Monday, December 31, 2007

Be a Reason for Hope

AS we come to the end of the year 2007 we are challenged to assess ourselves, to evaluate ourselves as individuals and as community. Everyone must examine his conscience. A litany of questions along the line of the corporal works of mercy may be asked: such as what have we done regarding feeding the hungry and malnourished, helping build shelters for the homeless, supporting the education of poor students, creating employment and health security for the sick, releasing those unjustly imprisoned, liberating the oppressed and exploited, and doing away with all abductions and extra judicial killings.

Despite the good-willed efforts of government and church, the sinful root causes of our social problems continue to challenge both individuals and society to conversion and social transformation.

The birth anniversary of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, reminds us not only to celebrate but also to respond to its call for a change of heart and conversion to justice and charity. Among the many corporal works of mercy, “Pondo ng Pinoy” and “Gawad Kalinga” are non-government initiatives that have grown almost nationally. These and other social initiatives including the silent and unseen ones are also transmitters of the “new presence” of God and give our society “reason to hope” in the coming New Year 2008.

By our response we become reflections of God “who is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end” (Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, “Spe Salvi”, no.31)

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

December 31, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Reflection

CHRISTMAS is the celebration of an event of God “going outside of himself,” becoming man in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, God has assumed the everyday in order that through him and with him man may learn to be fully human. Jesus in his human life—as described in the Gospels—is the word, the address, the message of God to humanity.
Jesus must be experienced by Christmas, not simply as a great prophet, a religious founder or genius but as God’s ultimate Word to mankind. In him concrete human life is found in its most basic and radical form. Through his earthly life Jesus showed how the absolutely distant God is likewise absolute near. Through his incarnation, Jesus Christ reveals the deepest meaning of being human… that in every human being there is the ability to be God in the world or to be infinitely open to God’s self-communication.

+Angel Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

Sunday, December 09, 2007

International Human Rights Day

On Human Rights Day our attention, proclamation and prayer reach out naturally to the victims of human rights violation, v.g. the child in the womb, violated children and women, the abandoned, harassed and exploited, the disadvantaged poor, the unjustly evicted from their land, etc… Unfortunately in our country with a democratic form of government, the rights of the people are not always fully respected. And the culprits: among others, public servants and elected officials.

Human rights and the duty to respect, proclaim and obey them are mutually complimentary, indissolubly linked and inextricably connected. On the one hand, the human right of an individual imposes some duty on the part of others. On the other hand, one who claims his own rights, yet altogether neglects to carry out his duties, is a person who builds with one hand and destroys with the other (cf. John XXIII, Pacem In Terris, no. 264).

In our country where millions radically lack the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, education, employment and health security, “the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights (even over material possessions they justly possess) so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine No. 158). It means going beyond mere charity, alms giving, and giving only what one no longer needs.

When leaders are hounded by unresolved anomalies and litanies of graft and corruption, it is difficult, almost impossible, to regain trust, credibility and respect which are critical ingredients to effective governance.

If civil society wants to effect moral transformation in governance, they must be reasonably angry, articulate, and persevering in effecting the change they want to see. Most important is the element of spiritual transformation, whose key is conversion to God which starts with ourselves.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Advent reflection

Beyond the nostalgia of past Christmas, the advent season is a reminder that Jesus who came more than two thousand years ago will come again. In fact, his incarnation, his being the Word of God-made-flesh, his death and resurrection, has made him belong to our history.

In advent, he is said to come, because his incarnation has made him one of us, a member of our humanity. There is an identity between the earthly Jesus and the resurrected exalted Lord. His eternal life is the ultimate form of his earthly life.

To confess his advent or coming among us, is today to welcome him not as a child of baby, but in his resurrected form. The more Jesus Christ is incarnated, enfleshed in our personal lines, the more he truly become the Word of God made flesh, God’s message or God alive, living in us.

+Angel Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thank God, It’s over

Press Release

Thank God, the curfew is over. Thank God, our hardworking media men have been released; were it not for them the nation would be in the dark as to what our country is undergoing at this point in time. Yesterday and last night, the people holed-in at Peninsula Manila had a “foretaste” of what Martial Law could be. God save us from the worse!

Bishop Julio Labayen, Bishop-Emeritus of Infanta, experienced in the hands of the military what he did not undergo even in the time of Marcos dictatorship. Bishop Labayen is already 81 years old. I am appealing to the military that he be released on account of his age. The advocacy that Bishop Labayen had been doing is for the country to be restored to genuine democracy and justice which is worth fighting for.

In this moment of national crisis, may there be sobriety, calmness, mutual understanding among the people in opposite camps. Let us pray for our country.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

November 30, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Opening Remarks
Pius XII Catholic Center
November 27, 2007

Distinguished and Honorable Senators and Congressmen of the Philippine Legislature, Your Excellencies, the Archbishops and Bishops of the Philippines.

I am privileged to welcome all of you to this second Bishops-Legislators’ Caucus. We had our first caucus last September 4 in the office of and hosted by Brother Mike Velarde. We come in order to share our ideas about a particular national concern: the issue of population and family morality and life.

For your information, Honorable Members of the Legislature, the CBCP has some 33 Commissions, Committees and Offices, probably similar to the way Congress is made up of many committees. Through these Commissions we the bishops are able to relate, have dialogues and conferences with the people on different concerns and issues. Outside of the regular Episcopal commissions, the bishops also relate with businessmen through the BBC (Bishops-Businessmen’s Conferences), with Educators through the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines.

Collaboration between bishops and the PNP has been coordinated on local level by PNP Values and Leadership School of Gen. Samuel Tucay and Fr. Carmelo Diola. Tomorrow, some of the bishops will have a conference with farmers’ groups on the agrarian reform. The farmers’ groups include the Sumilao farmers marching to Manila to appeal for the reclamation of their ancestral land from which they had been evicted.

Thanks to some of our lay cooperators, Mrs. Fenny Tatad, Atty. Jo Imbong and their companions, we were able to bring about this Bishops-Legislators’ Caucus. For this coming together of Bishops and Legislators, we are motivated no less by the Compendium on Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 425 which read in part: “The mutual autonomy of the church and the political community does not entail a separation that excludes cooperation. Both of them, although by different titles, serve the personal and social vocation of the same human beings.

The Church and the political community, in fact, express themselves in organized structures that are note ends in themselves but are intended for the service of man, to help him to exercise his rights fully, those inherent in his reality as a citizen and a Christian, and to fulfill correctly his corresponding duties. The Church and the political community can more effectively render this service for the good of all if each works better for wholesome cooperation in a way suitable to the circumstances of time and place.” (Compendium 425; Gaudium et Spes 76).

Now is the time and this is the place (should I say?) for our “bonding” and exchange of ideas for the service of our people.


Opening Remarks at theConsultation on the Preparation for
the National Rural Congress

held at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center
27 November 2007

This year we celebrate the 40th year of the issuance of “Populorum Progressio— Development of People” by Pope Paul VI. There the Pope states that a redistribution of land as part of sound policies of agrarian reform is indispensable for genuine economic development (PP no.23).

According to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: “Agrarian reform therefore becomes a moral obligation more than a political necessity, since the failure to enact such reform is a hindrance in developing countries to the benefits arising from the opening of markets and, generally, from the abundant growth opportunities offered by the current process of globalization” (Compendium of the Social Doctrines no. 300).

Premised on the above, we view the continued relevance of agrarian reform in the Philippines. If there has been any deficiency or neglect in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1998, we recommend that its cure be addressed in successive implementation. Chronic rural poverty is linked to the rural poor’s lack of control over access to basic productive resources, such as land, water and forest resources.

In the light of the social doctrine on agrarian reform, there is moral obligation to grant the rural workers their legitimate desire to participate in the ownership of the land they till and in the profits of their toil. Sharing of land as well as of goods and goodness is a demand of the principles of human dignity, equality and stewardship. According to the most recent poverty report by the Asian Development Bank, three fourths of the Philippines remained poor and rural. This means that they have limited access to food, education, health security, housing and employment.

