Monday, March 23, 2015

After Mamasapano, what?

An Open Letter to our Honorable Legislators

23 March 2015

Our Beloved Legislators:

Greetings of peace in the Lord!

In the depths of our grief for all the fallen combatants and civilians at Mamasapano, the deep historic biases and prejudices that lie in the dark corners of our souls have erupted once again. Truly we must seek the truth and justice. This search for truth and the pursuit of justice must be done with objectivity and without prejudgment. We need to gather all the facts from all sides, from civilian witnesses, from combatants on both sides.

But in our grief the Mamasapano tragedy has derailed the peace process. Questions and objections have been raised against the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. This is expected and it must be done so that the BBL will pass the criterion of constitutionality and the common good of all.

Yet both peace panels have been demonized. Judgments have been made about the BBL that the BBL itself does not advocate. These judgments have misinformed the public about the nature of the BBL and raised public opinion against a document that is the most significant hope so far of a just and lasting peace in Southern Mindanao.

As a Catholic religious leader in Maguindanao, I have closely followed the peace negotiations through the years, the drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. I have thoroughly studied the BBL. 

I perceive the BBL as articulating three major principles: the preservation of national sovereignty, the safeguarding of national territorial integrity, and the realization of Bangsamoro self-determination within a limited territory.

Contrary to misinformation and misinterpretation the BBL does not advocate the dismemberment of the Republic. It does not lay claim to all of Mindanao and Palawan. It does not advocate the complete independence of any of the entities of the proposed Bangsamoro government (e.g., police, auditing, accounting, civil courts), such that their national counterparts have no effective role over them.

By all means let the BBL be refined and attuned to the Constitution.
1.     Let legal and constitutional experts have a consensus on what is clearly illegal or unconstitutional in the BBL. Let their wise words guide the rewording of provisions.
2.     Each provision of the BBL has been meticulously discussed by the peace panels through several years at first with mistrust and hostility and then finally in dialogue and trust. They know the whys and the wherefores of each provision. It would be to the interest of the common good for them to explain the meaning and the rationale of provisions that are questioned and objected to.
3.     Let not the BBL be so emasculated that the centuries-old aspiration of the Bangsamoro for self determination be made again a meaningless word.

I pray that the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of wisdom, knowledge and counsel guide you in your deliberations.

As the Catholic religious leader of an Archdiocese that is 47% Muslim and 48% Catholic, I continue to grieve profoundly over all the Mamasapano victims, aware that this horrible human tragedy could have been avoided. I pray for all the fallen, the families, the widows and children they left behind. I pray that such terrible human tragedy will not happen again.

The message of the Gospel of Jesus is one of Mercy and Compassion. Pope Francis announced it to us with great force and personal witness. And the words of Micah the prophet come to my mind: “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

For me, a refined BBL is about doing the truth and justice, walking in kindness and love, mercy and compassion. This is the way of the heart, the way to a just and lasting peace.

+Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato      

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Grieving, doing justice, working for peace

(A Letter to all Christians)

Fellow Disciples of Christ:
Greetings of peace in the Lord!

As a Filipino and Mindanawon, I grieve profoundly for our gallant SAF troops who sacrificed their lives in pursuit of justice in Mamasapano. I grieve deeply with their families.

As a disciple of Christ I likewise grieve for the other Filipinos, Bangsamoro civilians and combatants, who perished in the same horrible tragedy. I grieve deeply with their families.

With the families of all the victims I demand that justice be done, that answers to the many questions raised by the whole nation be forthrightly answered. Those responsible for the tragedy must be brought to justice without fear or favor. The attribution of guilt must not be one-sided. It is now coming to light from the ground that inhuman brutalities were committed by both sides. Guilt is on both sides of that fateful, clearly avoidable, combat.

Yet in the face of outrage and calls for all-out war for the manner by which our law enforcers lost their lives, I call for peace. I call for rationality rather than emotionalism. I call for justice that is not selective. I call for openness and fairness rather than bias and prejudice.

For in the wake of Mamasapano our age-old Christian biases and prejudices against Moros have quickly and most sadly resurrected. Biases and prejudices have colored and clouded our judgment.

We hear ourselves say, we cannot trust the Moros. We cannot trust the MILF. We cannot trust them to lay down their arms, we cannot trust them with the money they need for development, we cannot trust them to go after terrorists once they have their own government, we cannot trust them to practice democracy, we cannot trust them to govern well. We simply cannot trust them.

The bottomline of the Mamasapano tragedy is mistrust—on both sides of the conflict.

It is sheer human tragedy that such sentiments come from the dark side of our hearts. And as a Christian religious leader, I grieve also for this eclipse of the Christian heart. From an anguished heart I ask the Lord to forgive us.

Our biases and prejudices have brought us to convictions and conclusions that are totally wrong:
• We lump all Moro armed groups together (MILF, MNLF, BIFF, Abu Sayaff group, private armed groups) as lawless groups that advocate secession and independence ;
• We believe that the MILF claims the whole of Mindanao;
• We conclude that the Bangsamoro government will have agencies that will be totally independent of their national counterparts;
• We assert that the MILF will become the police force of the Bangsamoro;
• We dismiss as sham the conversion of MILF from a secessionist movement into a principled partner for peace. We persist in calling them “secessionists.”
• We threaten to do away with provisions that protect a proposed fledgling Bangsamoro government from the negativities of warlordism and clan domination. Yet it is so easy to ask our own peace negotiators why it is necessary for the Bangsamoro to be “MILf-led” in the short term.
• We mistrust the MILF’s determination to govern well and thus to reverse Bangsamoro political history.

On the contrary, my brothers and sisters in Christ, the following are at the heart and soul of the BBL:
• Bangsamoro self-determination will be exercised within a limited territory under the sovereignty of the Philippines. National sovereignty and territorial integrity will be preserved;
• The over-all principle that governs the BBL is the Catholic moral and social principle of subsidiarity, a principle already enshrined in our own Constitution. The principle requires the intervention of the national government and its various entities when the common good of all requires it. Therefore, no entity of the Bangsamoro government, such as a Bangsamoro auditing department or police force, is absolutely independent of their national counterparts.

My fellow disciples of Christ, self-determination has been the cry of the Bangsamoro for centuries. They struggled to preserve it against the Spaniards and the Americans. They insisted on it in the face of our government’s efforts to neutralize and domesticate it by democratic processes and the lure of economic development.

Rightfully we are outraged by the manner by which our valiant SAF forces were killed. But in the past 100 years the Bangsamoro have seen hundreds of their own people, including women and children, massacred in mountains and mosques. And we did not open our eyes and ears to see and hear their plaintive cries for justice.

The lesson of history is not one we can sweep under the rug—the fundamental aspiration of a “nation” for self-determination does not die. It will seem to fade away with the passing of old leaders but if unrealized the drive for self determination will rise with the radicalization of younger generations.

