never forget this. This is one reason why prayer is itself the fountainhead of mission.
Jesus, “the one sent by the Father,” (cf. John 4,34; 20,21) is the first missionary. His mission is, under the Spirit’s guidance, constantly concerned with the concrete needs of people’s real lives. (Cf. Luke 4, 16-19) Then, we are not to forget that Jesus’ major attention was focused on the formation of his disciples. As we read the Gospels we realize that in a true sense this seemed to be his over-riding, even his primary concern. It tells us that we are also called to give primacy to formation for mission, not only for those who will “go abroad”, but for all of us who will “stay at home”. We must form true missionary attitudes within our families and communities, precisely because for most of us, our very living-out of Christian life, our witness, will be our real missionary labor! Being constantly guided by the Spirit must be a radical attitude in our lives. In choosing priorities for our action, we see that Jesus gave so much of his attention to healing the sick, to comforting the afflicted and the sorrowing, to showing mercy to sinners, to turning to children and youth, to a “preferential love for the poor and the little ones” in society, the marginalized and “left out”, for those who were powerless and needing compassion. Mission history’s most inspiring pages teach us of Christian missionaries acting as Jesus did, and in our time we have the unforgettable figure of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to tell us that this manner of mission inspires and moves even the most secularized sectors of modern society.
2. Mission in Asia: There is a sense in which mission in Asia today will reproduce in a new way the missionary mind and heart of Jesus, – that “mind which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2, 6 ff.): the self-abnegation of his entire life, his acceptance – even his choice – of a life of seeming insignificance and powerlessness in the eyes of the world; his acceptance of failure, of the final rejection of his work, offered in self-sacrificing love. Jesus’ mission was met with persecution, it ended in suffering, a mission which seemingly led nowhere, — only to the cross. Jesus the missionary met opposition and betrayal with unchanging goodness and gentleness, rooted in his utter reliance and unshakable trust in his Father. Today, in her mission to Asia, the Church will not come in power and wealth. The Church on mission will have to do mission in relative poverty. The Philippine Church, being a Church for the poor, will have “to glory in weakness” and simplicity, so that the real power of God may be revealed. The Filipino missionary will not have great prestige or cultural superiority. He/she must draw instead on the resources, which God alone can give: faith, hope and love, the resources of the Spirit, the virtues and gifts of “the Christ-like God.” But such was the mission of Jesus. Let this be a special mark of the Philippines’ missionary endeavor, this likeness to Jesus, poor and lowly of heart.
3. Some Partners in Mission: Mission, in poverty and humility, following the footsteps of Jesus, will draw much of its strength and power from the prayers and sacrifices of those who will be “stay-at-home missionaries”. Here we see the necessary partnership of every one in the “sending Church” with those whom they send. Here we also see the missionary task given to contemplatives, to the sick and aged, to children.
Contemplatives must realize that “the new age of mission” is for them also a new challenge to generosity. Following the footsteps of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, a contemplative, who is declared a Patroness of the Missions, they are called to accompany the many missionary activities carried out by those who will “go forth” on missionary journeys and undertake missionary labors. They must renew their faith that their prayer and sacrifices can, in the communion of saints and by the power of the Spirit, be of great support to those who are proclaiming the name and gospel of Jesus to “other peoples”.
The sick, who offer their illness and suffering for the Church’s missionaries, have a privileged part in missionary endeavor. They are, as the Holy Father has often said, “the strong ones”: their self-offering and sacrifices generate much strength from “the power of Jesus’ resurrection” for those who toil in the Lord’s harvest.
Similarly, children – specially those in our Catholic schools – can be taught again to offer prayers and sacrifices for their brothers and sisters in the missions. The awakening of missionary consciousness and zeal among young people, once so fruitfully done in years gone by, can be renewed. Parents should inculcate in their children a mission-awareness by giving them information about the missions, by teaching them to pray for the missions and by giving them the example of giving financial support to missionaries. In this way missionary consciousness may come alive again in Christian families and in Christian schools, for otherwise, how can the baptized learn that “every Christian is a missionary”?
4. Overseas Migrant Filipinos: We are also to remember that PCP-II stressed “the missionary potential of Filipino migrant workers abroad.” (108) It noted that “the wave after wave of Filipinos [who] have sought work in other countries” have produced witnesses “through their religiosity and piety wherever this is possible for them”. However, to be effective missionaries these overseas migrant workers should be first evangelized themselves.