In the current discussion and debate on the agrarian reform program, I hope and pray that the concerned sectors will be able to come up with needed monitoring schemes, support services, and assistance from related of the rural poor— on whose work on the land depends the life of the nation—a reform, an improvement of and extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program will need the support of the legislative and executive arms of government.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Moral Revolution? Do It

GOD help us! God have mercy on the Filipino people. The list of unresolved cases of social, economic and political concerns keeps piling up. Suicides and homicides have been committed because of extreme unresolved poverty—and these at a time when the peso is claimed to be gaining ground. How long have the poor to wait? And then the murder of a COMELEC official—at a time when COMELEC is facing renewal of its institution.

The alleged bribery of government officials, the deaths resulting from the explosion at the Glorietta and more rece3sntly the bomb explosion at the Batasan Pambansa: these are the social concerns and nagging issues that are crying our for solution and closure.

Add to this list the multi-million peso projects sprawling like white elephants because of substandard qualities and questionable arrangements.

These are not purely socio-economic issues. The Church’s social doctrine (Compendium 330-331) insists on their moral connotations. The relationship between morality and economics and poverty is necessary, intrinsic and reciprocal. On the one hand, it will be unfair to the victims if the real and ultimate culprits are not investigated and made to answer for their actions. On the other hand, each case carries a strong statement about the different levels of leadership as well as about the national state of affairs.

As a response to the state of moral bankruptcy in public life, of probably irremediable loss of credibility and trust, a call has been made for “moral revolution”. If only to stop our country from continuing to become a “social volcano” (Heaven help us!), we support the ideal of a “moral revolution”—moral transformation, moral renewal, moral reform. The CBCP has proposed it before in many ways through the years. And we would like to say it again. Nothing new, but the resolve may be.

We are consoled by the fact that some of our public officials and different sectors of civil society are seeing such a need for “moral revolution”. Sana magpatuloy ito…sana dumami pa ang bilang nila. May this attitude prevail…may the number of good-willed people increase. Not only investigations one after another. In our country where 57% are not affected by the gained power of the peso, where graft and corruption by the mighty in power and influence still hold sway, we are in search for people who would be humble, courageous and decided enough to do a Zacchaeus “Here and now I give half of my possession to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Lk 19:8). This is the only violent revolution worthy of the name—it “kills” selfishness.

Let us do it. “To start this moral revolution, I must cease to be dishonest, unjust and unfair to my fellow Filipinos. I will tell and act on the truth that I confess or affirm. I will return what I have unjustly and deceitfully acquired. Only then can I ask pardon from God and the people I have wronged.” Speaking of reconciliation? This is!

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
November 24, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Bigger Picture In the Presidential Pardon

A president granting absolute pardon to a convicted and impeached president-predecessor is historic indeed. It will give people today and future generations opportunity to debate and evaluate. The pardon covers a multitude of sins which are now left to Divine Justice – cum – Mercy to resolve. In a death-bed scene, a dying person might hear God saying: “I will forgive you, I know you have already suffered, but you should be purified some more in purgatory.”

On this occasion we are thinking of the many prisoners whose crimes of lesser gravity have not been proven and yet continue to suffer from the fact of “justice delayed justice denied.” Will they be given the same privilege or consideration? The pardoned president could not be more privileged, considering the many prisoners with lesser crimes of plunder and injustice who are rotting in jail only because they have no influence with the government and justice system. No wonder the statue of justice has covered eyes, ‘para walang favoritism.’

The pardoning president has spoken; the case ends there. But where is “restorative justice?”

We appeal for the many prisoners who may also deserve the same clemency for the sake of their poor families. A president pardoning a convicted president may have bigger implications than meet our eyes now. And so reflection must continue, but this time with civil society. May it bear the desired fruit of unity and reconciliation.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
October 26, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The forthcoming Barangay Election on October 29 will show-case how genuinely alive is our democracy. On that day the country, composed of 41,800 barangays, will be choosing their barangay officials. All Filipino citizens are members of a barangay. We encourage those of voting age to come to the polling places to vote for their barangay officials.

It is good to be reminded that according to the Omnibus Election Code (Art. VI, Sec. 38) barangay elections shall be non-partisan, i.e. no political party, organization or group shall intervene in the nomination and election of any candidate. Unfortunately, there are many barangays which have fallen under the control of political parties or politicians. As a result they are more in the service of some politicians or political party than the common good of the barangay.

There is a great need for education and social awareness of how the barangay, this smallest political unit of government, functions. We hope that what the Local Government Code of 1991 describes as the “Role of the Barangay” will be explained to the barangay members in order that they may genuinely and consciously participate in the functions of their barangay. The law states: “Role of the Barangay as the basic political unit: the barangay serves as the primary unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects and activities in the community and as a forum wherein the collective views of the people may be expressed, crystallized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled.” (Sec. 384)

All members of the churches, parishes, municipalities, Basic Ecclesial Communities are also members of the barangay. If they are taking interest in how their churches or parishes operate, similarly they should be interested in what is going on in their barangay with respect to the common good. As parishioners, they need to be aware of the laws of the church. As barangay members they are legally empowered to get involved in the common affairs of their barangay.

There are some 2000 Parishes all over the country. These Parishes also include most of the 41,800 barangays. In fact in many parishes, barangay officials are also officials or members of Barangay Parish Pastoral Councils. In some cases, the barangays are further divided into smaller units called Basic Ecclesial Communities.

The barangay activities offer great and many opportunities not only for social, political and economic interaction; they are also practical venues for faith interaction and sharing and inter-religious dialogue. In these non-partisan smallest political units of government, as happens in many Parishes and Municipalities, the church and the state can wonderfully interact and cooperate for the common good in the spirit of social co-responsibility.

Come October 29 may our Barangay Election be freed from the violence and corrupt practices that happen during local and national elections. May our Barangay Election produce the leaders that our civil society need for the common good. With the correct social conscience and sensitivity, the barangay members can make this happen.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
October 25, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


“The more people and social groups strive to resolve social problems according to the truth, the more they distance themselves from abuses and act in accordance with the objective demands of truth…The unscrupulous use of money raises ever more pressing questions, which necessarily call for greater transparency and honesty in personal and social activity” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 198).

In the News too many question marks surround the recent distribution of 500,000 pesos each to governors among whom, appearing like a hero, is Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio. What was the purpose of the cash gifts? Where did they come from? Who was the personal source of the cash? Were they for local government projects? Were they for the forthcoming Barangay Elections? Why were they distributed only to pro-administration local officials? Why not also to the opposition? Who ultimately will profit from these cash gifts? Are they really gifts or bribes?

The unscrupulous use of money raises ever more pressing questions, which necessarily call for greater transparency and honesty in personal and social activity” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 198).

Bribery is not an acceptable word even to culprits: so, it is better called “gifts.” And so, in order to feel good and escape the blame of conscience, …bribe is also called a “gift.”

With this sort of thing happening, our country is not only suffering from economic bankruptcy but also moral bankruptcy, disappointingly being shown by our leaders. We are very much concerned with our youth who are looking at our leaders for models in honesty, integrity, and transparency.

From the moral standpoint, one should not accept money about which questions can be asked because it renders responsibility, accountability, and transparency a dubious subject matter.

I encourage and support the plan of our respectable senators to make the appropriate inquiry on the matter of distributing said cash gifts.

Archbishop of Jaro
October 16, 2007



Sa patuloy ng pagdami ng mga mamamayan at mga samahang naglalayong malutas ang mga suliranin ng lipunan ayon sa katotohanan, higit silang lumalayo sa mga pag-abuso at kumikilos ng naaayon sa pangangailangan ng katotohanan. Ang walang pakundangang paggamit ng salapi ang siyang nagiging dahilan ng mas maraming mga katanungan, na mangangailangang magkaroon ng katapatan sa larangang pangsarili’t panglipunan. (COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH, No. 198.)