I have been a missionary among Muslims for the most part of my priestly life. I have been a parish priest in Jolo. I taught Muslims and Christians in a Catholic University which now has a predominantly Muslim student population. I have witnessed a harmonious dialogue of life among the students. Many of our soldiers and high ranking officers studied in our Catholic schools. So, too, did members and leaders of the MILF. They are not terrorists. Terrorist have in fact broken away from them. The MILF only aspires and struggles politically for a place under the sun in freedom and dignity. The BBL was negotiated painstakingly with stops and detours for at least five years. It is not an agreement that was hurriedly done. It fulfills the Bangsamoro aspiration for self-determination. It preserves our fundamental principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Yes, by all means we must refine the BBL so that it will hew closely to our Constitution. But let there be consensus among constitutional luminaries on what is constitutional and what is not constitutional among the provisions of the BBL. Let us make sure that we do not “improve and strengthen” the BBL such that the idea of self-determination that is imbedded in various provisions of the BBL becomes once more an illusion, a desire begging despairingly to be realized.

I am for peace, the peace that God grants to people of good will. I am for the peace that God gives through the collaborative work of men and women who work conscientiously for the good of the whole country. By focusing on the good of a Bangsamoro minority in the “peripheries” who have suffered social injustices for centuries, they are working for the common good of all Filipinos. They are healing historic wounds that have caused great suffering to all Filipinos.

And so must I grieve for our courageous SAF troops who have lost their lives. I must also grieve for all the other Filipinos who perished in Mamasapano. I grieve and pray for the families they left behind, their inconsolable widows and children, for their uncertain future. For their sake I seek justice and accountability.

I beg you as fellow disciples of Christ, the Prince of Peace, to pray and work together for peace so that Mamasapano will not repeat itself. Let not emotions, biases and prejudices prevail over objective reason and over our most cherished Christian values of justice and peace, truth, love and harmony.

It is the Spirit of God that gives hope and infuses love and harmony among peoples of different faiths and cultures. With God’s Spirit we can soar over tragedies, we can restore trust for one another, we can strive together for harmony and peace. Ultimately it is in the enlightened heart where love and peace begin.

May the God of Justice, Peace and Love bless us all.

+Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
March 8, 2015

Thursday, February 05, 2015

“Peace is the only solution to living together, developing a territory together”

 Q and A with Cardinal Quevedo

1st of three parts Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/05 February) -- Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, the Archbishop of Cotabato, was in Bergamo, Italy to celebrate the Santo Nino mass for 3,000 Overseas Filipino Workers on January 25 when news broke out about what was happening in Mamasapano.
The 75-year old Quevedo, who doesn't’ have a Facebook or Twitter account, learned about the tragedy in trickles – through text messages, e-mail and news on the Filipino TV channel in Rome. “(Filipino) priests in Rome were listening to the news every night on TV.”

On Wednesday, January 28, hours before President Aquino delivered a statement to the nation, the Cardinal issued a statement from Rome expressing his grief for the families of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police. At that time, there were no figures available yet as to the number of slain members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and civilians.

“The circumstances and causes of this horrendous tragedy are still to be clearly unraveled,” Quevedo said, adding the demand of justice is for impartial investigation into how such police operation could result into “unimaginable tragedy” and the demand of wisdom is “to hold back the natural response of revenge and desire to break off the peace process.” 

“I said justice has to be done because there is no peace without justice,” he said.
Among the Catholic bishops in the Philippines, Quevedo is the most exposed to the Bangsamoro peace process and has written extensively about it.

In a paper delivered at the 27th General Assembly of the Bishops-Business Conference in Taguig, Metro Manila on July 8, 2003,  shortly after the Buliok war, he cited injustice as the root of the conflict with the Moro: “Injustice to the Moro Identity; Injustice to Moro Political Sovereignty; and Injustice to Moro integral development.”

“With the loss of political sovereignty came the loss of great chunks of Moro ancestral lands. Much of the loss resulted from a long series of legal enactments by the Philippine Commission, the Commonwealth government, and the post-independence government. Moro writers call this ‘legalized land grabbing.’” Quevedo wrote.

“The loss of land was compounded by government neglect of the Moro right to integral development during the Commonwealth and post-independence governments. In all dimensions of human development, political, economic, educational, and cultural, the Moro population continues to lag far behind its Christian Filipino counterparts. The latest national census bears this out in terms of educational improvement, political participation, and economic development. This is truly a tragic plight,” he said.

Two major wars occurred while Quevedo was President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for two two-year terms (1999 to 2003:  the Estrada administration’s “all-out war” in 2000 which displaced nearly a million residents and the Arroyo administration’s 2003 Buliok war which displaced nearly half a million residents. Both wars occurred in the midst of peace talks.
The government (GPH) and the MILF signed a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27 last year after 17 years of negotiations and are awaiting action from Congress on their draft Bangsamoro Basic Law for the future Bangsamoro Government that both parties hope will be installed by June 30, 2016, the same day President Aquino steps down from office.

A week before Mamasapano, the nation monitored every move, every statement of Pope Francis during his January 15 to 19  pastoral visit to the Philippines.  The Pope ended his January 16 speech in Malacanang by expressing his “trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.”

Quevedo returned to Cotabato City over the weekend.  He talked with MindaNews’ Carolyn O. Arguillas about Mamasapano and the peace process on Monday afternoon, after attending the 25th anniversary celebration of the Poor Clares in Kidapawan.


Q. Some people are crying for justice but equate justice with vengeance. What kind of justice are we.
A. In my understanding of the situation, justice is about giving the true answers to the many questions that have been asked. What really happened at Mamasapano? What were the circumstances and the causes of this horrible tragedy?  Who gave the orders? Who did the planning?  Why was there no coordination in accord with the protocols set up by the MILF and the military to prevent misencounters? Why was not the local military informed until it was too late?  Those are questions that need to be answered. Mamasapano was a terrible tragedy shrouded in mystery. Questions that demand answers. And the answers are demanded by justice for the victims.  And the victims were not only our 44 gallant officers and members of the PNP SAF but there were also 18 MILF casualties with 14 wounded. Justice has to be done for all the victims.

Q. And meron pong civilians.
A. Yes there are several civilians caught in the crossfire I believe.

Q. So it should not be a justice that is selective only for 44 but for all the victims in that tragedy.
A. Inclusive justice. In the way that the widows and the children and the families of our 44 police officers are grieving and mourning and asking for justice, so I’m sure that the widows and the children and the families of those MILF casualties are also grieving and mourning. I’m sure that they, too, are asking for justice. Why did this happen? I say that it is a tragedy that could have been avoided if only the rules of engagement previously agreed upon by both sides were followed faithfully. And why were they not followed? Because there is mistrust. There is mistrust.
The SAF officer (sacked Chief Insp. Getulio Napenas) who sent troops was reported to have given the reason: he did not trust the MILF. And the questions are also asked by the MILF: “here are the rules, they were violated . Can we trust the government? Can we trust government troops? Why should they enter without any coordination with us? Don’t they realize that their sudden incursion in great force into our area was a serious threat to us?” Such questions indicate the breakdown of trust and the resurrection of deep biases.