5. Inculturation: Our own missionary work must foster authentic inculturation within the cultures of Asian peoples to whom Jesus and his Gospel are to be proclaimed; we do not want to repeat the imposition of alien cultural forms in worship, lifestyle and ministry, as was so often done in the past. Creative inculturation in our own communities will instill attitudes of that catholicity of the Church, which is the source and end term of missionary inculturation. Thus we hope that Filipino missionary endeavor will bring forth a genuine flowering of inculturated communities, alive to both past and present culture, but also attuned to the changing cultures of our modern and post-modern world. True inculturation, our Asian theologians have repeatedly taught, is really the building up of an authentically local Church for its own time.
6. Inter-religious Dialogue: Mission in Asia will call for new consciousness and knowledge regarding other religious traditions here in this continent in which almost all the great religions of humanity have been born. One of the “new things” of mission in Asia will be the demand for a deepened understanding of other religious communities (specially the Islamic), their religiosity and their theologies. Attitudes of genuine respect and reverence for others’ beliefs and spiritualities must precede and accompany all inter-religious dialogue and all mission. The Church’s authentic teaching on the relation of Jesus Christ and of the Church herself, to other religions and their traditions as well as a personal experience of living with people of other religions must become, at least in some measure, part of the Christian formation of Asian and Filipino Catholics in the years to come.
7. Blessed Pedro Calungsod: We cannot end these reflections without speaking of the great gift given to our people on March 5 of this year: the beatification of Pedro Calungsod, the young – 17-year old – martyr from the Cebu archdiocese. Calungsod gave his life as a missioner of the Gospel in Guam on 2 April 1672. We believe it was a special favor of Divine Providence that the beatification of such a young person who died a martyr’s death several hundred years ago, should take place at the beginnings of this Jubilee Year, as the Third Millennium begins, – the millennium the Pope has called the ‘Asian millennium’, when Jesus Christ must be proclaimed to Asia. Modern missionaries must be aware that mission work is as difficult and dangerous today as in the past. Like Pedro Calungsod, San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino Saint, suffered martyrdom for the Faith. Most recently, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, a missionary in our country, gave up his life for the Faith. Like these three valiant Filipinos, all our missionaries must be ready to endure many trials and hardships including martyrdom for the sake of Christ.
We have written this pastoral letter as we prepare for the National Mission Congress. This congress will be our united response, as the People of God in the Philippines, to the great challenge of Ecclesia in Asia: we want to begin the millennium by pledging that our local Churches will be truly missionary in spirit and in action, that we will try to realize, every one of us, our call to be missionaries, in our own land, and in our great Asian continent. We want to promise the Lord, that we as Christian Filipinos will renew our efforts to “tell the world of his love.” We invite above all our beloved young people, to whom Our Lord today turns in a special way, to pledge themselves and their lives to give a living and shining witness to Jesus and his Gospel of truth and love.
We end by invoking Mary, the Mother of the Lord, to accompany us each day as we pray and prepare for the Mission Congress. We, the pueblo amante de Maria, do this with immense confidence and hope. As Mary was, in our history, truly and indisputably the Morning Star of our own evangelization, so we know she will go before us, as the Star of the Dawn of the new springtime of the Faith in our continent, and in the whole world itself. To her we pray for all the people of our land, and all the peoples of Asia, “Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Oh clement, oh loving, oh sweet Virgin Mary!”
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
A STATEMENT ON THE TOXIC CONTAMINATION
The withdrawal of the US Bases was celebrated with hope and wild rejoicing, which unfortunately did not last long. The Americans left a reality far more complex and disturbing – they turned over lands contaminated with toxic waste. Long after American forces left, fuels, cleaning fluids, lubricants, and other chemicals continue to leech into the land and groundwater endangering the lives of local population and the environment.
NO LESS THAN THE US GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, AND US FIRMS HAVE CONFIRMED SERIOUS CONTAMINATION AT OVER 46 SITES IN BOTH THE CLARK AIR BASE IN ANGELES CITY AND IN THE SUBIC NAVAL BASE IN OLONGAPO CITY.
The victims of contamination are for the most part children and women. While accurate figures are clearly impossible to calculate, the non-governmental organization People’s Task Force on Bases Cleanup (PTFBC) estimates that as many as 20,000 families or close to 100,000 persons may have ingested contaminated water while living at the Clark Air Base Command (Cabcom). As of its last count, the PTFBC found at least 52 former Cabcom residents sick with serious ailments including cancer. Some 20 children and eight adults have already died because of waste poisoning.
The clinical manifestations exhibited by the victims were consistent with chemical exposure. In 1988 the Weston International conducted a study on soil and water samples believed to have the presence of cancer-causing substances. Identified were mercury, nitrate, lead, solvents, and other heavy metals as well as pesticides like dieldrin and malathion. Exposure to heavy metals could lead to cancer, leukemia, sperm count reduction, and central nervous disorders. It could also effect abortion or abnormalities.