Mas maraming mga katanungang nagmula sa naganap na pamamahagi ng tig-kakalahating milyong piso sa mga gobernador, na kinabibilangan ng lumalabas na bayaning si Gobernador Ed Panlilio ng Pampanga. Ano ang layunin ng ipinamahaging salapi? Saan ito nanggaling? Sino ang pinagmulan ng salapi? Ang salapi bang ito’y para sa mga proyekto ng mga pamahalaang lokal? Ito ba’y para sa nalalapit na halalang pambarangay? Bakit mga kapanalig lamang ng administrasyon ang nabiyayaan? Bakit hindi naabutan ang mga mula sa oposisyon? Sino nga ba ang makikinabang sa salaping ipinamahagi? Ito ba’y mga regalo o suhol?

“Ang walang pakundangang paggamit ng salapi ang nagiging dahilan ng mas maraming mga katanungan, na higit na mangangailangang magkaroon ng katapatan sa larangang pangsarili’t panglipunan. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 198).

Ang panunuhol ay katangang ‘di katanggap-tanggap kahit na sa mga salarin kaya’t mas makabubuting tawaging “ala-ala o regalo.” Kaya upang makahinga ng maluwag at mawala ang bagabag sa konsiyensya, ang suhol ay tinatagurian ding “ala-ala o regalo.”

Sa ganitong mga nagaganap, patuloy na naghihirap ang bansa sa kakulangan ng magandang kabuhayan at kawalan ng paggalang at pagkilala sa kung ano ang tama’t kung ano ang mali, na nakalulungkot na nakikitang kagagawan ng ating mga pinuno. Nababahala kami sa mga kabataang tumitingala sa mga pinuno ng bansa bilang mga huwaran sa katapatan, integridad at kalinisan.

Mula sa usaping moral, hindi marapat at lalo’ng hindi matuwid na tumanggap ng salapi nang hindi nasasagot ang mga katanungan hinggil sa responsibilidad, pananagutan at katapatang kaakibat ng kasalukuyang usapin.

Kailangang ituloy ang balak ng mga kagalang-galang na Senador na magsagawa ng pagsisiyasat sa pamamahagi ng salapi sa mga opisyal ng pamahalaan kamakailan.

Arsobispo ng Jaro
Ika-16 ng Oktubre, 2007

Saturday, October 06, 2007


We hope it is not true that congress plans to appropriate one billion pesos for the purchase of condoms, birth control pills and other “reproductive health” products to control population growth. It if is true, we categorically object to it and instead strongly recommend that the one billion pesos be directly appropriated and/or added for hunger and poverty alleviation projects, as well as for free education of extremely poor children.

The use of abortifacients, contraceptive pills and devises, sterilization, directly willed abortion are wrong in themselves. They are against nature and God’s law. They are wrong not because the Catholic Church forbids them; rather the Church forbids them because they destroy the fruitfulness of human reproductive capacities given by the Creator and hence are morally wrong. (CBCP said this already in 1990 and at other times!). It is not just a matter of being conservative, but also of being morally upright.

The church advocates Natural Family Planning as the only morally acceptable way of practicing responsible parenthood. The Church does not forbid the advocacy of the increase or decrease of population provided the freedom of the couple to exercise sexual and family morality according to their religious conviction are respected. Since the Church objects to the use of artificial contraception, the church likewise objects to their dissemination, creating thereby a contraceptive mentality towards a culture of death.

It is not true that the Philippines growth rate is 2.36%. The Unite Nations using the same census data has arrived at a very much lower rate. The National Statistics Office has already projected a Philippine population growth rate of 1.99%. These notwithstanding, we do not subscribe to the allegations that population must be controlled because it is the main cause of poverty; there are other grave factors. We will not join countries with collapsing population growth rate.

We exhort our clergy to proactively preach the doctrine of the Church on principled population control. We strongly encourage and support our legislators in Congress and the Senate who promote the moral teachings on life, family and population.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
October 6, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


From Lipa City , 4th National Pilgrimage to Lipa

WE have received the decision of the Sandiganbayan declaring the former President guilty of the crime of plunder.

We respect it as a human judgment by a human court tasked precisely to examine the case.

We regard it also as a call to repentance and a call for change or conversion affecting not only the person of President Estrada but also many others in our government. The one who will profit from the good fruit of such a decision or judgment is no less than the country itself which is known to have been suffering from all kinds of graft and corruption and plunder. It is a warning sign.

We pray for President Estrada that he may have the spiritual strength to face the new situation which is not beyond the reach of “divine mercy.”

Thousands of people have gathered here in Lipa City for their Fourth National Pilgrimage to pray to God for our country.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
September 12, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Press Statement on the Release of Fr. Bossi

We welcome with joy and gratitude the release of the missionary, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, by his abductors. For many weeks, in behalf of his relatives and community, many people prayed and appealed for mercy and compassion for Fr. Bossi.

Foreign missionaries are giving a great service to the people in far-flung corners of the country especially in Mindanao, at great sacrifice and even dangers. We hope that what happened to Fr. Bossi will not happen again.

Prior to the release of Fr. Bossi, there was the barbaric and bloody ambush of Philippine Marines at which 14 (?) lost their lives. We condemn such heinous act, and join the appeal for justice in the restoration of peace. Let the same not happen again in our society of already precarious peace.

We express appreciation to all who facilitated his release.

We recognize in the incidence, the elements of peace-making and peace-giving, from which we can try to move on.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
July 20, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

Towards a Second National Rural Congress

FORTY years ago, the Church in the Philippines convened a National Rural Congress highlighting the call that “the Church must go to the barrios.” The involvement of the Church in rural issues was concretized in the formation of diocesan social action centers, rural cooperatives, advocacy groups for agrarian reform, and others.

To commemorate that event held in 1967, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued early this year the pastoral statement, “The Dignity of the Rural Poor – A Gospel Concern”. We made a call for a Second National Rural Congress (NRC II) to review the continuing issues confronting the majority of our people living in rural areas. “But this time,” we said, “our farmers must do the speaking by themselves, the discerning, the proposing of their own ideas, the planning of how we must as a people come together to work for the common good of the country…”

In this light, we are adopting a SEE-JUDGE-ACT methodology in convening this Second National Rural Congress. There are five objectives:

1. To describe the current situation of various sectors of the rural poor—e.g., small farmers, landless workers, indigenous people, small fishermen, rural women and youth, etc.;
2. To describe the role of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) and church-based programs in rural development;
3. To review the impact of key social legislation and to engage government agencies in the implementation of ongoing social reform programs under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), etc.;
4. To apply the Social Teachings of the Church to the concrete problems of Philippine rural society and to arrive at recommendations and action plans; and
5. To collate and disseminate research findings through media channels, and to promote continuing dialogue among local churches, NGOs and academe in the social transformation of rural—as well as urban poor—communities.

The timetable comprises two phases

Phase I: (July-November 2007) in two parallel tracks:
A. Diocesan consultations on BECs in rural development (to be conducted by the National Secretarial for Social Action (NASSA), and the Offices for BECs and Indigenous People);
B. Sub-regional consultations on rural poor sectors and rural issues (to be conducted by the Philippine-Misereor Partnership (PMP), the Association of Major Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), and the Rural Poor Solidarity (RPS) coalition of non-government and people’s organizations.

Phase II: (First Quarter of 2008) – convening of NRC II to discuss the collated inputs from the diocesan and sub-regional consultations. The Congress itself may take two-to-three days.

Overseeing the entire process under the CBCP Plenary Assembly is the NRC Central Committee with Archbishop Antonio Ledesma (Executive Chairman), Bishop Broderick Pabillo (Vice Chairman), Bishop Socrates Villegas, Bishop Sergio Utleg and Sr. Rosanne Mallillin, SPC (members).

The Central Committee is to be assisted by the Episcopal Advisory Council, which is composed of Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales (Luzon), Ricardo Cardinal Vidal (Visayas), Archbishop Orlando Quevedo (Mindanao), and Archbishop Angel Lagdameo (CBCP).

The ad intra secretariat for the diocesan consultations on BECs includes: Sr. Rosanne Mallilin of CBCP-NASSA (Coordinator), Msgr. Elmer Abacahin of the CBCP-BEC Office, and a representative of the Episcoal Commission on Indigenous Peoples. The ad extra secretariat for Sub-regional consultations on rural issues includes: Ms. Lourdes Cipriano of PMP (Coordinator), Bro. Hansel Mapayo of AMRSP, and Ms. Belinda Formanes of RPS.