Q. Before this incident happened, the debates on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) were already starting. Now, because of this tragedy, all these biases have surfaced again. Nasagasaan ang peace process.
A. In the debates, I think there were some political posturings. Senators and Congressmen were supposed to evaluate the BBL and refine it so that it can be thoroughly in accord with the Constitution. But some of them seem to say “this is totally bad, it cannot pass, it cannot pass.” It’s their work to refine the BBL so that it can be within the Constitution and if they don’t do it, I think they are failing in their jobs. So we see a lot of political posturings. Then when the Mamasapano tragedy struck, the posturings became realities. So, they said “no more, we must withdraw our sponsorship of the BBL.”

Q. Before Mamasapano, the Ad Hoc Committee of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez was scheduled to sign by Feb. 17 the committee report but because of what happened, Rufus said that until  after the investigations on Mamasapano are done, they will not discuss the four security provisions in the BBL: national security, public order and safety, the Bangsamoro police and the Armed Forces Command. In the end he said,  “I don’t know when the signing will be.”
A. Investigations are going on… but at the same time I think the debates should continue on the provisions on those same issues.

Q. So you think they should not be suspended, that they should continue?
A. I think they should continue but given the sentiments of today, a lot of inflamed sentiments, of anger and grief, mourning, there should be low profile type of discussion on this without the grand posturings and the inflammatory language that merely incites peoples’ anger and desire for revenge. What fails here is the peace process itself which seems to be the only hope right now.

Q. Do you see the peace process as the biggest casualty here?
A. For me, the casualty is not only physical life but the future. The future is represented by the the BBL. If it falls by the wayside, the future is unthinkable. Where else can we go without its promise of a just and lasting peace? Where else do we go after many, many years of discussion? The Board of Inquiry should look into the fatal errors of the Mamasapano Tragedy and be surgical about the miscalculations, the mistakes and provide just remedies for them. But to throw away the BBL is like throwing away the tub of water and the baby as well. That would be total disaster. There’s just no hope.(Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

(Tomorrow:  How do we build trust again?)
Q and A with Cardinal Quevedo
“Peace is the only solution to living together, developing a territory together”
2nd of three parts : How do we build trust again?
Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/06 February) --
Q. But with the inflamed sentiments as you are saying, how can you continue with the debates?
A. Maybe there can be a postponement for a few days, until such time that rationality can operate, until wiser minds can prevail in the leadership of the government and while the MILF can be tasked to provide reports about what they did and what they are supposed to do now. I think this is essential to the rehabilitation of the peace process.

Q. Hindi pwedeng band-aid because the wound is so deep.
A. Yes, the wound is very deep: the killing of 44 SAFs, the killing of 18 MILFs. If only the MILF had a TV station, they would do the very same thing that we hear and see everyday – playing and replaying the grief and sorrow of widows and children, the loss of the lives of beloved husbands or fathers. But at the end the basic cause is mistrust. The reason for not giving previous information. Mutual mistrust at ground level.

Q. Even the President. He did not inform
A. Mar Roxas, the one in-charge of local governments and the police was not informed. One could very well ask: is this is also mistrust on the part of the government for Mar Roxas? Questions abound. They demand answers out of justice, out of justice. And I would like to see media more balanced on this rather than inflame sentiments, and anger through constant airing of the grief of widows and children. 

Was it a massacre as media seem to have portrayed it? A revisit of the battle could provide a different answer. It was several hours of intense gunfight with many casualties on both sides.  The SAF troops were not defenseless. But they were outgunned and urgently needed reinforcements and support. No report has been made about the number of MILF and BIFF. But the SAF troops certainly had the great disadvantage of fighting on a terrain they were not familiar with.

Q. The joint CCCH or ceasefire committees of the GPH and MILF learned about the Mamasapano operation after the fact na rin.  Initially, a report to the MILF-CCCH said “sundalo.”  For the people there, the camouflage uniform is generic for “sundalo,” so the GPH- CCCH had to check which military unit was operating without coordination pero SAF pala.
A. So the committee tasked to monitor any outbreak of hostilities and prevent any outbreak was saddled with lack of information.

Q. They were able to prevent it from escalating when they reached Mamasapano around noon.  May putokan pa daw. By 2 o’ clock it stopped. As they always say, madali mag-start ng gyera but to disengage takes a long time.
A. That’s right. And to build up trust again also takes a long time. That is a problem. Parang husband and wife mistrusting each other and when finally there is actual infidelity, trust quickly breaks down. The same is true with protocols. Once rules of engagement are broken, mahirap ma build up ang mutual trust once again. 

And I believe rationality should be restored here. Here we have a peace agreement that hopes, even with its possible constitutional frailties, to be the basis of just and lasting peace and resolve the rebellion intermittently going on for so many centuries. Here it is, a peace agreement that is suddenly jeopardized because of sentiments of anger and mistrust. Where can we go from here unless we again rebuild trust and work in the way the Bishops Conference pointed out – towards the one realistic hope for peace at the present time, the BBL,  patiently and perseveringly drawn up in the course of many years.

Q. How do we build trust again?
A. I think the MILF should provide explanations of what happened. How did the fighting begin from their point of view?  Why did they not stop? Another question the MILF should answer is: why did they tolerate the presence on an international territorist so close to their camp? Why do they allow the BIFF to operate from milf area and risk the suspicion that the two groups are supporting each other?

Q. This is on part the MILF, the questions that you want them to answer. What about on the part of government?
A. Questions as I said earlier: who ordered the operation? Why were the protocols that could have prevented the tragedy not followed? Why was the planning so mysterious, so confidential? And what was the role of  (suspended PNP chief Alan) Purisima in it, and some Cabinet members? Why? The demand of justice is to answer those questions for the sake of the casualties on both sides and their families that are asking the questions. And the irony is that they’re saying: “help us Mr. President.” According to the evidence so far, it would seem that the President was the one who ordered the mission. And (former Philippine National Police chief and former) Senator (Panfilo) Lacson himself has said that only the President could order such a mission.

Q. Should he resign?  Here are these talks again about an alleged coup d’ etat by the military and police. There is restiveness there because the few who knew about the operation broke the chain of command.
A. I don’t know if the restiveness is because they want revenge and the government does not seem to want all out war.  Again we need to be realistic. As the Bishops Conference said, as long as age-old deep mistrust, biases and prejudices persist, violence can explode anytime, even after a peace agreement. And this should tell us how relevant the messages of the Pope were when he visited the Philippines – welcoming one another especially the poor, being in solidarity with one another, opening our hearts to the other, trusting, dialoguing.

Q. Para ngang the way people are asking for blood now, murag wala man niabot si Pope Francis sa Pilipinas.
A. It is part of the Filipino culture, when our faith is lived in one area and does not influence daily life. It is called the dichotomy between faith and life. We express great fervor of faith when someone like the Pope comes, but his  teachings remain separate from daily life. His message about integrity and honesty falls by the wayside.

Q.  Given what has happened and given the fact tha the biases and prejudices have surfaced again, what would be your appeal to the Christians, Catholics, Moro and the Lumads?
A. I think we Christians should look at history, the history of Mindanao before Christanity and base our ideas of peace from that history and not on our own biases and prejudices.
Our conception of Mindanao history seems to start with the coming of the Spaniards and the Americans. That radically differs from the Muslim and Lumad conception of Mindanao history. Theirs go back to pre-Spanish times.