The contamination has other implications – for the environment, for the economy, for health services, and increasingly, for the local population. Ingrained and persistent poverty ensures that they would never fully recover unless an immense, coordinated, international effort involving vast sums of money would get underway to touch the problem.
BUT THE US, WITH ITS UNIQUE ABILITY TO PROJECT POWER ACROSS THE WORLD, SO FAR HAS DENIED ITS RESPONSIBILITY FOR CLEANING UP THE CONTAMINATION CITING LACK OF LEGAL OBLIGATION. It has refused to release pertinent documents and severely criticized environmental studies conducted by those without experience in military restoration.
There is nothing unusual about that. Always, the US has held the upper hand in its relationship with the Philippines. Always, it is the less powerful who bear the risks of the mess left by polluters. It is a relationship that reveals again and again how unequal distribution of power and opportunity put the vulnerable and the poor at risk. It patently shows a disregard for a fundamental human right to food and water uncontaminated with industrial chemicals.
If the story were to happen in the US or in its superpower allies instead of in the Philippines, remediation activities would already have been undertaken. In Canada, Germany, and Japan, the US has provided assessment and cleanup after complaints of environmental contamination.
The US should do no less for the Philippines, which it has occupied and benefited from for almost a century. It is particularly urgent that the US accepts its responsibility in light of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which in 1998 it has forged with the Philippines. The VFA paves the way for the return of US forces in the country and the resumption of military exercises. The VFA does not guarantee environmental protection, but no less than our own Department of Foreign Affairs declared that the chances of toxic contamination is remote. Yet the US defense department has admitted that nuclear vessels have occasionally leaked radioactive liquids. Military port visits and training exercises have environmental impacts. War exercise harm forests, mountains, beaches, wetlands, and ultimately, people.
We cannot allow the further contamination of our land nor the continuous global environmental racism and injustice. THERE MAY BE NO TREATY OBLIGATION HOLDING THE US TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE, BUT THERE ARE MORAL AND PUBLIC HEALTH ARGUMENTS THAT SHOULD COMPEL IT TO ACCEPT ITS RESPONSIBILITY. Despite the absence of specific provisions in the 1951 US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty that obliges the US to clean up its toxic waste, relevant principles and agreement accepted by the US and the international community as morally responsible. Among these are the Stockholm Declaration on intergenerational equity, Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Rio Declaration.
The story of the US Military bases is not merely a story of environmental rights; it is a story of human rights-exploited, degraded, and stripped of their dignity. THEIR FUTURE DEPENDS ON THE RECOGNITION OF MORAL RESPONSIBILITY AND ON THE REDISCOVERY OF A CONSCIENCE. OUR GOALS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUSTICE AND FREEDOM. OUR TASK IS TO HUMANIZE THE LIVES OF PEOPLE THAT HAVE BECOME FACELESS EMBLEMS OF MISERY AND POVERTY.
We, the Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of San Fernando, where two of former US Military Bases are located, make these portions of the Statement of the National Secretariat for Social action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, our own.
We appeal to the Philippine Government to officially look into this concern and take the needed steps to give due solution to the situation.
We appeal to the United States of American Government to address this issue and recognize its responsibilities and obligations. To this end, we are sending a copy of this Statement to the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
We appeal to all government and non-government groups to coordinate in gathering more facts and urging both governments to face their responsibilities and take actions called for.
We appeal to the assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to take a stand on this issue and, if possible, to provide a copy of this stand to His Excellency President Joseph Estrada as he makes his official visit to the United States of America this month, His Excellency President Bill Clinton, and the President of the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Signed this 2nd day of July (Jubilee of Ecology) Year of the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation 2000.
+PACIANO B. ANICETO, D.D. +FLORENTINO F. CINENSE, D.D.
+HONESTO F. ONGTIOCO, D.D. +DEOGRACIAS S. IÑIGUEZ, D.D.
“THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE, AND HAVE IT ABUNDANTLY” (Jn 10:10)
Pastoral Statement on the Defense of Life and Family
The Special Assembly of Bishops for Asia held on 18 April to 14 May 1998 at the Vatican City prepared for the celebration of this Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 by reflecting on the words of Jesus: “That they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). As we celebrate the two thousand years of Christ’s message of life and love, we now focus on the family, where life and love are nurtured.