An auxiliary arm of the NRC Central Committee will be composed of the CBCP Offices of Research (under Abp. Antonio Ledesma), Media (under Msgr. Pedro Quitorio), and Secretariat (under Msgr. Juanito Figura).

Moreover, from time to time, there will be periodic consultations of notable lay advisers, research centers, and other Episcopal commissions. (cf. the organizational flow of NRC II in the Appendix.)

It is in this light that we make an appeal to all our diocesan social action centers, schools, and research centers as well as farmers’ organizations, NGOs, and government agencies to participate actively in a spirit of solidarity in the various activities outlined for the NRC II process.

The expected outcome of this NRC process, including Phases I and II, are:
1. SEE: a fuller description, both quantitative and qualitative, of the rural poverty situation;
2. JUDGE: a deeper analysis of the situation in the light of the Social Teachings of the Church; and
3. ACT: concrete proposals for action addressed to the rural sectors, local churches, government agencies, NGOs, and others.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth, Justice, and Love—and through the intercession of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, may we carry out these proposed activities in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the countryside.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines;

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
16 July 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Press Statement on the “Tridentine” Mass

WE fully welcome with respect and appreciation the recent Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI on the “Tridentine” Mass. It clarifies for us the status of the Tridentine Mass in the Latin Language.

In accordance with the Apostolic Letter (“Motu proprio”) entitled “Summorum Pontificum” of Pope Benedict XVI, the celebration of the so-called Tridentine Mass, which is in the Latin language, as approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962 continues to be fully permissible as an extraordinary form of the Mass. The Tridentine Mass was never forbidden or abrogated.

The so-called “New Mass” which was introduced after the Second Vatican Council and approved by Pope Paul VI in 1970 has become more popular among the people because it allowed the use of some approved adaptations, including the use of the popular languages and dialects. It became the ordinary form of the Mass, widely celebrated in the parish churches.

When may the Tridentine (Latin) Mass be celebrated? According to the letter of Pope Benedict XVI, it may be celebrated by catholic priests of the Latin Rite: a) in private masses, b) in conventual or community mass in accordance with the specific statutes of the Congregation, c) in parishes upon request of the faithful and under the guidance of the bishop (in accordance with Canon 392). In such Masses, however, the readings may be given in the vernacular.

This permission given by Pope Benedict XVI means that the Mass in Latin and in accordance with the formula of the Council of Trent, hence Tridentine, with the celebrant’s back to the faithful may be celebrated, as it was never forbidden or abrogated. For new priests, this will require formation in the Latin Mass.

Now, we are instructed that in the liturgy of the Mass, there is the ordinary form which is that approved by Pope Paul VI in 1970 after the Vatican II; and there is the extraordinary form—the Tridentine (Latin) Mass which is that approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962. The two forms will have their way of leading the faithful to the true worship of God in prayer and liturgy; and may even be a factor for unity in the Church.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
July 9, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

CBCP Pastoral Statement on the 2007 National Elections

We are grateful to the many people who worked hard for honest and clean elections last May 2007. In a special way we commend the lay groups under the leadership of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the National Movement for Free Election (NAMFREL), the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, the Catholic Media Network, and the newly organized Legal Network for a Truthful Elections (LENTE). Their efforts undoubtedly contributed to the emergence of a new political consciousness among the electorate. In many cases, the voters were not naively allured by popular personalities or by those who gave away much money. We thank the thousands who, in various capacities, devoted themselves to achieving Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful and Peaceful Elections (CHAMP).

Nevertheless, we are mindful of the many evils that continue to plague our electoral exercise. As we have done in the past, we condemn the dirty conduct of elections in some provinces. The buying, padding and selling of votes have embarrassingly become systemic and threaten to become a cultural element of our elections. It has been reported that some voters went to the precincts only when first paid by some candidates. We also express our disapproval of candidates coming from the same family or clan, thus keeping power and influence within the family. We hope and pray that implementing norms be approved to arrest the spread of this malaise.

Likewise we protest against the injustice done to people as their right to choose their leaders was desecrated. We are horrified by the violence inflicted on innocent people during the campaign and election periods. But we are equally edified by the heroism of those who defended the sanctity of the ballot, even to the point of death.

It was an achievement in itself that elections were held on May 14, 2007. But given a climate of social distress and hopelessness, the challenge was how to restore credibility to the electoral process as a core democratic institution for resolving political conflict, and how to get the citizenry, especially the youth, to become politically engaged. On the whole, despite the deep flaws in the process and its administration, the last election maybe said to have been a qualified success with the results generally reflecting the popular will (e.g. only 5 percent of the contested positions are being questioned).

Vigilance, Volunteerism and Coordinated Action.

For the first time since 1992, the Church-based groups, PPCRV, NAMFREL, NASSA worked closely together and were better prepared and organized to make a qualitative impact on the elections, even in Muslim Mindanao. A new group called LENTE (Legal Network for Truthful Elections) was organized on the initiative of One Voice with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) as co-convenor— the first time that lawyers, paralegal volunteers were mobilized for electoral work. LENTE focused on the weakest link in the electoral process—the canvassing of votes at the municipal and provincial levels. These groups agreed to coordinate their work through a grouping called VforCE (One Million Volunteers for Clean Elections). The doggedness of these groups, despite the limited time to organize and coordinate, contributed to the deterring large-scale fraud. VforCE offered a framework for coordinated election. The May 2007 elections indeed led to a manifestation of volunteerism and vigilance, underscoring the critical importance of collaboration and partnerships, and providing concrete opportunities for citizen engagement in various aspects of electoral process.

There also were signs of increased maturity among the electorate as the election results demonstrated that sheer popularity/celebrity status and huge media expenditures do not necessarily translate to election victory. These results may also be an indicator of some success in the voters’ education efforts. The citizen groups, including Church-based organizations, have worked on this for years.
But the last elections also showed the continuing dominance in the Philippines of a few political families, and revealed the persistence of vote-buying as a serious problem (including pay-offs not to vote) in a social context of widespread poverty and gross inequality, even if there were a few positive stories of reversals of these old trends. Much remains to be done in the area of political recruitment and financing of alternative candidates, and thus in the development of genuine political party system in the Philippines. That is why the flawed party list law and its problematic implementation is real cause for concern. There were also signs of alienation from the electoral process among the citizenry: a lower-than-usual voter turnout (60-65 percent of registered voters), including a very low level of participation from overseas absentee voters (14 percent).

Agenda for Electoral Reforms and Continuing Political Involvement

Both the positive and negative experiences of the last elections point to a number of important electoral reforms that needed to be pursued:

1. A full revamp of the Comelec, beginning with the appointment of a new chair and commissioners with unquestioned integrity and competence, especially in systems and management. These appointments are going to be in the hands of the President and the Commission on Appointments of the Philippine Congress, and it is our collective responsibility to monitor closely the process of selection, appointment and confirmation. There should also be serious efforts to de-politicize and professionalize the bureaucracy.

2. Holding those responsible for anomalies in past elections and the recently concluded ones accountable to the people. Good career people in the Comelec can be the catalyst for the renewal of the institution.

3. Modernization of the electoral system in time for the 2010 presidential election. There should be broad-based and transparent discussions on what type of poll automation is appropriate and how it is to be piloted and implemented.

4. Particular attention should be given to ARMM and the problem of warlordism, because it is of the scale that can affect the national elections. We also owe it to the voters in those areas who are effectively disenfranchised when elections are not meaningful, truthful and free. Historically, those in power have found it useful to rely on the brazen exercise of power through intimidation, violence and fraud.

5. A review of laws affecting the electoral system. Among the most urgent are the reform of the party system, party-list law, overseas absentee voting, political dynasties, the “legal” entry of nuisance candidates, and the formulation of an agenda for institutional reform.