We Christians in Mindanao are relatively new. And so knowing Mindanao history as it is, we Christians, would then be able to recongize as very valid the profound aspiration of Muslims for self determination in their own territory, for identity and integral development. Thank God there are Muslims like (MILF chair Al Haj) Murad (Ebrahim), like (founding chair) Salamat (Hashim), (Ghazzali) Jaafar and Mohagher Iqbal who say “we have learned our lessons from history too, we cannot claim the whole island, we can only claim self determination in the core territory.” We need to know Mindanao history. Christians ought to know Mindanao history.

Q. To the Moro?
A. I would raise also the issue of  Muslim prejudice, the prejudices of Muslims regarding Christians, of Muslims regarding lumads. Muslims should also know the history of Christians. We Christians came over not because we wanted to grab the land of Muslims and Lumads. We came by virtue of government proclamation, policies and decrees. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / Mindanews)

Last part tomorrow: Peace is the only option

Q and A with Cardinal Quevedo
“Peace is the only solution to living together, developing a territory together”
Last of three parts : Peace is the only option
Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/07 February) –

Q. What about your message to the President?
A. (Pauses). Once the Board of Inquiry makes its report, I think that the President should also admit responsibility. I believe it’s an act of courageous and humble leadership to say “I’m sorry, and I shall make amends.”

Q. But he didn’t. He could have last Wednesday.
A. We’ll see what the investigation will… or maybe the investigation will come up with results quickly.

Q. In the meantime the debates, the proceedings on the BBL should continue? 
A. I believe they should continue perhaps in a low profile. The provisions that they are talking about as suspended (the provisions on security, etc ) should be looked at again more closely in the light of the situation and on  the evidence that is there now. There are a lot of evidences about what happened, what are the circumstances, the causes, that have already emerged without waiting for an investigation.

Q. You’ve been following this for so long already, the peace process, and there have really been major bumps along the way, all out war, Buliok war, etc.  Can we survive this?
A. I think we can survive this because it is like the  (2011) Al Barka tragedy where there was also lack of communications. There are incidents that have taken place that resulted in great government losses of personnel and we survived. Many massacres of Muslim civilians have also taken place. We can hurdle the challenges to peace. I think we need sometime to recover rationality.

Q. In the meantime, we are talking here of a major problem considering that supposedly one year ang transition period ng Bangsamoro but because of the delays, that might not even happen.
A. Yes. I think the leadership of the Senate and the House are important in this. I think already (Senate President Franklin) Drilon has said “we shall not put the BBL aside.” He did not say the BBL is

Q. Is dead.
A. Is dead. The same for Congressman Rufus Rodriguez. I think the discussions can be rehabilitated despite inflamed sentiments of anger and revenge. And we know that sentiments of revenge and anger are on both sides. Victims have fallen on both sides. That poses another challenge to the peace process.

Q. Both sides
A. Yes. And that’s one thing we don’t see in the press. If media can go to the area of the MILF and ask the widows and the children how they feel… you are telling people hindi lang pala tayong Christian.

Q. The President declared a National Day of Mourning but only for the 44.
A. The one sidedness of grief and mourning is most unfortunate. I think the Bishops Conference was more rational, when it urges that we grieve for all the casualties and their families and pray for all the victims.

Q. This is the worst, I think this is the highest death toll in a single day clash in the entire history of the Bangsamoro peace process, at least post-EDSA.
A. But the ultimate casualty is the peace process

Q. And the future as you said.
A. And unless something is done, we might have decades of years more to go before anything happens again – years of more fighting. Moro aspirations for self-determination will not die. That is the lesson of history.  

Q. What is the worst case scenario?
A. The worst case scenario is all out war and the dismantling of the peace process.

Q. We go back to zero naman.
A. Oh yes. As I said, beginning with zero and a new government and a new team, but the team of the MILF will

Q. Still be the same
A. May not be the same but they will also be asking the question: “can we trust them?”

Q. Did you know that PNoy did not call Murad after the fact?
A. Was there any communication between the President through OPAPP and the MILF panel?

Q.  OPAPP and panles. After the fact. Two days later.  Pero the GPH-MILF  mechanisms were really working that Sunday so in fact there could have been more deaths if the CCCH of both panels had not been there.
A .That’s what I  understand.

Q. So malaking bagay na nandoon sila
A. They had to crawl, literally crawl, between the middle of two groups to say no to war. I don’t know how much more dramatic that can be but I think .

Q. How about the US role there?
A. Some sectors will always suspect US involvement. But let’s distinguish between possibility and fact. For me it is possible that FBI gave the data on the location of the terrorists because our SAFs seem to have pinpointed the house. With regard to strategies, it is also possible that Americans made some suggestions. But to go from possibility to fact is a leap of reason.

Q. What can you tell people who have been working for decades for peace and who feel really bad now. How will you lift their spirits?
A. For me, peace is a goal for everybody -- Christians and Muslims, Lumads, peoples of other faiths, government and MILF. Peace is the only solution to living together, developing a territory together.Peace is not acquired  overnight. There are ups and downs and this Mamasapano tragedy may be the worst of the downs. But if any heart can lift itself out of the pieces of a broken peace, it would be the heart of a sincere peace advocate, with no hidden agenda but peace. The spirit of peace is the Holy Spirit of God. It can soar over ashes and shattered houses and give hope where seemingly there is none.

Q. Considering that an agreement had been signed.
A. But there’s an agreement there on the table which needs to be rehabilitated and which is for many, a foundation for a  just and lasting peace. It is there. We need to grab it again. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. It is already there. It needs some refinement. When? The only possible time and place is now, here, with a government ready to push and welcome it.

Q. Beyond?
A. Beyond? Well, who is going to be the next president?

Q. But the next President would likely also go for the peace process.
A. Hopefully. Hopefully.

Q. Did you actually think that we could have, that within the Aquino administration we’d
A. Yes, I think so.

Q. But with what has happened now?
A. Now I do not know because the time schedule is going to be pushed back. Maybe the next President will say “let me take a look at it again, but from the beginning” unless the people who are trusted by Aquino will lead the next government. They have been in the know, they could have an open mind about BBL.

Q. Your message to the peace panel of both sides          
A. Continue your work and if your work is detoured by investigating what went on,  help in the investigation. MILF panel, help in the investigation, provide as much information as you can but stay your course towards peace.

Q. And to Congress?
A. I would like to appeal to them that ‘all out war’ will make the peace process the biggest casualty and with the peace process and the BBL gone (pause) then it’s just pure hell again for the people of mindanao. Specially here in central mindanao. It’s ok if you live far away but here in the arena of conflict, there is no alternative

Q. But
A. But go into the peace process. An “all out war” sentiment will just perpetuate, will just deepen mistrust, prejudice and bias and this is on both sides -- Muslim and Christian bias.  The building of trust must be mutual on both sides but for leaders, especially.

Q.  The public?
A. We appeal for justice for the casualties on both sides. We pray for their families and loved ones. But let us not be driven by anger and revenge posing in the guise of justice. We must make sure that investigations as to what has happened will be credible and will pinpoint those on both sides who were responsbile for the debacle. Let us together pray for peace and work for a just and lasting peace. For peace is the only option for the future.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / Mindanews)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Proclaim your Faith!