Human life in all its richness is transmitted in the family. “The family“, Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic letter to the Church in Asia says, “is the normal place where the young grow to personal and social maturity. It is also the bearer of the heritage of humanity itself, because through the family, life is passed on from generation to generation.” 1
Just as human life is nurtured in the family, our Christian life which is the life of communion with the Triune God, is also primarily transmitted through the family. Hence, as a challenge, the Holy Father exhorts that “Christian families are today called to witness to the Gospel in difficult times and circumstances, when the family itself is threatened by an array of forces.”2
We find grave threats to the family in the Philippine setting these days.
Precarious Situation Foreseen
In recent months legislative Bills have been filed in Congress that could undermine the Filipino Christian family by gradually eroding pro-life and pro-child values. These proposals are influenced by social, political and economic pressures. The models for these proposed laws are the materially prosperous countries. But in adopting them we may fail to separate the chaff from the grain, and exchange apparent gains for the huge moral toll they would exact on our society.
We therefore, register our strong opposition to these Bills in the light of the Church’s moral teaching. At the same time, we remind all Filipino Catholics of their duty to influence society by working for true human and Christian values.
We refer to the following House Bills (HB):
2. HB 6343 on the legalization of abortion has been replaced with HB 7193 on the protection of the reproductive rights of women, a United Nations language which includes “termination of pregnancy” and artificial contraception even to teens.
3. HB 7165 on “lesbian and gay rights” is now called “domestic partnership act” which deals with same-sex unions.
4. HB 8110 calls for an “integrated population and development policy” in order to strengthen its implementing structures and to appropriate funds to the tune of PHP 1.5 billion every year for the population programs that promote immoral means of demographic regulation.
Noticeably, in the face of widespread opposition, some of these proposals have been withdrawn, only to resurface under different names, often filed by the same person(s).
All these proposals go against the moral law and the human rights of many of our citizens. Once enacted as laws, they will not contribute to the moral good. We therefore remind everyone that the natural law “provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community…it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected…“3 Hence, legislative proposals must always be based on morally sound principles.
These proposed pieces of legislation become even more incongruous when we consider that our country is faced with critical problems such as poverty, peace and order, and gross social inequalities that need to be more urgently addressed by our elected representatives.
Why We Oppose These Bills
These Bills are often presented as solutions to difficult situations faced by individuals and society. We recognize these situations and we extend our hands to those whom they promise to help. We, however, must insist that the solutions to difficult situations cannot involve the violation of the moral order.
We know the difficult situations that face many married couples, and we deeply sympathize with them. But dissolving the marriage bond as a form of relief from marital difficulties as a license to remarry goes against the very nature of the marriage covenant and will only undermine the very institution of marriage. The legalization of absolute divorce will violate the rights of other married couples to contract an indissoluble marriage and will, in practice, add difficulties to the obligation of marital fidelity. The ones most severely affected by the irreversible breakdown of a family, as brought about by divorce and remarriage, will be the children. Divorce violates the rights of children to a stable family.
For this reason, we likewise express our strong disapproval of practices that operate against the stability of the family, such as the querida practice in our country.
As pastors of the Church we also view with the greatest concern the situation of homosexuality. We recognize that there are people with homosexual tendencies. To have such tendencies is not a sin but to engage in homosexual acts is morally wrong. We firmly believe that persons with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity“4. However, we are also gravely concerned about legislative moves to legalize same-sex unions, i.e., between men, or between women. To legalize same sex union would, actually be a disservice to the persons involved. It would abandon them to a situation of objective disorder. It would legitimize what is objectively morally reprehensible. It would be tantamount to an utter lack of hope of personal conversion.
We as Pastors of the Church are also very concerned about the plight of women who may be bearing a child they did not desire or who is incurably ill. But whatever “reproductive rights” a person may claim to have, there is an overriding claim of the primordial right that every human being, especially the baby in the womb, has to live. This is why the Church through her institutions (such as shelter houses for women and orphanages for babies), offers practical and time-tested solutions that will ensure the dignified and respectful care for the mother as well as the future of the child.
Finally, while the state may “intervene to orient the demography of the population,” nevertheless “the state may not legitimately usurp the initiative of spouses, who have the primary responsibility for the procreation and education of their children.” Furthermore, “it is not authorized to employ means contrary to the moral law”5. The latest House Bill version of the population program (HB 8110) is asking for a yearly appropriation of PHP1.5 Billion, to be employed in a program that has often shown itself in the past to be coercive and partial to immoral means (such as, contraception and sterilization) which go against the teaching of a church to whom 80% of the population belong.
Our Responsibilities as Catholics
Unfortunately, many people confuse legality for morality. They think that if something is allowed by civil law, then it is necessarily good or at least indifferent.