6. The development of mechanisms for deepening the political education of voters (e.g. Pinoy Voter’s Academy and Gabay Halalan), fostering public accountability of politicians to the electorate (e.g. Bantay Pangako) and sustaining coordinated political engagement especially among the youth, the citizens’ groups, and Church-based organizations (e.g. VforCE).

7. Cleansing and publication of the voters’ list long before the day of election.
As we appreciate and thank the men and women of good will and courage who influenced our last election, so do we thank the Lord for continuing to guide the journey of the Filipino people.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
July 8, 2007

On The Human Security Act

We are all for the pursuit of peace and we condemn terrorism as a glaring obstacle to peace.

Republic Act No. 9372, dubbed as Human Security Act of 2007, signed into a law by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on March 6, 2007, is to take effect two months after the elections of May 14.

Many voices are apprehensive about this law on the basis of constitutionality and provisions that may legalize objectionable methods of fighting and quelling opposition to the obtaining government. Hence there are calls for bringing the Human Security Act to the Supreme Court for review and for studying and discussing further this law in its contents and repercussions. Some sections have caused lawyers and others to question the effectiveness of this law such as:

· The definition of terrorism in Section 3 is broad and dangerous. It may serve and create a condition of widespread panic.

· Section 26 allows house arrest despite the posting of bail, prohibits the right to travel and to communicate with others.

· Provision for seizure of assets in Section 39 and surveillance or wiretapping of suspects in Section 7, investigation of bank deposits and other assets in Section 28 – raise up many eyebrows of lawyers and others.

Since we as pastors have to look more into the morality of this law and make a pronouncement in that level, we feel that the atmosphere created by this law and its impending implementations calls on us to appeal to those concerned to review this law so that in consultation and dialogue we may have a law that is truly relevant in promoting the security of the nation and in the pursuit of authentic peace.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
July 8, 2007

Statement on the "Tridentiane"

We fully welcome with respect and appreciation the recent Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI on the “Tridentine” Mass. It clarifies for us the status of the Tridentine Mass in the Latin Language.

In accordance with the Apostolic Letter (“Motu proprio”) entitled “Summorum Pontificum” of Pope Benedict XVI, the celebration of the so-called Tridentine Mass, which is in the Latin language, as approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962 continues to be fully permissible as an extraordinary form of the Mass. The Tridentine Mass was never forbidden or abrogated.

The so-called “New Mass” which was introduced after the Second Vatican Council and approved by Pope Paul VI in 1970 has become more popular among the people because it allowed the use of some approved adaptations, including the use of the popular languages and dialects. It became the ordinary form of the Mass, widely celebrated in the parish churches.

When may the Tridentine (Latin) Mass be celebrated? According to the letter of Pope Benedict XVI, it may be celebrated by catholic priests of the Latin Rite: a) in private masses, b) in conventual or community mass in accordance with the specific statutes of the Congregation, c) in parishes upon request of the faithful and under the guidance of the bishop (in accordance with Canon 392). In such Masses, however, the readings may be given in the vernacular.

This permission given by Pope Benedict XVI means that the Mass in Latin and in accordance with the formula of the Council of Trent, hence Tridentine, with the celebrant’s back to the faithful may be celebrated, as it was never forbidden or abrogated. For new priests, this will require formation in the Latin Mass.

Now, we are instructed that in the liturgy of the Mass, there is the ordinary form which is that approved by Pope Paul VI in 1970 after the Vatican II; and there is the extraordinary form—the Tridentine (Latin) Mass which is that approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962. The two forms will have their way of leading the faithful to the true worship of God in prayer and liturgy; and may even be a factor for unity in the Church.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Role of the Church in Political Governance

I WOULD like to start with two simple definitions. First, by “Church” I mean here both the individual catholic believer and the institutional entity, which includes the Pope, the cardinals and bishops, the clergy, religious and the big group of lay faithful. Oftentimes, Church means the teaching authority or the magisterium, represented by the bishops, in our country, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). By politics or political governance I mean all activities relating to governing, guiding or building civil society.

I am using for my reference The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, which has spoken about our subject under the title “The Church and the Political Community” (nos. 330-359). What did it say? “In the Philippines today, given the general perception that politics has become an obstacle to integral development, the urgent necessity is for the lay faithful to participate more actively, with singular competence and integrity, in political affairs. It is through the laity that the Church is directly involved” (PCP-II 348).

This is what the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, says in his first Encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est”: The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the state, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. So they cannot relinquish their participation ‘in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good’” (Deus Caritas Est, 29; John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 42). Such involvement is not optional; it flows from the very core of Christian faith.

Does that mean that bishops and priests have no role in political activity? “The Church’s competence in passing moral judgment even in matters political has been traditionally interpreted as pertaining to the clergy. Negatively put, the clergy can teach moral doctrines covering politics but cannot actively involve themselves in partisan politics” (PCP-II 340). The principle is simply that politics, like all human activities, must be exercised always in the light of faith in the Gospel. The Council states that “the common good cannot be sacrificed on the flimsy pretext that ‘the Church does not engage in politics’. Concretely this means both clergy and laity must be involved in the area of politics when moral and Gospel values are at stake” (344). Because, today we understand salvation in a comprehensive way, the Church’s mission includes also the temporal order.

To change Philippine society, we have to change Philippine politics; in one sense, it may mean politicians must change; in another sense, we must change the politicians. It does not mean change in the form of government, but change in the ones running the government. To do this we need the concerted participation and struggle of all Filipinos of goodwill in political activity. In the language of faith and morality, it is a participation in the battle against human sinfulness, lodged deeply in Philippine politics. It is a struggle to make God’s grace and ethical principle victorious in the Philippines. As one theologian has said: the politics of guns, goons and gold must be converted into the politics of gospel, grace and God.

What about “the separation of Church and State” enshrined in our Constitution and commonly invoked. How can we understand this? The basic purpose of this provision is that Church and State should enjoy and respect each other’s mutual autonomy. By this we understand that they should not interfere in each other’s affairs, should not seek to control each other, or allow themselves to be simply the instrument of each other. However, considering what we said earlier, this separation of Church and State cannot be used as an argument against the participation and involvement of the Church in shaping the politics of our country.

Pope Benedict XVI in “Deus Caritas Est” states: “The Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church’s immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically” (no. 28).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Social Significance of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart

The Social Significance of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart

In the distress and crises which our people are experiencing at this time, more than and in addition to turning to government and to one another, let us turn to the great icon of social charity, which is the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we are celebrating today. For compassion and acts of mercy we need not a political or social symbol that is imperfect or even corrupted, but a spiritual symbol like Jesus Christ who allowed his Sacred Heart to be pierced out of love for mankind, and who gave Himself as Eucharist to be the symbol of the love of the Trinity for us.

On this occasion, we invite the Parish Priests leading the people’s devotion to the Sacred Heart in this month of June to consecrate his people and the leaders of the people to the Sacred Heart towards an “inventive charity,” a charity that distributes the bread which God is causing even now to be multiplied. If we are ready to distribute the bread, God is more than willing to multiply them. Our selfishness, our desire to simply hoard the treasures of this earth, is one cause why the bread is not multiplied and why it does not reach the table of the poor. When the Sacred Heart said to the twelve “Give them food yourselves,” he is telling them when you are ready to distribute even the little resources that you have—five loaves and two fish—then I will multiply them for the thousands to eat.

Pope Benedict XVI writing in 1981 as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, challenges us to nothing less: “In the Heart of Jesus, the center of Christianity is set before us. It expresses everything, all that is genuinely new and revolutionary in the new covenant. This Heart calls to our heart. It invites us to step forth out of this futile attempt of self-preservation and, by joining in the task of love, by handing ourselves to him and with him, to discover the fullness of love which alone is eternity and which alone sustains the world.

When will the bread of economic development so popularly professed reach the table of the millions of poor in the Philippines?

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

June 15, 2007

Friday, June 01, 2007

Prayer on Behalf of Jonas Burgos

Heroism in Small Doses?

The celebration of the 109th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence comes with the theme “Kalayaan 2007: Bayan, Bayani, Bayanihan.” Thanks to the Department of Tourism.

