Beloved People of God in the Philippines:

A few months ago, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) with the Pastoral Message, “Live Christ, Share Christ!, Looking Forward to our Fifth Century of the Coming of Christianity,” set in motion our observance of the “Year of Faith” (YF) in the Church in our country, as well as fostering of “The New Evangelization” (NE) proclaimed by the Holy See.

Our past months have been marked by the joyous canonization (21 October 2012) of San Pedro Calungsod; by the October 2012 Bishops’ Synod held in Rome on the New Evangelization (NE), and – just now – the recent election of Pope Francis to succeed Pope Benedict XVI who, — out of his loving and noble concern for the greater good of the Church resigned for reasons of age and failing health. Tied up with this succession of remarkable events, we have noted a notable increase in interest and even enthusiasm regarding “what’s new in the life of the Church” among our Catholic people. We take all this as also a sign of the Holy Spirit’s inspiring of our communities, and it adds greatly to our sense of Easter joy.

As a notable event in our own Year of Faith, we have already announced that the CBCP has marked 8 June 2013 as a day of a nation-wide National Consecration by our Catholic Faithful of our people and our country to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The CBCP has directed and urged all our dioceses and parishes, schools and other institutions, even all our families, of course, — to offer solemnly a joint public act of entrustment to the Blessed Mother, Mother of our people and our country.

We wish to do this as truly one people, “from Aparri to Jolo”: formally re-affirming that our country is indeedpueblo amante de Maria” – bayang sumisinta kay Maria: a people truly loving Mary the Mother of Jesus the Lord, a people in a true sense “made one” by this love and devotion which we bear, by God’s great gift, to the Mother of God.

This solemn act of entrustment and consecration, we have said, is part of our Year of Faith observance, and part of the nine-year (“novena”) preparation for the 2021 celebration of the coming of the Christian Faith to our land in 1521 – five hundred years ago. But we hold in our minds and hearts even deeper grounds for this significant forthcoming event.

Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

We have before us the acts of entrustment of the world, of all its peoples and nations, by Popes of our time, from Pope Pius XII in 1942, to Blessed Pope John Paul II, who five times during his long pontificate made and renewed this placing of all of humankind under the mantle of the Blessed Mother, consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This entrustment was inspired by Our blessed Lady’s words to the children of Fatima and the enduring message of Our Lady, still truly relevant for our time. (Pope Benedict XVI). Our Lady promised that this consecration, freely and firmly offered, would bring grace for conversion from sin and of sinners, protection from the “menace of evil and war; from sins against life and the dignity of God’s children; from every kind of injustice and trampling of God’s commandments; from “the sin of the world, sin in all its manifestations …” (John Paul II’s prayer, 1984)

Memorably for us, our Philippine Bishops, representing all of us Catholics in our land, — all joined Pope John Paul II – who in Rome, before an image of Our Lady of Fatima — and with him all the Catholic Bishops of the world in their own dioceses, offered the world-wide Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 25 March 1984.

During an entire “Bimillenium Marian Year”, beginning 8 December 1984 and culminating on same date in 1985, we begged our Blessed Mother’s intercession to bring us true freedom and peace, at a time when our people were undergoing great stress and suffering and near-hopelessness under the dictatorship. The “peaceful People Power Revolution” of February 1986 came as God’s answer to our prayers and longings, — so we are convinced – through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Memorably again, on 3 December 1987, as an act of joyous thanksgiving, we renewed our Consecration to the Two Hearts, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his Mother’s Immaculate Heart, led in our name by Cardinals Jaime Sin and Ricardo Vidal.

More recently, our Bishops, responding to our Filipino lay Catholics’ initiative, opened (on 19 June 2009) a “Year of Renewal, of Consecration and Commitment offered to the Two Hearts,” and ended it solemnly with an Act of Consecration to the Heart of Jesus and also to the Heart of Mary, 11 June 2010. We are certain much protection from harm, distress and evil were given to us through the graciousness of the “Two Hearts”. Peaceful elections were held in May 2010, and a new administration installed, with peaceful and orderly transition.

Looking at our Present Context

As the Year of Faith moves forward, we know that there are several situations of trouble and conflict in our part of the world. It suffices to name some areas: the “two Koreas”, Sabah, and the West Philippine Sea.

Within our nation, we know also that there are positive gains: the widely recognized present economic upturn under our present government’s policies and programs; equally recognized improvements and progress in governance, in health care, in anti-poverty and pro-education endeavors; sincere efforts at diminishing corruption, and more. We are told by surveys also that genuine hopes for a better future have recently risen among our people. Yes, there is new hope.

Yet, just as truly, there remain not a few dark and shadow areas too, like the ongoing violence and conflicts in Mindanao; the also ongoing decades-old Communist-led revolutionary movement; the persistent joblessness that daily sends hundreds, even thousands, of our countrymen abroad in search of employment, the unabated wanton destruction of remaining natural resources. There are also the recent bitter controversies regarding legislation on “reproductive health”; the threat of more bills in Congress to legalize practices which our Catholic moral doctrine holds as contrary to divine law; the manifestations of a spreading relativistic mindset in some sectors of our society (the “dictatorship of relativism” reaching even us) and its effects in our own changing lifestyles.