On the contrary, what is legal may still be bad and immoral. But we should remember that since civil laws should be based on the Divine Law as its expression or application, then these laws tend to have an educational dimension. Hence, we all have a duty to work for civil laws that are in consonance with moral principles.
What a grave moral burden rests on the consciences of our legislators! The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) reminded us that “Catholics who are given a charge of public life (must) faithfully abide by the Gospel and by the moral and social teachings of the Church, given the parameters of religious liberty” 6. Catholic legislators are morally bound to follow the teachings of the Church in their law-making activities. They should not set aside the teachings of the Church when formulating and voting on laws.
We have recently written that “everyone should be interested in knowing what bills are being considered by Congress, what positions regarding important legislators are being taken by senators and congresspersons. In solidarity, civil society must articulate their support for laws, policies, and structural changes that will improve our lives in society and our political processes. It must lobby to defeat bills that militate against the aspirations of the poor, the integral development of our people, the integrity of creation, moral values in the family, the welfare of women, children and the young” 7 . Hence, we wish to commend and encourage Catholics who have shown their Christian spirit by volunteering their time and services to the cause of life and the defense of the family and family-related values.
We know that you have written to your Congress representatives, affixed your signatures to campaigns, spent time at rallies or dialogue sessions, conversed individually with our leaders and above all, prayed to the Lord of Life to continue blessing our country. Keep up your struggle. You can always count on the support and guidance of your bishops.
Our Catholic educational system can give a substantial contribution to the youth in their formative years toward the formation of right conscience. After the family, our schools serve as stable formators of values.
The celebration of the Great Jubilee Year is a privileged occasion for moral renewal. This is true not only on the personal level (as in our efforts to be converted in relation to gaining the Jubilee Indulgence) but also on the social level. Our individual conversion should flow into works of charity, which are among the great signs of this Jubilee Year8 . There is a saying that “charity begins at home”. We can apply this adage, albeit in an oblique way, to all our efforts to defend and promote the sanctity of the home against the incursions of anti-family and anti-life forces.
May Mary, our loving Mother, the Mother of Life and Patroness of our beloved country, protect us and guide us in respecting life, as we journey towards our final destination, eternal life with God in heaven.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, OMI, D.D.
1 Ecclesia in Asia, no. 46
OPEN YOUR HEARTS TO THE LORD
A Pastoral Exhortation
“Aperite mihi portas justitiae ” (Psalm 118). ” Open for me the doors of righteousness.” With these words Pope John Paul II inaugurated the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 to commemorate the 2000th anniversary of Christianity, a Holy Year of Pardon and Renewal, a year dedicated to the honor and praise and glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
With the launching of the Holy Year in our respective jurisdictions (dioceses), we ended the countdown to the Year 2000 amid euphoric explosions of welcome to the Third Millennium. In the cities all over the world the midnight clouds of December 31st, 1999 were littered with chandeliers of expensive, but short lived, fireworks and a revelry of commercial extravaganza.
While all that noisy welcome is now forgotten, we as Church embark upon the activities of the Holy Year 2000 as calendared in our respective dioceses. We are reminded in this year of the Trinity that “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out ‘Abba, Father’. So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God “(Gal 4/4-7). This missionary action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is what we remember and celebrate and live in the Holy Year. Let us open our hearts to the Blessed Trinity, in whose honor we have convened a Marian Festival in the last week of January this year. Let us open our hearts to the Triune God.
A number of sectoral jubilees or Jubilee Days along with other feasts and celebrations have been calendared for this Holy Year. In all of these events, let us be reminded that the primary objective of the Jubilee Days is “the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians” (TMA 42) towards the “New Springtime of Christian life” (TMA 18), such as we dreamed to embark upon with the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines ten years ago. At the end of this year we hope and pray that we shall have become “better Christians”.
If we may briefly recall: the Old Testament Sabbath/Jubilee Year has left us a number of traditions which we are now challenged to reflect upon and discover how we may apply starting this Jubilee Year as our pathways to the Third Millennium. The present does not only have a linkage with the past, but the past is prophetic of the future. Leviticus 25 in particular mentions these injunctions for the Jewish Jubilee Year: the release of prisoners, the return of families to their ancestral homes, the rest given to agricultural land, the reduction or cancellation of debts, the restoring of harmony among people on the basis of their respective roles, rights and equal dignity . (cf. Ex. 23/10;Dt.15/1-6) These are all interconnected.
Brothers and Sisters, we invite you to reflect on these social traditions in order to see how these can help us establish the “communion of communities” and the “community of disciples who firmly believe in the Lord Jesus” (CBCP Vision).
