‘GO, CHANGE THE WORLD’
‘Filipinos, multiply your missionaries. Multiply your children.’ — Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, papal legate
In a world that needs hope, Filipinos are “blessed” with their love for family and a young population.
Their special role: to evangelize countries where Christianity is on the wane.
“Andam na ba kamo? (Are you ready?),” asked papal legate Charles Cardinal Bo to almost one million people gathered in a historic Statio Orbis Mass at the South Road Properties in Cebu City.
In his homily at a Mass closing the week long 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), the cardinal challenged the Philippines as a “nation of hope” to meet what Pope Francis considers “the greatest danger to humanity today” which is “the destruction of the family.”
“Many of us come from nations where Christianity is a big challenge. Churches are empty. Vocations are dying out. Christianity is in the twilight zone,” said the archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar.
“Filipinos can turn these twilight zones into an exciting dawn of new Christianity.”
Mincing no words, he issued a challenge:
“Filipinos, multiply your missionaries. Multiply your children. Go and populate those countries where Christianity is becoming a minority. Go to countries that have more pets — more dogs and cats – than children.”
Under a clear blue sky that served as a cathedral for the closing Mass of the congress, attended by delegates from 73 countries, the voice of the Roman Catholic Church echoed clearly in the open field.
Pope Francis in a pre-taped video message flashed on giant screens,”told the international gathering to “go forth”. He gave his apostolic blessing to all those present.
“How important it is for every Christian to be a true missionary disciple, bringing the good news of Christ’s redemptive love in the world that needs reconciliation, justice, and peace,” he said.
The Pope announced at the end of his 12-minute address that the next Eucharistic congress would be held in Budapest, Hungary in 2020.
I LOVE CEBU
Cardinal Bo, who greeted the crowd in halting Cebuano, endeared himself to the host of the congress, by saying “ I love Cebu”. He mentioned how he appreciated the “hospitality, the food, your smiles and most of all your deep faith.”
“For the last seven days, you made us all proud to be Catholics,” he said. Then he spelled out the special gifts and role of the Philippines in evangelization.
“People of the Philippines, you have two great graces. Your family integrity is strong. You have the least divorce rates in the region. Many rich nations have money but no families.”
Second, he cited the large population of youths.
“Ïf only leaders invest in your youth, you will be the strongest and the richest country… The future does not belong to countries that have oil or weapons. The future belongs to the nation with young people.”
He said Pope Francis was worried about three major “dangers to the world” – environmental injustice, economic injustice.
“But the greatest danger to humanity today is the destruction of the family.”
“More than any nuclear bomb, more than terrorism, a modern danger awaits humanity because some countries have chosen a path of destroying families through laws,” he said.
In the Philippines, Catholic church leaders have opposed but lost the battle in the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, which ensures government procurement of contraceptives for public health centers and mandates sex education in schools.
Not a drop of rain spoiled yesterday’s closing Mass called Statio Orbis or “stations of the world” held at the end of every eucharistic congress.
It began at exactly 4 p.m. preceded by colorful dance an dmusical presentations, including a Sinulog, and upbeat pop song “I Love Cebu”. A solemn procession was also held in the center pathway of the SRP with icons of St. Pedro Calungsod, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Señor Sto. Niño, and a parade of country flags of the 73 participating countries.
Six cardinals, 200 bishops, and about 1,500 priests concelebrated in the Eucharistic celebration.
Clad in white liturgical vestments with gold trim, the cardinals and bishops stood on a stage used during the thanksgiving Mass for the canonization of San Pedro Calungsod in 2012.
People started arriving before noon, and waited in the blistering sun bringing umbrellas and hats for the Mass to start. Only IEC delegates and special guests had chairs in a fenced section of the grounds. The general public remained standing.
Several loudspeakers and two large LED screens in the front allowed people to follow the proceedings from a distance.
A choir of 2,500 members from different parishes in Cebu, backed up by the University of Sto. Tomas Symphony Orchestra from Manila, sang liturgical hyms in Latin, English, Cebuano, and Greek.
Most of the songs were composed by Cebuano priest, Msgr. Rodolfo Villanueva.
A blind girl read a Scripture passage in Braille. The responsorial psalm was sung in English by a young girl. Other prayers were said in Tagalog, Waray, Spanish, Mandarin, and English.
Cardinal Bo said the Catholic Church is a not an “income generating agency” but a “hope-generating fellowship.”
“The world has hopelessness everywhere. The Philippines need hope. The Church needs hope. Our family needs hope. The world needs hope,” he said.
Bo cited the Philippines standing as the third biggest Catholic nation in the world after Brazil and Mexico.
He said this comes with a responsibility to evangelize its neighbors and other countries.
“Filipnos and Filipinas–the star from the East–rejoice. Your time has arrived. You will be the chosen one, not only in Asia, but to the world. The Philippine Church is the source of Christian hope.”
Evangelization, Bo said, starts with the family.
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