Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mindanao Week of Peace: United for Peace

“Common word between you and us: Love of God and Love of Neighbor” – the theme of this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace originated from a famous letter written by 138 Muslim religious leaders and scholars from all over the world on October 13, 2007. They addressed the letter to Pope Benedict XVI and other leaders of the Christian faith. It was a call for peace and harmony through inter-religious dialogue. They quoted the Prophet Muhammad who had addressed the “people of the Scripture” concerning a “common word between us and you.” That common word consisted of faith in the One true God, Love of God and love of neighbor.

The reaction by Christians to the 2007 letter was unprecedented. “Common Word” discussions, conferences, dialogues sprouted in many parts of the world. Pope Benedict XVI invited Muslim leaders to a gathering at the Vatican. On November 4-6, 2008 the 1st Catholic-Muslim Forum was held in Rome on the “common word”: “Love of God and Love of Neighbor.” The forum is now held every two years and it involves inter-religious dialogue at the highest level between Catholic and Muslim leaders.

I was invited by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to represent the Asian Bishops at the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy on 27 October 2011 For 25 years this gathering of Christian and Muslim Religious leaders from different parts of the world organized by the Pope has been a significant collaboration of different religions to contribute to world peace on the basis of their own religious traditions.

I believe that one can truly say that “Common Word” and the Assisi event express a common conviction that faith is at the service of peace and harmony.

Let me cite only a few examples of the declarations towards peace articulated by various representatives of different beliefs:

From the President of the Lutheran World Federation: “We commit ourselves to proclaiming our firm conviction that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religions.”

From the Metropolitan Patriarch of Moscow: “We commit ourselves to fostering the culture of dialogue.”

From the President of the Muslim Ulama and Mashaik Council of Pakistan: “We commit ourselves to frank and patient dialogue, refusing to consider our differences as an insurmountable barrier.”

From the Vice Supreme Patriarch of Teravada Buddhism in Thailand: “We commit ourselves to taking up the cry of those who refuse to be resigned to violence and evil.”

From an Atheist Representative: “We will make every effort to ensure that believers and non-believers in reciprocal trust can live out the shared quest for truth, justice and peace.”

Pope Benedict XVI summed up the many declarations by echoing the words of Pope John Paul II: “Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth Justice and Peace, Forgiveness and Life, Love!

A common quest, a common commitment, and a foundational common word for peace – that is the meaning of the Mindanao Week of Peace.

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

Martyr for Justice and Peace

I HAVE no hesitation to call Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME, as a martyr for justice and peace. He is a worthy member of that noble line of martyrs in the Church in Mindanao who in their lives advocated causes that would help create a more just, a more peaceful, a more loving society. Such causes are for the poor like the indigenous peoples as well as for the integrity of creation.

That line of martyrs includes Fr. Alingal, S.J., and Fr. Satur (diocesan priest) in the Diocese of Malaybalay, Fr. Tullio Favali, PIME, in the Diocese of Kidapawan, Fr. Carzedda PIME in the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, Bp. Ben de Jesus, OMI, Fr. Benjie Inocencio, OMI, and Fr. Rey Roday, OMI, all three from the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo.

Fr. Fausto was a young missionary priest when he was assigned to the Diocese of Kidapawan which I led as its Bishop. He learned Ilonggo quickly and spoke it almost all the time. Like all the PIME in the Diocese of Kidapawan, he was very close to the people, and his convento in Arakan or in Columbio was open to the people. It was always a great joy for me to see him at the Bishop's Residence in Kidapawan taking his day off and watching a VHS movie or two after a long week of trekking up the mountains of Arakan or visiting the villages of Columbio. Like Fr. Tullio he had a soft easy smile and a voice that invited conversation. The only enemies he could make are those who wanted to silence his voice appealing for justice and peace for the indigenous peoples and for God's creation.
I cannot fathom the minds of people who would be so evil as to plot the killing of a justice and peace loving missionary like Fr. Fausto. His assasination creates profound sadness and brings tears to the people who know of his kindness as well as his courage in the face of hazards to his life.

His death is pure murder. I totally condemn it as a crime that cries out to heaven. If the perpetrators think that his murder would silence priests, religious sisters and brothers, and bishops from proclaiming the justice of God's kingdom, they are wrong. The blood of martyrs like Fr. Fausto fans the daring and courage of those who care about peace and justice enough to sacrifice themselves while travelling the road of active non-violence. I strongly appeal to the authorities to search for the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

My prayers to the loving Lord for my friend, Fr. Fausto, PIME.

Archbishop of Cotabato

Monday, July 04, 2011

Questions to PCSO on its So-Called Expose: The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth?

1. What happened to the first expose that 7 bishops received Pajeros from President Arroyo through PCSO for their personal use? It is quite simple to put a closure to this issue – just look into your records and reveal the names of the Bishops involved. Perhaps leaving the so called expose open ended would serve your motives better? And what really are your motives? To tell the truth? But why do you keep people guessing as to the truth of these Pajeros and the Bishops who were supposed to have received them?