What do these traditions mean now in the circumstances of our present realities? Jesus must have been thinking about Leviticus 25 when he applied to himself Isaias 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted to proclaim liberty to captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk 4/16-20). That is what the traditions meant for Jesus. What do they mean to us now who are followers of Jesus? Let us open our hearts to the inspiration of Jesus’ example.
This Jubilee Year, if we want to enter into the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, the high point of our faith, we must enter through the Door which is Jesus Christ (Jo.10/9), we must fix our eyes on Jesus (Luke 4/20), our one and only Redeemer “yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13/8). After all, the Year 2000, the beginning of the Third Millennium is being celebrated to mark his coming into our world, his becoming man, his becoming Emmanuel, God with us, God on our side, to make our story his story too, to make his life the pattern of our life. Let us open our hearts to Jesus.
We are in a new beginning. In response to the call of Pope John Paul II, with this Great Jubilee, let us embark on a journey of renewal, of repentance, of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation. Let each one look in his/her own heart and see what sins there are, hindering the entry of the Lord into his/her heart and the renewal of our nation. Let each and all acknowledge their sins and turn their backs to them in sorrow.
The “year of favour” which Jesus announces in the Gospel is for today and everyday. Our Jubilee Days this year are symbolized by the GLORIOUS CROSS that is now being brought from parish to parish to signify our acceptance to become truly a “community of disciples of the Lord.” We are happy to note that this journey of the Glorious Cross is an occasion for the re-evangelization and conversion of our people.
In addition to the most important gift of mercy which is the forgiveness of our sins, there is a special gift given in abundance during the year of the Great Jubilee. This is the plenary indulgence which we can avail of by going in pilgrimage to the various pilgrimage sites designated not only in Rome and the Holy Land but also in our respective dioceses.
In the spirit of repentance, we, Your Bishops, announce a National Day of Jubilee Pilgrimage and Fasting for the Poor on April 14 Friday. We ourselves shall lead this National Day of Jubilee Pilgrimage and Fasting for the Poor all over the country for our respective jurisdictions. It will be a special day of pilgrimage with fasting, to atone for our sins, to beg for the mercy of God for our country, for our leaders, our President and his Cabinet members. We shall on that day offer special prayers that our government may uproot the causes of pervasive graft and corruption. It will be a day of fasting in behalf of the poor. Whatever will be saved on that day will be given either to some poor family or the money given to some charitable institution we shall designate.
We firmly believe, however, that change will come, if each one will open his heart to the torrents of grace instore this Holy Year. It is of vital importance that we go into the Third Millennium a different people. We should not concentrate so much on what sort of nation we want to create, but rather on what kind of person each should become on account of the influence of Jesus in his/her life. Our personal conversion and authentic interior renewal must have an impact on the community we live in. With our life, by our life, we must proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
In the past three years of preparation for the Great Jubilee the CBCP has issued Pastoral Letters on Politics, Economics, Culture and Spirituality. We recall them to you now for our Great Jubilee conferences and conventions. In them we will find the pathways for personal and societal renewal so much needed in our journey in the new millennium.
But we must go beyond the signs of Pilgrimages and Indulgence to the on-going renewal of our individual and communal lives by responding to the missionary call of the Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation, “Ecclesia In Asia”. To respond to this missionary call, we must not only care and share, but even dare to face the risks of becoming a missionary church, a repentant and forgiving church, a church forever reaching out to people in greatest need (TMA 42).
On this occasion, we appeal for prayer for the forthcoming Second National Clergy Retreat in Tagaytay City on June 26-July 1 this year, and the National Mission Congress in Cebu City on September 28- October 1 also this year. We hope that these two events as well as the various Conventions and Congresses to be held in our respective dioceses will contribute to the “springtime of Christianity”, to “the springtime of holiness”. As we “fix our eyes on Jesus”, we can not but also fix our eyes on the Eucharist which is his Real Presence in our midst. The Holy Year is also a Eucharistic Year. We hope to end our Jubilee Year with a Eucharistic Congress in our Dioceses.
In this year of the Great Jubilee, we dream of exuberant liberation and renewal. We would like to address in particular those who have caused the suffering and poverty of our brothers and sisters. May they not only open their hearts to Jesus in Holy Communion but also to the victims of their violence. To close your heart to your neighbor is to close your heart to Jesus. May we all open our hearts to the call for a Christian social conscience.
In the end , we invite you to keep the joyful spirit of this Holy Year 2000. “It’s the time of the Great Jubilee.”
“It’s a time of joy, a time of peace, a time when hearts are then set free, a time to heal the wounds of division. Open your hearts to the Lord and begin to see the mystery that we are all together as one family. No more walls, no more chains, no more selfishness and closed doors. For we are in the fullness of God’s time.”
