[#AwaNgDiosPH] ‘Joyous’ Sunday Papal message: The Church’s reform

 

 

MANILA (The Filipino Connection and Philstar.com)—It took a 12-year-old out-of-school Filipina to pierce tearfully the heart of a pope, leading the Vicar of Christ to make an entire Sunday one joyous justification of his pursuit of reforms for the global Catholic Church.

Pope Francis mostly reiterated what he had mentioned in his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (Sharing the Joy of the Gospel) to an animated Sunday Mass crowd at the Quirino Grandstand and its distant peripheries. Some estimated about 6-7 million people queued and heard Mass, whether they had heard the loud speakers or not.

Pope Francis joins children in dancing and singing "Tell the World of His Love" at the end of an encounter with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas (photo by JEREMAIAH OPINIANO / The Filipino Connection)

Pope Francis joins children in dancing and singing “Tell the World of His Love” at the end of an encounter with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas (photo by JEREMAIAH OPINIANO / The Filipino Connection)

From out of nowhere comes Glyzelle Palomar, 12 and a former streetchild now being taken cared of by the nonprofit Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation. At a morning encounter with Filipino youth —mostly from the middle class— held at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, Palomar just simply testified to her tale:

Bakit po pumapayag ang Diyos na may ganitong nangyayari kahit wala namang kasalanan ang mga bata [Why does God allow these things to happen to us]?”

Tears from her followed. The prepared Filipino speech was cut short.

The hug from the Vicar of Christ followed. Meanwhile, on the first row of the grandstand grounds at UST, student-volunteers of religious groups were surprised at why the speech was cut short. When the fatherly hug came next, and in typical Filipino youth fashion, the students said “awwww” like a telenovela moment that’s a tearjerker.

“She (Palomar) was the one who (asked) a question for which there is no answer,” said the Pope. Throughout the UST event, a prepared Papal speech was disregarded.

And throughout the words of the Holy Father before a mammoth crowd at UST, Francis was all the more convinced at why the family had to be protected and, like in his numerous statements and actions before coming to the Philippines, why the Church needs its own reform.

 

And the clergy?

Flask back to his first Philippine Mass, before religious men and women, at the Manila Cathedral to which was Pope Francis’ first chance to spread the messages of Evangelii Gaudium: “For us priests and consecrated persons, conversion to the newness of the Gospel entails a daily encounter with the Lord in prayer… (It) means living lives that reflect the poverty of Christ, whose entire life was focused on doing the will of the Father and serving others…”

“Only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters. We will see things in a new light and thus respond with honesty and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality.”

Palomar was taken under the tutelage of the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation, which has social welfare programs for streetchidren like Palomar, for children living in slums, for scavengers and mentally-challenged children.

With that scene at UST which Palomar created, so “it takes profound renewal” for the Church —of the poor— to happen, said Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I., D.D.

“That (Church of the poor) is a dream,” Quevedo said at a religious conference at UST’s grounds. And the clergymen’s role there “are key” to such renewal.

“If clergy, cardinals and bishops remain in their ivory towers, their palaces and convents, and do not go forth to the barrios among the people, the church will remain unblemished but uninvolved,” said Quevedo.

“It will take a profound change of mind and heart to become a church of the poor.”

And this “renewal” begins in priestly formation, hoping that this message “influences (seminarians’) vision and thinking,” said San Fernando (Pampanga) Auxiliary Bishop Pablo David, D.D.

Dapat matindi ang formation nila sa simula pa lang, mula sa pagiging seminarista [Priestly formation on this regard should be rigid, at the onset, if the Church of the Poor message is to be imbued],” David  told The Filipino Connection / Philstar.com.

Quevedo reiterated the call of Pope Francis to the clergy and religious to “go forth” and go out of their comfort zones. “Go down among the poor, go to the villages. Make sure that people see in your schedule that your schedule is filled with visits to barrio or the poor,” said Quevedo.

“If you don’t have that time, then what is your ministry for? You must have time for the poor,” Quevedo said. Your time as a priest is 24 hours a day for the people.”

 

Mandate 24 years ago

The Philippine Catholic Church’s major reference for this Church of the Poor calling is the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (or PCP II), done and agreed upon by the Philippine bishops in 1991. PCP II is the Philippine Catholic Church’s master document for the Filipino religious and the lay to spread the faith. PCP II is also the local counterpart of the Second Vatican Council, done in the mid-1960s through the stewardship of Pope Paul VI.

PCP II wrote: “Our vision of the Church as communion, participation and mission, about the Church as priestly, prophetic and kingly people, and a Church of the poor, that is a renewed Church.”

Quevedo was president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) when released a pastoral letter titled “’Missions’ and the Church in the Philippines” on July  5, 2000. He wrote: “The Church on mission will have to do mission in relative poverty. The Philippine Church, being a Church for the poor, will have ‘to glory in weakness’ and simplicity, so that the real power of God may be revealed. The Filipino missionary will not have great prestige or cultural superiority.”

Nearly 15 years later, the Cotabato Cardinal said an almost similar line: “A church of the poor is where the rich and the poor live evangelical poverty and placed at riches the service of God’s kingdom

During the Second Philippine Conference on the New Evangelization (PCNE) at UST, Quevedo then spewed stingy words to the clergy, especially the parish priests: be “servant leaders,” as well as destroy the “old style” of leadership where parish priests serve as “lords or dictators”.

“You listen. Participatory church is created if you listen to everyone. Listen to the poor farmers and needy in your own parish, they must be part of structure of decision making,” said Quevedo.

“Don’t simply rely on educated and wise. Trust the basic wisdom and common sense of ordinary people and of the poor. Make your pastoral council a council for everybody, not only for mandated organizations.”

Theologians think the Church is also made up mostly of lay, and these faithful have their own roles. But for Quevedo and David, their fellow bishops should lead toward the Church of the poor.

“Bishops are overseers. Bishops are pastors of priests and priests are pastors of people,” said David.

And after Pope Francis left via a Philippine Airlines chartered flight the morning of January 19, with Palomar’s tears rattling an entire Christian nation that Sunday morning, there’s work cut out for the entire Catholic Church.—The Filipino Connection and Philstar.com.

 

 

The Filipino Connection covers the visit of Pope Francis in partnership with Philstar.com.

 

 

This story can be published / broadcast / posted online provided The Filipino Connection / Philstar.com and the article’s author/s are properly acknowledged. Editorial mistakes are the publisher’s. Email: thefilipino.connection@gmail.com.

About JASPER EMMANUEL ARCALAS and JEREMAIAH OPINIANO