CBCP offers peace amid hatred and violence
Amid so much hatred and violence, leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines have offered peace, joy, and forgiveness.
In its Pastoral Exhortation released on Monday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called on Filipinos to be peacemakers amid troubled times in the country, “to bring love where there is hatred, pardon where there is injury, and faith where there is doubt.”
“Our enemies in this world are not fellow human beings, not ‘flesh and blood’ (Eph 6:12). We do not fight our battles with guns and bullets. We do not seek protection from those who might wish to harm us by wearing bullet-proof vests, because the battles that we fight are spiritual,” said the statement signed by Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, the president of the CBCP.
“In these times of darkness, when there’s so much hatred and violence, when murder has become an almost daily occurrence, when people have gotten so used to exchanging insults and hurting words in the social media, we admonish the faithful to remain steadfast in our common vocation and mission to actively work for peace,” he added.
Valles met with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Malacañang Palace at around 4 p.m. on Monday. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President agreed to a “moratorium on statements” against the Catholic Church.
A harsh critic of the Catholic Church, President Duterte earned the ire of religious groups after he ranted about and called the God of the Catholics as “stupid.”
Facing an intense backlash over his scathing remarks against the church, President Duterte formed a committee to dialogue with the Catholic Church and other religious groups.
On July 16, the feast of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Valles urged the entire nation to spend a day of prayer and penance invoking God’s mercy and justice on “those who have blasphemed God’s Holy Name, those who slander and bear false witness, and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country.”
For the next three days, from July 17 to 19, 2018, he invited everyone to “fast, prayer, and give alms to the poor.”
Valles said priests being murdered for witnessing to Christ, maligned and ridiculed because they have carried out their duties as shepherds is nothing new in the history of the Church.
“Have you forgotten that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians? It is what has kept the Church alive after two thousand years. Did not our master say, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul into Gehenna” (Mt 10:28)?,” he said.
“What does the Lord tell his disciples when they are persecuted or humiliated for his sake? He tells them to “rejoice and be glad” (Mat 5:12),” he added.
To those who have been angered by the insulting statements of people in authority, Valles urged them to remember the words of Jesus to his disciples: “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
“Vengeance is never the way of Christ. It is not the way of Jesus to return evil for evil; no, we can conquer evil only with good. Up to the last moment of his breath, he had nothing but words of mercy towards his tormentors, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do,” he said.
In their attempt to be holy, Valles said there are some members of the Church who fall short of the expectations.
“We are a Church of sinners called to conversion and holiness at the same time. We bow in shame when we hear of abuses being committed by some of our fellow Church leaders — especially those ordained to ‘act in the person of Christ’,” he said.
“We hold ourselves accountable for their actions, and accept our duty to correct them. We humbly admit that we have many weaknesses and shortcomings, human as we are. We have no reason to justify our weaknesses on the basis of our participation in the human condition…,” he added.
To those who accuse the bishops of getting involved in political moves to destabilize the government, Valles said nothing can be farthest from the truth.
“Our concern is never the establishment of any earthly kingdoms. Worldly kingdoms come and go. We work only for God’s kingdom which is beyond this world — so that we can start learning to live life ‘on earth as it is in heaven’,” he said.
The Church, he said, respects the political authority, as long as they do not contradict the basic spiritual and moral principles such as respect for the sacredness of life, the integrity of creation, and the inherent dignity of the human person.
“We are not political leaders, and certainly not political opponents of government. The Church has, throughout history, coexisted with countless forms of government. The Church has always been and will always be a partner of government in countless endeavors for the common good,” he said.
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