(A homily delivered at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore; on the last day of the Triduum held on October 20, 2012 for the Canonization of Pedro Calungsod.)

·       10:00 A.M. Mass of the Holy Name of Mary
o   Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales – Presider
o   Abp. Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I. - Homilist
·       Readings: Sir. 24:17-21; Resp. Ps. - Lk. 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54;  Gospel Lk. 1:26-38

Your Eminences, my Brother Bishops; Distinguished Officials of the Philippine Govt, led by our Vice President (Binay) and the Phil. Ambassador the Holy See (Mercy Tuason); Rev. Fathers, Brothers and Sisters; my Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:

Mary – the Star of Evangelization

First, a question. On this final day of our Triduum, why do we celebrate the Mass in honor of the Holy Name of Mary?

Because this Mass brings us back to the Mariana islands of the 17th century, It brings us back to the time when Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, S.J, and his young missionary partner, the Visayan lay catechist, Pedro Calungsod proclaimed the Christian faith to the Chamorros of Guam.

Our Mass this morning reminds us that Padre Diego had a very strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. He dedicated the first church in the new mission to the Sweet Name of Mary. By the sweet name of Mary he hoped that the mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to the Chamorros would be blessed by God with abundant fruit.

That hope has been realized. On the original site of the first Church, there now magnificently stands the Cathedral - Basilica of the Sweet Name of Mary, a symbol of the Christian and Catholic faith of the people of Guam. Through the veins of their beloved leader, Archbishop Anthony Apuron who is with us today, flows the blood of his Chamorro ancestors as well as the blood of his Filipino grandfather from Vigan, Ilocos Sur. In the history of the local Church of Agana, Guam we see once again the truth of that ancient aphorism: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”

Padre Diego passed on his deep devotion to Mary to the young Pedro Calungsod. These two valiant missionaries, priest and lay teenager, under the inspiration and guidance of the Blessed Mother proclaimed their faith with zeal and courage among the Chamorros.

The Mass this morning also brings us back to the 1st century, to that room in Jerusalem where Mary and the Apostles were gathered in prayer. Suddenly in that room there was the sound of a mighty wind. The Holy Spirit descended upon them in the form of tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit filled them and transformed them.

Driven by the Holy Spirit, inspired and strengthened by the presence of Mary the Blessed Mother the Apostles would later go forth to the different parts of the civilized world, even to distant unknown lands, literally to the ends of the earth. Everywhere they proclaimed Jesus as the Lord and Savior of all. 

As Mary saw the Apostles off to tell the story of Jesus, her own Son, she prayed for them and was their Mother from afar. For the Apostles, Mary was the living memory of Jesus, their beloved Teacher and Lord.

Mary then was present at the beginning of the Church’s mission to evangelize. She was also present when Padre Diego and Pedro Calungsod began their missionary work. Mary, indeed, is the Star of Evangelization, as Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have said. She is the Star, the brilliant beacon that reflects to others the face of her own Son. She is the Star that points unmistakably to her Son.

Jesus the Center of Proclamation

But what did Padre Diego and Pedro Calungsod really proclaim? What do we proclaim when we evangelize?  Do we proclaim an inspired book called the Sacred Scriptures? Do we proclaim a set of beliefs and rites that we call Christianity or Catholicism?  Do we proclaim an ideology or a humanitarian program that we call human development?

No, my brothers and sisters, we proclaim a Person, a Person who has a face and a name. We proclaim Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s Son, God’s own Son, Jesus the Crucified One. We proclaim the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, that same divine mystery by which Jesus saved us and all humankind from sin. It is the story of Jesus that we tell. Jesus is the beginning, the center and the summit of our proclamation.

The Duty to Proclaim

But do we have a duty to proclaim Jesus? Yes we do. We hear today the poignant words of St. Paul, who cried out: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9-16). This cry follows from his words: Faith comes by hearing. But if no one speaks how can we hear? And how can one speak unless one is sent? (see Rom. 10:14-18).

When you and I were baptized and became members of the family of faith, the Lord sent us to speak his name, to tell his story to others. It is through the Sacrament of Baptism that we become a people of faith – in – mission.

How to Proclaim Jesus – Tell the Story of Jesus

But how do we proclaim Jesus? Our model of proclamation is Pedro Calungsod. Let us look at his statue. Pedro is carrying a book entitled, Doctrina Cristiana, It was the Spanish catechism written in the Philippines from which he learned the fundamental articles of our faith. From it he developed a strong and lively devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother. His mentor was Padre Diego. They were not only teacher and pupil to each other. They were partners and friends. It is from their friendship and especially from their intimate friendship with the Lord that they could teach others about the love of Jesus.

And so by carrying the catechism book, Pedro Calungsod teaches us that we have first to know our faith, to know Jesus, to believe in Jesus, and be united with Jesus.

The Doctrina Cristiana of the 17th century has evolved into a new synthesis of the Christian faith in the 20th century, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To know your faith, the sure guide is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When you take up the catechism believe what you read, live what you believe, and share what you believe.

But knowing Jesus is not enough. We must have, most of all, a passion for Jesus, a love for Jesus so intimate and so strong that we just have to share him with others. He is the divine gift that we cannot keep for ourselves. We must want to share him with others.

But how to share and proclaim the Lord and Savior? My brothers and sisters, simply tell the story of Jesus to others. Tell the stories that Jesus told -- about the providence of His Father, tell others that God is concerned most about the human person even as he cares for the beautiful lilies of the field and the blithe birds of the sky. Tell people about the Lord’s mercy and kindness, his love of the poor. Tell others about how he drove away those who desecrated the house of prayer, why he called some people hypocrites, how he abhorred those who were greedy and selfish, how he had compassion on the little ones of society, widows, orphans, strangers and little children. Tell the stories that Jesus told about love of neighbor, about forgiveness, and prayer.

Parents  and Children

If you are parents, tell the story of Jesus to your children. Children love stories, tell them of Jesus’ birth, how Jesus was lost and found in the temple, tell them story after story, miracle after miracle, parable after parable, tell them his message in simple ways, how Jesus loved children, how he loved the poor. Tell them about how Jesus sacrificed his very life on the Cross for them. Share with them your devotion to Jesus, your love for Jesus. Teach them about the Mass and how to pray, be their leader of prayer at home. Pray the Rosary with them. You must love Jesus passionately in order to do these.

Husbands and Wives

Husbands and wives, remind one another about what it means to be Christian, to be a follower of Jesus. Remind one another that your marital love is a sharing of the love of Jesus for you. Tell one another that the love of Jesus for you and for us is ever faithful, that even when we are unfaithful, He forgives. The love of Jesus for you must flow to your children. Such love within the family makes responsibilities less burdensome and is carried over to the fulfillment of responsibilities at work, at the office. It is a love that works for justice in society, the kind of love that struggles against social evils, against the lack of integrity and the bane of corruption so deeply entrenched in our beloved Philippines. It is a love for others without pretense.

Mass Media

Today we have to use the means of social communications to proclaim Jesus, his life and message. You do not have to be a radio broadcaster or a TV personality.