2. Now that the Pajero issue remains a black mark on suspected Bishops, who one after the other categorically denied that they had solicited or received any Pajero for personal use, what do you wish to gain by redirecting your attack – that some bishops, indeed, received SUVs? If so, why did you not mention that PCSO donated each of the vehicles to Bishops or dioceses for purposes of social action, promotion of health, poverty alleviation, human development – all for the sake of the poor? After all that is their explicit request for help and is contained in the Memorandum of Agreement that both PCSO and beneficiary sign.

3. Why do you say that the donations to the Bishops were anomalous and unconstitutional? Does not the typical PCSO MOA with the beneficiary say that it is the mandate of the PCSO to provide assistance for health programs, health services, other services and charitable purposes? And therefore that the grant is not only meant for medical and health services? Do you think that Bishops and religious institutions use such grants for their own self-interests and not for the poor? Do you think that the cooperation of the Church in your work violates the principle of separation of Church and State? Do you think that by such donation you are establishing one religion as the State religion considering that your grants are given to different religious denominations for the sake of the poor?

4. Why do you single out some bishops in your so called expose when by simply looking into your records from the time of President Cory Aquino up to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, you will find donations to hundreds of religious groups of different denominations through the years for purposes of helping the poor? Would you have us believe that a thorough 2008 and 2009 audit on PCSO donations revealed only Bishops as beneficiaries and not other religious groups? And why do you claim that some three or four years after the “Garci tapes these grants were given to buy Bishops’ support against moves to oust President Arroyo? Do you think that all past Presidents, acting through PCSO, were unwise in having different religious denominations help in alleviating poverty, providing medical and health services, and doing development work for the poor? Did Presidents from the time of President Cory to the time of President Arroyo, acting through PCSO, violate the Constitution?

5. In brief, all the above questions beg the question of motives. What are your real motives in selectively targeting some bishops to whom PCSO gave grants for the sake of the poor?
6. Are you telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Or are you giving disinformation to discredit the Bishops for motives of your own?

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
July 3, 2011

Friday, July 01, 2011


I wish to reiterate my declaration that I have never requested or received from PCSO any vehicle for my personal use, whether a Pajero or SUV or any other vehicle. This declaration refers to the PCSO allegation that 7 Bishops received Pajeros from PCSO for their personal use.

Yesterday the attack on Bishops changed course: from 7 Pajeros for personal use to vehicles for other purposes. The PCSO revealed that some Bishops, myself included, received SUVs for purposes related to the social action apostolate. In 2008 I, indeed, wrote a request to the PCSO for a vehicle to be used by our Social Action program, especially for our Community Based Health Program. We also wanted to use the vehicle for our training team to give seminars for community organizing at the grassroots, capacity building, training of Indigenous Peoples' leaders, as well as to bring sick people to hospitals when necessary. The request was granted.

This practice of asking for PCSO assistance for social action is not unusual. Since the time of President Cory Aquino up to the present, hundreds of church-related organizations have been granted assistance by PCSO to do social service, human development, poverty alleviation in line with the objectives both of the PCSO and also of social action in general. It is well known that such assistance crossed religious barriers and differences and was not limited to organizations within the Catholic Church. Dioceses, church-related educational institutions, religious congregations of men and women did not hesitate to ask for help to do medical missions, initiate livelihood projects, form and promote cooperatives, do capacity building of people at the grassroots. Cardinal Sin himself in defense of PCSO assistance given to him for his projects for the poor reportedly stated that he would even accept money from the devil in order to help the poor. I myself would not hesitate to ask for PCSO assistance for a very poor individual who needs a costly medical operation but cannot afford it.

Some ten years ago the Bishops in plenary assembly made a collective decision not to solicit or accept donations from legal and illegal gambling. Such a decision was not universally followed. The needs of the poor in the minds of many people in the Church, Bishops included, simply transcended such a decision. After all, the Bishops also knew that gambling is not immoral per se. It becomes immoral because of circumstances. This is why no Episcopal Conference outside the Philippines has addressed the issue of gambling as a pastoral problem in the way Philippine Bishops did. One of the reasons that Philippine Bishops cited regarding the immorality of gambling arose out of the cultural situation. To solicit and accept donations from legal and illegal gambling would be tantamount to promoting a cultural tendency to gamble.

Therefore, in the light of the above situation, to selectively bash the Bishops for soliciting and accepting donations from the PCSO for activities designed to help the poor is clearly unfair and unjust. From the time of President Cory Aquino to that of President Macapagal Arroyo PCSO has approved donations for social action for hundreds of church groups as consonant with PCSO objectives as well as a necessity to help meet the enormous needs of the poor.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
July 1, 2011