In the attempt to showcase some great mighty and popular personalities as icons of the bayani, let us not lose sight of the innumerable and unnamed bayani of our country’s history, in particular the many volunteers of the PPCRV and NAMFREL and the Teachers who despite odds, difficulties, obstacles, frustrations, and threats defended the sacredness of the ballots against those desecrating groups. In the midst of rampant and wholesale “buy and sale” of votes, there were still those who refused to be controlled by the dictatorship of money. Their small stories are worth noting down on “Kalayaan Day.”

We are shamed and saddened by comments that our country ranks among those with most records of graft and corruption, unresolved cases of heinous crimes and mysterious disappearances and unabated extra-judicial killings. There is so much demand for restitution to helpless and voiceless victims. May we not consider the uncompensated victims also “bayani ng bayan”? Specially that their appeals are apparently falling on deaf ears!

On “Kalayaan Day” we join the clamor for the restoration or return of the victims of disappearances. Our prayer is that they will be allowed to return safe and sound to their grieving and anxious families, to enjoy basic freedom.

Both agents and victims, especially the victims of graft and corruption, are negative notes to the celebration of Kalayaan Day: that while we have been liberated from the control of foreign invaders, we are victims of the abuses and exploitation of fellow Filipinos.

In a few days, on June 10, two days before Independence Day, will be the 19th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). It was a program to reduce rural poverty by giving freedom to rural folks through access to land. According to statistics, three-fourth of the poor in the country belongs to the rural poor. Numbers alone make the program of agrarian reform still necessary and urgent. The land reform has both its encouraging and discouraging aspects, naturally its pros and cons. This is where discussion is needed. The campaign for agrarian reform is still relevant and must be made to succeed.

Because of the extent of rural poverty and the necessity of “freedom from bondage to land” through genuine legal agrarian reform and war against rural landlessness, the Church likewise joins the aspirations, hopes and dreams of the rural farmers. According to the Social Teachings of the Church: “An equitable distribution of land remains ever critical, especially in developing countries… In rural areas, the possibility of acquiring land through opportunities opened by labor and credit market is a necessary condition for access to other goods and services” (Compendium No. 180). It means that the distribution of land, supported by law, must also be accompanied by other supports and services to make the reform truly meaningful and beneficial.

Again, the Social Teachings of the Church has it: “Agrarian reform (is) a moral obligation more than a political necessity, since the failure to enact such reform is hindrance in these countries to the benefits arising from the opening of markets and, generally, from the abundant growth opportunities offered by the current process of globalization” (Compendium, No. 300).

We need more than prayers and preaching. But these two, prayer and preaching, will help support the efforts of people working for agrarian reform. We encourage that on June 10, a Sunday, the Prayer of the Faithful shall include this aspiration for genuine agrarian reform and that the homilies will make mention of the same: that our rural people, the farmers who are bound to the land they till for life and support, may receive the true freedom envisioned by the principle of agrarian reform.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
June 1, 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

People Power in the Ballot

THE old saying has it that “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Today, as the nation goes to the polls, we are stating a message: no matter how imperfect or violated it may be, democracy is not dead in this country. We have proven it time and again, from one election to another that the “ballot” is the ultimate expression of “people power.”

We can all agree and participate to make this 2007 election clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful or as they call it—a CHAMP. Yes, we can make it happen, together with the thousands of volunteers working with NAMFREL and NASSA, PPCRV and LENTE (Legal Network for Truthful Election) and the thousands of Teachers spread throughout the country. The process is part of nation-building. Together we can make democracy and the electoral process work better for the country, better than in the past.

We need the Lord’s help in this important event. May the hand of God stop the evil of electoral violence, cheating and corruption from getting in control of our electoral process. Let us accompany our election and counting of votes with prayer and watchfulness.

Do not allow anyone to violate the sanctity of your ballot. Vote according to your conscience. Vote freely whom you believe can advance the common good of this country. Protect your vote from being tampered with. Remember: the candidate who wins by cheating will also govern by cheating. The citizens who sell their votes for any price deserve the government they install with their votes.

May 14, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Reflection for Labor Day

Today the nation honors, appreciates and salutes the millions in the labor force all over the country. We might even consider these workers as also genuine servants of the state. They are the hands and feet, even to some extent the mind and the soul, of production. On them too rest the rise and fall of economy. The condition of labor is probably a key to the question of social progress.

We can gauge the country’s poverty level by looking at the condition of the majority of our labor force. In some real sense, the primary basis for the value of work is the worker himself. As the classic saying goes: “Work is for man, not man for work.” Every human being achieves fulfillment by working for himself and his family and then for the great society whose life he participates in.

This means everyone must be able to derive from his work the means of supporting himself and his family, and of serving the human community. It is necessary that solidarity among workers themselves and with workers on the part of business establishments be promoted for the protection of mutual rights.

While approaching and advocating the ideal situation of solidarity and communion between labor and businessmen, still the “priority of labor over capital” should be accepted as a fundamental and classic principle. This is based on the principle of the “primacy of man over things”—such as, science and technology, the instruments of work, money, profit, which are thought of as capital.

Numbers or statistics might help our reflection on Labor Day. While government claims that 5 million jobs have been generated from 2001 to the present (Philippine Star, April 30, 2007), one study has it that in January 2006 the unemployed individuals have reached 3.9 million and still increasing, while the underemployed were 5.4 million of 31.7 million employed. Overseas work has helped to a great extent the Philippine economy by mitigating the employment problem in the country. As of 2004 the overseas Filipino workers totaled 8 million. It is an accepted fact, their remittances have provided an important source of income for a great number of Filipino families.

During the present campaign period for the May election, the condition of labor must be one of the concerns addressed to our future leaders of government in all levels. We may have many good laws that are “pro workers”, but how many of them are still waiting for implementation? The poverty level of labor could be a sign (one anyway) indicating the genuine level of economy.

We hope that the future leaders of our country—from the bottom up—in solidarity with the business sector, will ensure through implementation of just legislation the workers’ rights as well as the just development of the world of work.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
May 1, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Working and Praying for Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections

A Pastoral Exhortation

"The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of the citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility of both electing and holding accountable those who govern them..." (John Paul II, Centessimus Annus, #46).

AS we approach once again the critical moment of our national election on May 14, let us meet the new crossroads in our history with our best efforts to make it an Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Election. Being in a democracy, this is the Covenant of Hope that we are all enjoined to give for our country’s future.

To ensure credible results from the coming election, we call on everyone in the Church and in civil society, and on all participating groups and parties, to CHAMPION the cause of democratic election, by ensuring it to be Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful and Peaceful.
We must disapprove, reject and condemn as immoral all acts of violence and cheating, including the evil of “vote padding and shaving” (dagdag-bawas) in favor of or against any candidate. Let both candidates and their supporters face the judgment of democratic election with humility and magnanimity.

We exhort everyone to be vigilant, to pray and to offer penance for this intention. Let us accompany with extreme vigilance and prayer the crucial period of campaigning, voters’ education, transporting of election paraphernalia, poll watching, and very especially, the canvassing and reporting of the votes. May the hand of God stop evil from getting in control. We need the Lord’s help, without which our best efforts will come to nothing. Thus, we urge everyone to invoke the grace if the Holy Spirit to guide our people in this electoral exercise, for the renewal of our country towards genuine common good.

We want this exhortation to reach every Filipino. Let us be one in prayer, penance and vigilance. In a particular way, we request for the prayers of our contemplative men and women in the monasteries; there are more than a hundred of such monasteries all over the country. As they kneel before the Most Blessed Sacrament, we request them to pray for our country—especially for all voters, candidates, and election officials/workers.

Let our prayer also accompany the work of the PPCRV and NAMFREL, the COMELEC and the thousands of teachers in the field, the social action ministries of CBCP-NASSA, LENTE (Legal Network for Truthful Election), as well as the assistance of the AFP and PNP, and of the hundreds of religious organizations and civil society groups—all hoping and championing the cause of credible election.