So often the internet is used for evil, for pornography, for scams and crimes. Instead use the internet to share what is good. Send biblical messages by SMS, by texting. Use twitters and blogs to share your faith, Chat with others about how your faith has always been an anchor of hope in the midst of difficulties. Send inspirational pictures and images by email, youtube, or facebook.

Today the power of communications, of the internet, email, facebook, is beyond calculation. 

Young People

May I appeal particularly to young people – and for young people. San Pedro Calungsod was only 14 years old when he went with Padre Diego to proclaim the Lord Jesus in Guam. He was not too young to be an evangelizer. He is the model for young people to live and proclaim their faith.

Already in our country, the youth are at the vanguard of renewing the Church and society. They are active in the catechetical, liturgical, and social action ministries. They serve in various transformative small communities of faith. With energetic and enthusiastic youth, parishes become a communion of communities.   

Yet today various forces compete for the attention of the young. At their most impressionable age, young people are constantly bombarded by mass media with images and messages of secularism and materialism that are contrary to the Gospel. The loss of faith is evident and widespread in the world.

We hope that the ongoing Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization can provide answers to the question: How can we proclaim the faith to young people with “new ardor, new methods and expressions?” The young are the present and future of the Church. We all need to be with them.

Overseas Filipino Workers

At this point may I give tribute to the millions of our overseas Filipino workers in every continent of the world.

We only think of OFWs as our country’s economic saviors. But they are more than economic agents. They are faith-givers. We have heard hundreds of stories about how OFWs are not embarrassed to show the external signs of their Catholic faith, how they bring to Mass the children of families that they work for and teach them how to pray. By doing so they attract the parents of the children to renew their faith and begin to pray again.

You, our dear OFWs, are truly the new missionaries and evangelizers of today. We salute and thank you most deeply. Hold on to your faith. We pray with you and for you as you work, often in a hostile environment.

Martyrdom and the Daily Witness of Life

My brothers and Sisters, in all probability you and I might never be asked by God to give up our life for the sake of our faith. God indeed asked Pedro Calungsod. And he responded generously and courageously with his life. With his teacher, missionary partner, and friend, Padre Diego, he went to his death for the sake of Jesus. Now both Padre Diego and the lay catechist Pedro hold the palm of martyrdom. Look at his statue -- Pedro is holding that palm. Martyrdom is the ultimate witnessing to Jesus, the ultimate form of proclaiming the faith.

But as Blessed John Paul II has said – a faithful Christian life, though silent and unsung, is a most eloquent proclamation of our faith in Jesus (see Ecclesia in Asia). You are credible in telling the story of Jesus to others only when your life is lived as a faithful disciple of Jesus, a disciple who lives the Divine Teacher’s way of valuing, his way of relating with people, especially with the most needy, his way of doing good.

For in the final analysis, to proclaim Jesus is really to share you own experience of Jesus, your own friendship with Jesus, your own following of Christ.  This is what the Apostle John said: What we have seen, what we have heard, what we have touched, this is what we proclaim to you so that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ! (see 1 Jn.1: 1-4).

When we truly proclaim Jesus by our daily Christian life, we can also exalt with Mary, the Star of Evangelization, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!” My very life, my very being proclaims the greatness of the Lord!

My brothers and sisters, God bless you!

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Primer on the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization

(Last of a series)

27. Who is the Center of our proclamation?

What we proclaim is not a revealed book nor an ideology, not a doctrine nor a social cause, not some great human value nor an idea. The center of our proclamation is “before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God” [John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 1990, no. 18; cf. CFC, nos. 216-17, 220-22, 464]. He is our Lord and our Savior. Through his passion, death, and resurrection – the Paschal Mystery – he saved us from sin. This is why the Cross is the symbol of our faith.
Unfortunately aggressive secularism ignores our faith in Jesus and puts it aside to the margins of public life, or even rejects the faith. That is why we have to tell the story of Jesus, proclaim him as the Lord and Savior. We have to “Live Christ, Share Christ.” [CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on the Era of New Evangelization, “Live Christ, Share Christ, July 23, 2012].

28. How should we proclaim our faith?

We proclaim our faith in many ways. We tell and teach others about our faith. Parents are the first teachers of the faith for their children. By teaching their children who God is, how to pray to God, what his commandments are, parents share their faith with them. Besides cooperating with God in giving and nourishing the physical life of their children, they also give and nourish their life of faith. We share our faith with others by providing material and moral support to those whose main task is to preach and teach the faith such as priests, religious, catechists, missionaries and other collaborators in the Church’s mission. But most of all we proclaim and share our faith with others by our life, by our witness of a good Christian life. In the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 2:42-47] many were daily attracted to the new faith by the faithful Christian life of the early followers of Christ. Ordinary day to day fidelity to the Lord’s law of love – ordinary holiness – is the most eloquent proclamation of our faith.

29. What kind of new evangelizers should we be?

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, new evangelizers have to be: persons who have mature faith “because they have encountered Jesus Christ, who has become the fundamental reference of their life; persons who know Him because they love Him and they love Him because they have known Him; persons capable of giving solid and credible reasons of life.” [Papal Address to the 64th General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, May 24, 2012].

30. Who are our models of faith?

In the first place is our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, the Woman of Faith, always obedient to the will of the Father and the constant faithful disciple of Jesus her Son [See CFC, nos. 155-59]. Despite not fully understanding the profound mysteries of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery, she gave her obedience of faith to God. The “cloud of witnesses” of the faith is the multitude of Saints in heaven. Among them are recent men and women of holiness such as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed John Paul II, Padre Pio, our own San Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod.

31. What does the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod mean for us?

Pope Benedict XVI will declare Blessed Pedro Calungsod as Saint in Rome on October 21, 2012 and will add yet another Filipino to our models of faith. Like San Lorenzo Ruiz, San Pedro Calungsod is a lay martyr who gave up his life in an ultimate witness of his faith in the Lord Jesus. As a young catechist he was a teacher of the faith. He is a model for all Filipinos, especially for our Filipino youth, to be faithful to Jesus with love and courage till death.

32. What event does the Year of Faith and the canonization recall to Filipinos?

San Pedro Calungsod was a Visayan youth martyred in far away Guam 151 years after the Spaniards first brought the Christian faith to people in the Visayas. The first Holy Mass was celebrated on the island of Limasawa on March 31, 1521. San Pedro Calungsod is canonized in the Year of Faith which is only nine years away from the 500th anniversary of the faith of Filipino Christians. For this reason on the day of San Pedro Calungsod’s canonization on October 21, the Church in the Philippines “will embark on a nine year spiritual journey that will culminate with the great jubilee of 2021. It is a grace-filled event of blessings for the Church starting October 21, 2012 until March 16, 2021” [CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on the Era of New Evangelization, 2012].

33. How shall we prepare for this great event - the 500th anniversary of our Filipino

The Catholic Bishops of the Philippines exhorted us to prepare for the 5th centenary of our Christian faith in the Philippines with a nine year “Era of New Evangelization.” The opening of the Year of Faith and the canonization of San Pedro Calungsod take place during the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Rome, October 7 to 28, 2012. The Synod of Bishops explores the theme of New Evangelization. In view of the weaknesses of our faith and the negative influences of secularism on our Filipino culture, a New Evangelization is necessary in the Philippines. In fact 21 years ago PCP-II already envisioned a “new evangelization” or “renewed integral evangelization” for the Philippines [see Message of the Council to the People of God in the Philippines, in PCP-II Acts and Decrees, 1991, p. xcviii; see esp. nos. 186 – 201].