And of course, next May, we will have coming national and local elections. We all know that amongst us, election-periods are so often “trouble periods– and even crisis-times” — with guns, goons and gold pursuing their destructive doings.

Deeper than all the foregoing, a genuine “return to God and turning truly to the Gospel” and the more authentic living of our faith, these call us and challenge us, in pursuing our vocation to be truly God’s People, to be Christ’s Body in our land. A “practical atheism” (so emeritus Pope Benedict so-often refers to it), secularism and forgetfulness of God and of the Gospel spread more and more in our de facto culture; the wrong elements of so-called “post-modernism and globalization” increasingly affect our minds and mindsets, our moral conduct and our lives, above all the lives of our young people. On Ash Wednesday we are told, “Repent and be converted to the Gospel!”: The Year of Faith reminds us of this mandate, renews its summons to true Christian fidelity.

What We Resolve To Do

Without developing further the issues we must face, the tasks we must undertake as the demanding labors of the New Evangelization for us, the Church in our country, we see why our leaders, ordained and lay, our Bishops first of all, are urging us to renew once again – more earnestly, more deeply, with greater preparation – our Consecration and Entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as well as – necessarily accompanying it – our renewal of consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As part of our Consecration to the Immaculate Heart, there are also the adjoint practices of (1) the Mass and Communion of Reparation on the First Saturday of each month, and (2) Prayer and Penance, in our daily lives offered also by us, in union with Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. As much as possible, the daily recitation of the Rosary will be the ongoing-practice of prayer asked of us. We are reminded that the Fatima message teaches the “immense power of the Rosary” for faith-life in the world of grace.

With this Pastoral Exhortation we send out to you a booklet prepared for us, which sets down (1) the specific pastoral activities and programs which can be followed and activated in each diocese, parish, local school or other institutions and which (2) develops briefly and clearly, we hope, some theological reflection on the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart and accompanying practices of spirituality and devotion.

We are also sending out the poster visually representing and fostering the program of these events, an image of the “Madonna and her motherly mantle” (the Schutzmantel Madonna), an icon of Mary known and loved in Europe from long ago, but locally “inculturated” for us. Fr. Armand Tangi, SSP, the well-known Paulinian priest and religious artist has created this image for us, from his heart and hand, as a labor of love. Mary of the Immaculate Heart, Mother of Christ and our Mother, here holds our Filipino people under and within her loving and caring mantle–-all of us, men, women and children, of every region of our land; of every age, gender, color of skin and sector of society; Christians and people of other religions, churches and faith communities, all Filipinos of good will, — all of us who make one people, one nation, one. Our Lady’s love and care, received by us, have brought and can bring us together and make us one.

We repeat as we end this message: we will hold a simultaneous National Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at 10:00 in the morning in all Cathedrals, Parish Churches, Shrines and Chapels led by the Bishops in their respective Arch/Dioceses, Prelatures and Apostolic Vicariates, all over the country.

“Pueblo Amante de Maria”: Isang Bayang Sumisinta Kay Maria

This is the purpose of our Act of Consecration to her Immaculate Heart, that she the Mother of us all really help us to become more truly one. Bayang sumisinta kay Maria, isang bayan, isang bansa. In our past history, in times of trouble and need, of darkness and loss of hope, whenever we prayed to her, she always came to be with us and raise us up. Ina of Peñafrancia in Bikol Region, Nuestra Señora de Guia of Ermita (Manila), Virgen de la Paz y Buenviaje in Antipolo, Virgen del Santissimo Rosario of La Naval in Manila and Manaoag, Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Our Lady of Piat in Cagayan, Our Lady of Caysasay in Taal (Batangas), Virgin of Miraculous Medal of Sucat, Parañaque and San Marcelino in Ermita (Manila), Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe of Makati and Cebu, Our Lady of Lourdes of Santa Mesa Heights (Quezon City), Nuestra Señora de Candelaria of Jaro (Iloilo), Nuestra

Señora del Pilar of Zamboanga … this is just the beginning of a litany, a much longer litany, wherein almost every corner of our land will finally add its name.

As the late Jaime Cardinal Sin wrote of our people during our Marian Year of 1988: “When our land was not yet one land, and our people not yet a nation, … it was she, the Mother of Jesus the Incarnate Son, who became our first bonding tongue, the first common language of our hearts, the symbol of a new race to whom oneness and peace would come in time, as a gift of the Father in heaven, but as a gift which would reach us through her loving hands.”

We change his last lines a little. “This Year of Faith, of our Consecration to her Immaculate Heart, will be a firm renewal of our unshakeable trust in her, of our filial love for her, — she who is now, as ever in our past, our Queen and our Mother of mercy, — vita, dulcedo et spes nostra: yes, of all our people, our life, our sweetness and our hope.

Let the bells ring throughout the land, singing our people’s hymn to Mary. They shall be bells which celebrate our hope.” Amen. Amen,

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,

Archbishop of Cebu
President, CBCP
April 15, 2013