We strongly recommend that the parishes organize Holy Hours or prayer vigils in their churches or chapels for these intentions, between May 5 and May 14, with the help of the Apostleship of Prayer and other religious organizations. We likewise encourage the Basic Ecclesial Communities to do the same in their centers. Humble and trusting prayers are needed to safeguard the sanctity of the ballot and of the entire electoral processes.

May our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mediatrix of all grace, and our Guardian St. Joseph the Model of honest and prayerful work, intercede for our beloved country as we face a new transition in our history.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
24 April 2007

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Re-living the Story: the Gift of Easter

“The Lord is risen as he has foretold. Alleluia.”

It is with that message that we climax the celebration of Holy Week which started with Palm Sunday, leading to the Last Supper in Holy Thursday, with the night vigil, and Visita Iglesia, then the Stations of the Cross and its Veneration on Good Friday. A lot of people listened and reflected on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. The real message of Holy Week is not only that Jesus Christ died for us, but that Jesus Christ also gave us hope for new life by rising to life from the dead. And so: “The Lord is risen as he has foretold. Alleluia.”

All four Gospels narrate the event of the Resurrection with their respective nuances, indicating the individual author’s reflection with insight on the historic event. All four evangelists—Mark, Matthew, Luke and John—narrate that it was the women-disciples of Jesus, led by Mary Magdalene, a former sinner, who bravely came to the tomb and found Jesus was no longer there.

This Gospel detail shows that sinners are also objects of the Resurrection news and can be channels through whom the Good News will spread. It was through the witness of women that the male-disciples of Jesus came to know about the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene and the other women were the ones instructed: “Go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him” Mk. 16/17). St. Mark includes the initial and logical reaction of the women. Faced with an extraordinary and unexpected event, it was natural for them to doubt and not to immediately act. In St. Luke’s and St. John’s accounts that was also the initial reaction of the apostles: one of disbelief and wonderment (Lk. 24/41, Jo. 20/9).

The Resurrection account in the Gospel of St. Matthew emphasizes one detail to solve doubt and unbelief. The appearance of an angel at the tomb, while frightening to the soldiers, was intended to dispel the fear of the women: “Do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised, as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Mt. 28/5-6). Matthew emphasizes the role of seeing in believing and in dispelling doubt. That is what happened to the women. That is what happened also to the other disciples. They were told “not to be afraid” (Mt. 28/10). They were told to see, to look at the empty tomb. For somehow, to see is to believe. This is told in particular about the “beloved disciple” who reached the tomb ahead of St. Peter: “He saw and believed” (Jo. 20/8). But here, seeing can also mean seeing not only with the eyes, but also with the open mind. And for us in our time to see the resurrection is to believe in the witness of credible lives down through the centuries.

The Resurrected Jesus himself removed the disciples’ doubt and disbelief, “by opening their minds to understand the scriptures” (Lk. 24/45). He told them to remember: “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified and on the third day rise again” (Lk. 24/6). And they remembered. Seeing the empty tomb, they remembered. The Easter Celebration followed by six weeks called “post Easter” is one long season of remembering of the Church. The season includes the many apparitions of the Risen Lord to strengthen the Christian community with the significance of Easter for life.

The gift of Easter is what Christ gives to whomever he appears “Peace be with you” (Jo. 20/21), the peace which enables even a doubting Thomas to believe and say “My Lord and my God” (Jo. 20/28). The gift of Easter is what the disciples then received, and the whole Church now receives: “Receive the Holy Spirit,” (Jo. 20/22). The gift of Easter is in being able to say once more to God “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (Jo. 21/15) and to say also to one another “Yes, and I love you too.”

The gift of Easter is to see Jesus again, to remember what He taught and did, to live and celebrate our resurrection in Jesus.

Yes, indeed, the Lord is risen as he has foretold. Alleluia.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

April 8, 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Holy Week Reflection 2007

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, has offered us the biblical theme that guides our Holy Week Reflection. Together with our Blessed Mother Mary and the Apostle John on Calvary, close to Jesus forsaken and crucified, the Holy Father offers the biblical theme from John 19/37: “They shall look on him whom they have crucified.”

In this week of prayer and penance, let us direct our gaze on Jesus Christ, Crucified, whom the sins of mankind, from Adam to our time, have crucified, but whose passion and death have restored to us new life and the forgiveness of our sins.

There on the cross, Jesus revealed fully for us the love of God. Pope Benedict XVI in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est dwells on the two fundamental manifestations of God’s love: love as Agape and love as Eros.

Agape is self-giving love, self-sacrificing love, looking exclusively for the good of the person loved. The love which we experience from God is undoubtedly agape. He has given us everything that we are and everything that we have. We cannot give to God anything that he does not possess or that did not come from him. Everything is a divine gift to us.

But God’s love is also eros. Love-eros is possessive-love, needing-love; it is the love of someone who wants to possess what he/she needs; it is the love of someone who wants to be united with the person loved. Pope Benedict XVI said “God’s love is also eros.” And he recalls the image used by the prophet Hosea: God’s divine passion for man, God’s love for us is like the love of a dutiful husband for his wife who has become unfaithful; or the love of a dutiful wife towards her adulterous husband. How timely and appropriate is the image used by the prophet Hosea even for our time.

Even in the midst of our infidelity and sinfulness, God never wavered in his love for us. The mystery of the cross, the image of Christ crucified reveals to us God’s powerful and merciful love in all its fullness. In order to win back our love, in order to redeem us from the effects and punishments of our sins, God sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be the immortal image of God’s Agape and Eros, God’s desire to give and God’s desire to possess. The Holy Father asks, “Is there more ‘mad eros’ than that which led the Son of God to make himself one with us even to the point of suffering as His own the consequences of our offenses?”

“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.” Let us look at Christ whom we have pierced in the cross! The unsurpassed expression of God’ love. The sacrifice of our heroes for the fatherland, the martyrdom of the saints, the pain and the hurts that we suffer for one another or for our beloved country, are but a pale glimmer of that love shown in the Cross. Agape and Eros: self-giving love, and love that seeks to possess, far from being opposed, enlighten and compliment each other.

In this Holy Week, we are challenged to become a force, to become ourselves manifestations of God’s agape and eros, as Jesus Christ is and the saints were. Pope Benedict XVI says: “The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to him. Accepting his love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ ‘draws me to himself’ in order to unite himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with his own love.”

Let us stand up to the challenge of God’s agape and God’s eros. The image is no less than that of Jesus Crucified, “Him whom they have pierced.” Agape—love of giving to the beloved. Eros—love of being united with the beloved, through mutual understanding, mutual forgiveness, mutual self-giving.

Let us stand up to the challenge of agape and eros, and make it a motivation to develop the “civilization of love” into a culture of collaboration, solidarity and communion. Show this in your respective families, making them schools of love. Show this in your respective classrooms, making your classrooms homes of collaboration, and communion.

Show this in your work. Make your profession channels of God’s love through you.

Let us stand up to the challenge of rebuilding our democratic institutions by discovering and actually doing our positive share in renewing our society.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

March 28, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The Bishops in the CBCP, while respecting what the leaders of El Shaddai and other groups have been doing for years, still maintain the freedom of Catholic members to choose their candidates. We expect them to discern, discuss and personally decide whom to vote. To dictate on them whom to vote is as bad as buying their votes.

In the end, we cannot be genuinely sure whether the candidates who have been dictated on the voters will really serve them. All the more if the voters are taken with a “buy and sell attitude.” Proof of this is the past experience of elections.

The CBCP does not want the candidates to be indebted to the bishops; instead we want the candidates to make a genuine covenant with the electorate: that if elected they will serve the people and not themselves. This is what the PPCRV is trying to do.

We can trust “the wisdom of the people,” if only their judgment will not be violated or adulterated by “guns, goons and gold,” if only the process of election according to the rule will be respected and not manipulated by self-interest. If the wisdom of the people were allowed freely to function, they will get the leaders they want or they get the leaders they deserve.