May Mary, “the Star of Evangelization” guide our steps in this Year of the Great Jubilee which opens for us our journey to the new Millennium.
+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO
BUILDING A CULTURE OF PEACE BY RESPECTING LIFE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
As we cross the threshold of the third millennium at the beginning of this Jubilee Year, it is well for us to briefly look back at the life of the Filipino nation and the Catholic Church in the Philippines in the past hundred years. We discern some lights and shadows coming to the fore.
First is our intense aspiration for life and its fullness, in stark contrast to the waste of lives lost in wars, criminality, and chronic poverty. Second is our unflagging struggle for independence and human rights against colonial powers and authoritarian regimes, as exemplified by the EDSA People Power Revolution. And third is our continuing search for lasting peace and development in the face of the fragmentation of our society along ethnic and class lines and its exacerbation by armed groups.
It is in this context that we enter the third millennium with a call to all Filipinos to help build what the Holy Father has called a Culture of Life, a Culture of Human Rights, and a Culture of Peace.1
I. Building a Culture of Life
Moses’ final discourse to the Chosen People presents the alternatives between a Culture of Life and a Culture of Death. It is addressed not only to the world of the ancient Hebrews but also to ours in these modern times—where abortions are silently counted in the millions, mercy-killing is being tested out in courts, and capital punishment is still resorted to as the “final solution.”
It is in this regard that Pope John Paul II has pleaded again and again on the “Gospel of Life.” He does so once more in the Asian context. “The life of every person, whether of the child in the womb, or of someone who is sick, handicapped or elderly, is a gift for all,” stresses the Holy Father. And he concludes: “We are therefore guardians of life, not its proprietors.” 2
The Culture of Death and Violence extends to the spread of drugs and the AIDS epidemic, the commercialization of sex, the proliferation of pornographic materials, and the growing permissiveness of a society that no longer heeds the love nor ways of Yahweh.
All forms of violence are an attack on the integrity and fullness of life. “To choose life,” states the Holy Father, “involves rejecting every form of violence: the violence of poverty and hunger, which affects so many human beings; the violence of armed conflict; the violence of criminal trafficking in drugs and arms; the violence of mindless damage to the natural environment.” 3 A more insidious form of violence is the widespread corruption in public office that compounds the other forms of violence in our society today.
Who then are the victims of violence in our society today? They are the street children and child laborers we see around us. They are the small farmers and tribal communities driven away from the lands they till. They are the refugees fleeing areas of armed conflict and the urban poor in dire need of decent living space. They are the drug addicts, the victims of rape and kidnapping, the countless young and old preyed upon by petty and big-time gambling syndicates.
Instead of moving us on a course towards the fullness of life, our laws and public institutions seem to be doing the opposite in their ineffectiveness before the various forms of individual or structural violence that demean the very meaning and quality of life. It is in this light that the value of human life and the dignity of the human person have to be protected by the recognition of rights and responsibilities.
II. Forging a Culture of Human Rights
Through her Social Teachings, the Church has been in the forefront of the struggle for Social Justice. She bases her stand on the intrinsic dignity of every human person and the demands of the common good. She has promoted the rights of workers as well as of property holders. More recently she has spoken out on the right of communities to a clean environment and the right of indigenous peoples to their own culture. And she has also upheld the right of freedom of conscience and of religious belief for all peoples.
The world has rapidly become much more complex and interdependent; the globalization in communications and in the world’s market economy is now a virtual reality. Because of this, there is all the more reason for governments as well as for the Church to articulate the rights of the most vulnerable groups, such as children, women, and indigenous peoples.
In the spirit of the Great Jubilee, we are ready to work with other religious groups in promoting a biblically-based agenda for human rights promotion in the Philippine context today, summarized in five R’s:
Moreover, over the past three years in preparation for the Jubilee Year, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued pastoral exhortations on Philippine Politics, Economy, Culture, and Spirituality, highlighting the rights and responsibilities of Filipinos in the conduct of our political, economic, and cultural-spiritual institutions.4 In particular as regards a Culture of Human Rights, they have stressed the principles of democracy as well as the rights of the economically vulnerable sectors of our society to their basic needs.
The ultimate basis for this preferential option for the poor is pointed out by Pope John Paul II and the Synod of Bishops for Asia: “The poor of Asia and of the world will always find their best reason for hope in the Gospel command to love one another as Christ has loved us (cf. Jn 13:34).” With this in mind, the Church herself is challenged to “become a Church of the poor and for the poor.”5
III. Creating a Culture of Peace
Like concentric circles spreading out from the core value of Human Dignity, a Culture of Life gives rise to a Culture of Human Rights, which in turn brings forth a Culture of Peace. There can be no true peace without respect for life itself and the human rights of every person. Opus Justitiae Pax, (Is. 32:17) the motto of Pope Pius XII, highlights this intimate relationship: Peace is the fruit of Justice.