34. What is the New Evangelization?

The term New Evangelization “designates pastoral outreach to those who no longer practice the Christian faith” [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization, December 3, 2007, 12], a situation which is due to the secular and materialist spirit. Pope Benedict XVI said that this new cultural situation has signs of excluding God from peoples’ lives and tries to marginalize the faith from public life (Benedict the XVI, Address to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, May 30, 2011). We have already noted that our faith has to be renewed. Our culture is now very much influenced by the secular and materialist spirit. Therefore, a New Evangelization is necessary, “new in its ardor, methods and expressions” [Pope John Paul II, Discourse to XIX Assembly of CELAM, Post au Prince, 1983]. Such will surely renew both our faith and the Church.

35. What is our general plan for the Era of New Evangelization?

We need to intensify our efforts to achieve the vision of renewal that PCP-II and the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR, 2001) drew up. It is a vision of renewed integral evangelization towards a renewed Church. We may call it a vision of New Evangelization in the Philippines. It calls for a multifaceted renewal of faith, renewal of laity, clergy, religious, parishes, and renewal of mission. For this purpose, the NPCCR identified nine major pastoral priorities. These are: (1) Integral Faith Formation; (2) Renewal of the Laity; (3) Active Participation of the Poor; (4) The Family as the Focal Point of Evangelization; (5) The Parish as a Communion of Communities; (6) Renewal of the Clergy and Religious; (7) Youth as Evangelized and Evangelizers; (8) Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue; (9) Missio ad gentes.

36. How shall we address the Nine Major Pastoral Priorities of the Church in the
      Philippines during the Era of Evangelization?

For the nine-year era of New Evangelization to be fruitful, it is absolutely necessary to hold the Holy Eucharist as central so that the grace of the Eucharist would accompany all our evangelizing efforts. Prayer must accompany the New Evangelization. We need to realize that the journey of faith and discipleship begins with conversion, metanoia, a change of mind and heart. With these in mind, we shall dedicate each of the nine years of the Era of New Evangelization to one of the nine-major pastoral priorities. Thus:

2013 – Integral Faith Formation;
2014 – Renewal of the Laity;
2015 – Active participation of the Poor in Evangelization and
Social transformation;
2016 – The Eucharist and the Family – this year the International Eucharistic 
                        Congress will be held in Cebu;
2017 – Transforming the parish as a Communion and Communities;
2018 – Renewal of Clergy and Religious;
2019 – Active Participation of the Youth;
2020 – Ecumenism and Inter-Religious dialogue;
2021 -  Missio ad gentes.

37. What is the significance of Mission ad gentes for Filipino Catholics?

The final year, 2021, of the Era of New Evangelization will be the 5th centenary of the Filipino Christian faith. The focus will be on the mission of the Church ad gentes or the mission to those who do not yet know Christ. Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, we are reminded that our faith is missionary. Recent Popes have pointed out that the Church in the Philippines has a “special missionary vocation” and is called in a special way to be a missionary “to the nations” – ad gentes, particularly to Asia [Pope John Paul II, to the Philippine Bishops in 19981; at the World Youth Day in 1995; cited by the CBCP Pastoral Letter, Missions and the Church in the Philippines, July 5, 2000]. This is so because the Philippines is the biggest predominantly Catholic country in Asia. Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the necessity of sharing our faith::  

…faith in God is above all a gift and mystery to be received in the heart and in life and for which we are to be always grateful to the Lord. But faith is a gift that is given to us to be shared; it is a talent received so that it will bear fruit; it is a light that must not be kept hidden, but illumine the whole house. It is the most important gift that has been given to us in our lives and we cannot keep it for ourselves” [Benedict XVI, Message for World Mission Day to be celebrated on October 21, 2012].

38. Do the Year of Faith and the Era of New Evangelization address burning issues
      confronting our society today?

Yes, they do. Our goal is a renewed faith and a renewed Church. This is a vision of a faith and Church engaged in the mission of integral evangelization. This mission includes the task of social transformation. As a renewed Church we have to be actively involved, through a renewed integral faith, in helping resolve the burning social issues of today such as corruption, poverty, the destruction of the environment, threats against human life and dignity, and other burning issues of our day. Most of our problems are due to the dichotomy between faith and life. A renewed faith, that includes the social implications of the Gospel, would certainly address the problems directly.  

39. Prayer for the Year of Faith

According to Pope Benedict XVI “Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory. It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in Baptism” [PF, no. 9]. Therefore, following the example of the early Christians we should recite everyday the Niceno-Constantinopolitan profession of faith:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven,

(At the words, up to and including “and became man,” all bow)

and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Reciting often the short traditional Act of Faith will also deepen our faith:

O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man, and died for our sins and that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
October 1, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Primer on the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization

(Second of a Series)

14. In what way is the secular spirit at work in the proposed Reproductive Health Bill?
The promoters of the Reproductive Health Bill assert that the bill has nothing to do with religion or morality. According to them the use of artificial contraceptive means to prevent conception or to terminate implantation is simply a matter of safeguarding the health of women. They say that preventing unwanted pregnancy through contraceptives and choosing the number of children parents want is responsible parenthood. Preventing pregnancy through artificial means also alleviates the burden of the poor in raising too many children. In addition, the secular and materialist argument allows the distribution of contraceptive means to young people and to the unmarried in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The promoters of Reproductive health consider all these acts as necessary and useful. These acts are allowed because of the freedom of choice. Sex outside marriage is also fine as long as it is “safe sex.” Moreover, some proponents say that no religion or church can impose its teaching on how a woman should take care of her body. What she does with her body is her “freedom of choice.” These arguments are the influence of secularism that rejects faith and morality as norms of action.

15.  What is the official Catholic position on the Reproductive Health bill?
As teachers of faith the Bishops of the Philippines point out that the distribution and use of artificial contraceptive means to prevent conception and the implantation of the fertilized egg in the womb are not morally neutral. Based on official Catholic moral teaching, they are in fact morally evil. Moreover, the Bishops point out that aside from purely Catholic moral teachings, there is a universal moral law, the natural law, which serves as a moral guide for all [see Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the International Congress on Natural Law, Rome, February 12, 2007; see also Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC), 2004, nos. 138-41]. Furthermore, the freedom to choose cannot be contrary to the law of God who gave that freedom. Briefly and simply, the freedom to choose is not absolute. It is necessarily limited by the moral law, as taught authoritatively by the magisterium or teaching authority of the Church [Cf. CSDC, nos. 137, 139].