As we said in our pastoral letter, we exhort our people not only to pray but also to be vigilant. Let the different associations and groups come together to study and examine the candidates and their platform of government. They may even come to an agreement among themselves whom to vote; but each one must personally come to his/her decision. They will not vote according to personality or winnability but in view of the candidates’ agenda of government

On the one hand, there is no Catholic vote in the Philippines, because all Catholics are free to vote any candidate of any political party. On the other hand, because catholics are almost everywhere, many of the candidates who win, win by catholic votes; but this is no reason to brag about, because the candidates win or lose by his own virtue or lack of it, and the electors vote according to their respective persuasion and conviction.

CBCP President

March 13, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Month of Prayer and Peace for the Filipino Family

In Celebration of National Women’s Month

AS the country celebrates National Women’s Month this March 2007, we are reminded to pray for all women who have been, and are, victims of all kinds of abuse and violence within the family and outside their homes.

The world had just celebrated the International Day for Women last March 8, calling our attention to the plight of women all over the world. Here in our own country, we celebrate National Women’s Day on March 16; it is a day to remember our Filipino women, especially those who nurtured us since we were born—our very own mothers.

We are aware that many of our women have become victims of violence, especially in their own homes. It is a sad reality that is happening in our country. The home is supposed to be a sanctuary where peace and love reign, but many of our homes now are becoming a venue where women are battered and abused.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines exhorts the various sectors of our society to link hands to protect our women from exploitation of all kinds, from violence that reduce them to silence, and from abuse that deprive them of their dignity as persons. Many of those who have fallen victims remained silent and unable to move ahead because of fear and hurts, while just as many are slowly finding the courage to go on living their lives. We call o our brothers and sisters both in government and the private sector to lend help and services to our women in crises.

May we indeed make this month dedicated to women a month of prayer. As we pray for our Filipino women, we also pray that peace may reign in the Filipino family. Let us pray that our women get the respect and love they deserve. Let us pray that exploitation and violence against women stop. Let us pray that those victimized by violence may find the courage to forgive and get on with their lives. Let us also pray for the enlightenment and conversion of those who inflict violence on women.

Let us also recommend our Filipino women to the protection and intercession of Our Blessed Mother Mary, the model and icon of womanhood.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
March 11, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On Ash Wednesday: Alay Kapwa, Age 32

THIRTY-TWO years ago, in 1975, on Ash Wednesday, the Lenten project ALAY KAPWA was born. This project of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine through its Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace has for its objective the evangelization of the Catholic communities towards Christian awareness of their social responsibility with preferential option for the poor.

Alay Kapwa is people responding to the Gospel demand to love as Jesus loves, to care and share as Jesus wants us to care and share (cf. Jo. 15/12). Alay Kapwa is people living and experiencing the solicitude of God for the poor, the abandoned, the victims of natural calamities, the victims of injustice and violence. Alay Kapwa is people united by the spirit of Jesus and of the Father in solidarity with the sorrowing, with those who hunger and thirst, with the pure of heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted (cf. Mr. 5/1-10).

To have the spirit of Alay Kapwa you do not have to be wealthy or powerful or influential, you need only to be good and committed to your neighbor. In order to give to Alay Kapwa Lenten Fund Campaign you do not have to be rich or to have plenty, you need only to be generous, desirous like Jesus to serve (cf. Mk. 10/45) and to give life more abundantly (cf. 10/10).

After 32 years of Alay Kapwa, the task of social transformation goes on. There are still poverty, hunger, thirst, suffering, brokenness, violence. The work of Alay Kapwa must continue. Our vision of social transformation, of an end to underserved poverty, of an end of man’s inhumanity to fellowmen, the birth of hope for those who suffer from calamities, necessarily demands radical personal conversion. No reform is possible unless the reformers are themselves reformed. No renewed society unless the agents are themselves renewed.

The evangelical call is still there: to build a society where truth, freedom, justice and love reign. With or without miracle, we must build it on the foundation of personal conversion to charity. We must build it on the foundation of people willing to forego their personal interests, to overcome their selfishness, to limit their enjoyment and satisfaction for the sake of their needy brothers and sisters. That is being patriotic.

Social transformation is possible. With the help of God we can change the corrupted image of our country. But remember: the work of God does not happen in a vacuum. The material of the work of the Spirit of Jesus in the transformation of human society according to the Father’s dream is in the heart of men and women willing to transform their selfishness into patriotic acts of justice and love.

The inspiration of our Alay Kapwa Lenten Campaign is Jesus himself, Jesus giving, sharing, caring, curing, healing. We are praying for the miracle to start in the heart of every Filipino. We are praying for personal and communal conversion towards total social transformation. This appeal for Alay Kapwa will be preached in all Catholic Churches throughout all dioceses of the country. Let us give generously to this worthy cause of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace. Alay Kapwa is one way in which our “little” will become “much” when joined with the little which others give. The measure is not “how much you give,” but “how generous you are”.

We are in the beginning of the Lenten Season. Lent is sacrifice. Lent is loving… Jesus has said that whatever is given to the least, the lost and the last of our neighbors is given to him. And whoever so gives repeats the experience of Jesus. He becomes a living reminder of Jesus. He becomes a living witness of the love of God.

What we give may not be much, but Jesus needs it. It may well be that society does not experience the transformation it needs, that the world is denied miracle after miracle and triumph after triumph, that people remain deprived of home, job, opportunity and land, because we will not bring to Jesus what we have and are. Social transformation starts from the heart.

The Alay Kapwa Lenten Program goes on. For many reasons the poor are still with us. The approach to the solution must be double-pronged: addressing both the reasons for poverty and poverty itself. That is why Alay Kapwa is both an evangelization program and a fund campaign. It must hit the mind, the heart and the pocket. It opens the mind, the heart and the pocket. It is for everybody who wishes to be a Christian neighbor.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Christian Unity: Where We Stand Today

In behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, I gladly welcome Your Eminences and Your Excellencies to this Seminar of Asian Bishops’ Conferences on Christian Unity.

This gathering of Asian Bishops on Philippine soil is the first of its kind because it is convened no less by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity whose President is His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper, who will help us address a pastoral concern, an emerging challenge which is presented in Asia today by the growth of Pentecostal and Evangelical communities. This particular concern and challenge gains more prominence because in Asia Christians are in a minority – majority of whom are in the Philippines.

Our theme “Search for Christian Unity: Where we stand today?” is an occasion for lively spiritual communion of brothers in the faith. We can help one another understand the internal and external causes of the growth of Pentecostals and Evangelical communities and what they teach us about Catholicism and Christianity, and how their presence can be a positive opportunity for renewing our Catholicism.

During the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” last January 21, 2007 the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us “that ecumenism is a profound dialogical experience, a listening and speaking to one another, knowing one another better; it is a task within everyone’s reach, especially when it concerns spiritual ecumenism, based on prayer and sharing which is now possible among Christians” (L’Osservatore Romano, January 24, 2007).

The spirituality of communion which we shall live in the coming two and a half days will be as described in the theme of the 2007 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (MK 7/37).

Needless to say, Christ can do all things: he can open the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the heart, the mind to achieve the great fruits of Christian Unity. Better still, he is with us and we with Him!

Welcome Remarks
of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
Seminar for Asian Bishops’ Conferences
February 8-10, 20076
Pius XII Catholic Center

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

On the Four Party Summit

I am also wary and skeptical about the “Four Party Summit” called by the National Leadership. The COMELEC, the Poll Watchdogs, the PNP as well as all political parties, pro-administration and opposition are already governed by the same law on “clean, honest and orderly elections.” That has been the law and the desideratum ever since. Let each do that and just that ensuring and working for “clean, honest and orderly election,” which means avoiding, deceit and cheating of every kind. If all are committed to that, it is not necessary to have a summit to just say that. Let each make the promise to God and with an honest conscience.

From the part of the Church, the CBCP has called upon the social action centers, the parish organizations, institutions and the Basic Ecclesial Communities to come together and organize themselves for clean, honest and orderly elections. Among themselves they must form linkages to clean the dirt from our easily corrupted electoral process. They will show this in deeds more than simply in words. They will also do this before God and with honest conscience.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
January 31, 2007