Indeed, peace itself is seen as one of the rights a community can lay moral claims on. In his latest message for the World Day of Peace, the Holy Father calls our attention to “two indivisible and interdependent rights: the right to peace and the right to an integral development born of solidarity.”6 Thus, a Culture of Peace includes the development imperative as well as a sense of solidarity among communities, nations, and peoples of one world.
In a pluralistic society with diverse cultures and religious traditions, this sense of solidarity can only come about through dialogue – the kind that leads to mutual understanding and respect.
In Mindanao, over the past three years, Catholic and Protestant bishops have entered into dialogue with their religious counterparts, the Muslim ulama , to reinforce the peace process, based on the spiritual traditions of both religions. They are also starting to include leaders of the indigenous peoples’ communities in this dialogue of life, of common action, and of religious experience. Last November, the Bishops-Ulama Forum sponsored a Mindanao-wide Week of Peace to highlight the common aspirations of all cultural communities to put an end to the fighting.
There are other initiatives for peace being worked at by other peace advocates – NGOs and POs – that over the years have been persistently hammering away at the deep-seated obstacles to peace among our people. The campaigners for a gunless society are one such group. So too are those dedicated men and women thanklessly working with our basic sectors to lessen government’s neglect of them.
Ten years ago, the CBCP had already issued a pastoral letter to “Seek Peace; Pursue It.” Today we ask our government officials to resume or continue peace talks with armed groups to arrive at a comprehensive and honorable peace for all. We are ready to collaborate in this noble effort.
Peace-making and rejecting all forms of violence are some of the building-blocks for a Culture of Peace. This work for peace starts with the individual, the family, and the local community and reaches out to include inter-cultural solidarity and care of the environment. It is with these sentiments that Pope John Paul II challenges the young of today: “peace within you and peace around you, peace always, peace with everyone, peace for everyone.”7
The Church’s “mission of dialogue,” according to the Synod Fathers of Asia, is “grounded in the logic of the Incarnation” and partakes of “the Father’s loving dialogue of salvation with humanity.”8 Through this ongoing dialogue, Christians help bring about “a culture where openness to the Transcendent, the promotion of the human person and respect for the world of nature are shared by all.”9 All this is what we mean by a Culture of Peace.
IV. Looking Back and Looking Beyond
As we recall the five R’s for observing the Year of Jubilee, we can preface these with another set of R’s – Renewal and reconciliation. In the spirit of the Jubilee Year, we must first start with a process of self-examination and renewal with an eye to reconciling with those we have sinned against by asking forgiveness. 10
For we cannot close our eyes to the shortcomings that we of the faith have been guilty of in the past. The name “Christian” or “Catholic” has at various historical periods been invoked to foment wars against minority groups, or to acquire landholdings and other forms of wealth, or even to justify the continuation of unjust regimes. Both as an institution and as a community of believers, we acknowledge with deep sorrow these failings, for they are a betrayal of authentic Gospel values that manifest the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
In terms of reconciliation, the Holy Father spells out what this means: “For the Catholic faithful, the commitment to build peace and justice is not secondary but essential. It is to be undertaken in openness towards their brothers and sisters of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, towards the followers of other religions… with whom they share the same concern for peace and brotherhood.” 11
A threefold Culture of Life, Human Rights, and Peace thus provides us with a common agenda for collaborative action among Christians, other faith communities, governments and secular institutions as we enter the third millennium. Let this too be our dream and our hope in the spirit of the Jubilee Year for a shared future with all men and women of good will so that together we may add a final R at the end of our pilgrimage on earth: Return to our Father’s house.
May the spirit of the Risen Lord enable us to share with everyone his resurrection greeting, “Peace be with you.” (Jn. 20:19) And may Mary, our Mother of Life and Queen of Peace, be the guiding star in our journey through this new millennium.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, OMI, D.D.
2 Ecclesia in Asia, (EA), no. 35. Vatican City, 1999.
3 Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 1999.
4 CBCP, Pastoral Letters on Politics, 1997; Economy, 1998; Culture, 1999; Spirituality, 1999.
5 EA, no. 34.
6 Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2000, no. 13.
7 Ibid., no. 22.
8 EA, no. 29.
9 Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2000, no. 2.
10 Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no. 33, Vatican City, 1994.
11 Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2000, no. 20.