16. What is to be said about members of Catholic educational institutions who 
dissent against teachings of the Church?
Invoking the principle of academic freedom, some members of Catholic educational institutions publicly dissent against official Catholic teachings regarding the Reproductive Health bill. This may be another example of the influence of the secular and materialist spirit in our midst. A Catholic institution of higher learning, whether pontifical or not, has to be faithful to its identity, nature, and role as a Catholic institution. One of the distinctive marks essential for Catholic identity is fidelity to the Christian message in conformity with the magisterium of the Church [see Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae (ECE), August 15, 1990, I, no. 13; see also United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, An Application to the United States, 2001, Part I, V and Part II, art. 2]. This is also to adhere to the special charisms of the religious community that founded the institution. In fact the Catholic identity of the educational institution is usually expressed explicitly in its vision-mission statement. Moreover the Catholic identity of Philippine Catholic Universities is confirmed by membership in the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) whose statutes were approved by the Holy See in 1949. Therefore, by its very nature and identity a Catholic educational institution adheres to the truths that are contained in the deposit of faith, Scripture and Tradition, as interpreted authoritatively by the Church.  Faculty members share in the responsibility of preserving and promoting the Catholic identity of the institution. Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out the confusion created among the faithful “by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership” [see Pope Benedict XVI, Address to U.S. Bishops on ad limina visit, Rome, May 5, 2012]. In brief, academic freedom is not a right for faculty members of a Catholic educational institution to betray its Catholic identity and nature and cannot be a reason for dissenting against the official Catholic position as on the Reproductive Health Bill [On academic freedom see Code of Canon Law, 1983, c 218; likewise relevant are cc 806 and 810].

17. What kind of faith do we, Filipino Catholics, have?
The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines characterized our Filipino Catholic faith in several ways [see PCP-II, Acts and Decrees, 1991, nos. 8-17]. Our faith is deep and simple. We express our Christian faith publicly without embarrassment. We are often faithful in attending Holy Mass and in praying novenas to different saints. We outwardly celebrate the Sacraments, such as going to Mass, being baptized, receiving confirmation, getting married. We are aware that God has an influence on our life. We have a sense of God’s own time. Even when abroad when it is difficult to express our faith, we try to be faithful to our religious duties and devotions.

18. What are the weaknesses of our faith?
While we are outwardly devoted to the practices of our faith such as going to Mass, celebrating the sacraments, praying the Rosary, etc., we often do not understand their meaning. Much less do we put into practice what they really mean. Our faith is not lived in the public sphere. It is separated from life. Hence, “we are sacramentalized but not evangelized.” Our faith is ritualistic and devotional, i.e., centered on externals and non-essentials. We see this kind of ritualistic faith in our veneration of the saints, in our processions and fiestas. Our faith is also sometimes fatalistic, attributing almost everything to God without our own responsibility. Thus we say bahala na ang Diyos when we take unnecessary risks (as in riding overloaded buses or boats), when prudence and wisdom should tell us not to take the risks [For the weaknesses of our faith see PCP-II, no. 13 and CFC nos. 116-18]. Because we really do not know our faith well, we are often easily persuaded by religious teachers who interpret the Sacred Scriptures different from our own interpretation. In other words, to a great extent we are Catholics only in name, but are very much uninformed and focused on externals.

19. Because of the inadequacies of our faith, what should we do during the Year of Faith?
The Year of Faith is a privileged occasion for us to know our faith, deepen our faith, live our faith, celebrate our faith, and share our faith. Pope Benedict XVI urges us “to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction…. to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist....” The Pope prays “that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility” [PF, no. 9].

20. What can we do to know our faith?
We need to study our catechism, especially the most essential elements of our faith. We have to understand their meaning for our life. The essential elements of our faith are contained in the Apostles’ Creed that we recite during Sunday Mass. It is called the Apostles’ Creed, because it is a faithful summary of the faith of the Apostles and was the ancient profession of faith of the Church of Rome, the “See of Peter, the first of the Apostles.” The Apostles’ Creed is elaborated by the Niceno-Constantinopolitan, which originated from the first two ecumenical councils of the Church (in the years 325 and 381). This creed is common to the churches of both East and West.

21. What does the Apostles’ Creed contain?
The Creed contains the 12 Articles of our Christian Faith, namely:
Article 1 – I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
Article 2 – I believe in Jesus Christ the Only Son of God.
Article 3 -  He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary.
Article 4 – Jesus Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.
Article 5 – He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again.
Article 6 – He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Article 7 – From thence he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Article 8 – I believe in the Holy Spirit.
Article 9 – I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.
Article 10 – I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
Article 11 – I believe in the Resurrection of the Body.
Article 12 – I believe in life everlasting.
These are the fundamental elements of our faith. We should know and understand them with our minds and hearts. When we recite with faith the Apostles’ Creed we unite ourselves with God and with the whole Church which transmits the faith to us. Our “Amen” at the end of the Apostles’ Creed expresses our firm conviction that God is trustworthy and that we absolutely trust in him.

22. How do we celebrate our faith?
We celebrate our faith in God by adoring, praising, and thanking God. This is our response to God and for his blessings to us. We give this response of faith through prayer especially through the liturgy.

23. What is the Liturgy?
The liturgy is the prayer of the Church and consists principally of the celebration of the Paschal Mystery which is the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, the event by which Jesus our Lord saved us from sin. When we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we celebrate the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. We believe that in the Mass, Christ is present and active. It is He who offers his own sacrifice. The ordained priest acts in his name because he shares in the priestly power of Christ because of priestly ordination.
The liturgy also consists of the other Sacraments. By his power, Jesus acts in the other sacraments such that when we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism, it is Jesus himself through the hands of the priests who baptizes us. We also celebrate our faith when we read the Scriptures and when we pray. In all these, Christ is present and active.

24. How should we live our faith?
We live our faith by living a truly moral life, a life that is faithful to the commandments of God. Jesus himself said: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” [Jn. 14:21]. The commandments are summarized in the law of love taught by Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Mk. 12:30-31; see also Dt. 6:5]. The law of love is elaborated in the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments express love of God and the next seven commandments express love of neighbor. The truly moral life, therefore, is a life of genuine charity. Pope Benedict states: “Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other” [PF, no. 14]. Charity is faith in action. If charity, then also justice, because justice and charity are inseparable. To love God and our neighbor, to avoid offending God and neighbor through sin are actually the promises we made when we received Baptism, the sacrament of faith. At our baptism we promise to believe in God. This also means to love God and reject sin. The baptismal promise is a promise to live a truly moral life. We are Christians not only in name but also in deed by living our faith in private and public life.   

25. How else should we live our faith?
When God gave us the gift of faith at Baptism, he incorporated us into his own family of faith, the Church. The Church has a mandate to safeguard and teach what God has revealed. She is our Mother and Teacher. We live our faith when we are faithful not only to what the Church declares solemnly as divinely revealed but also to the doctrinal and moral teachings that the Church has consistently and ordinarily taught through time.

26. Do we have a duty to proclaim our faith?
Yes, we have. The obligation is included in the mandate that Jesus gave his Apostles: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always until the close of the age” [Mt. 28:19-20]. To proclaim our faith is to proclaim the good news of Jesus our Lord and Savior. This is our mission from the very moment we were baptized and became members of the Church. The whole Church exists in order to proclaim Jesus as the Lord and Savior. St. Paul expresses the duty of every member of the Church: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” [1 Cor. 9:16].