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Monday, June 23, 2014

Meditation for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Meditation for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus during the Year of the Laity

Responding to the urging of not a few of our lay faithful, men and women – young people among them! – we would like to consecrate this month of June 2014, during this YEAR OF THE LAITY, to the Heart of Jesus.

But urged also by the example of Pope Francis, as well as by the recent canonization of Saint John Paul II, who created the Divine Mercy feast, we would like to focus this month of renewed Sacred Heart devotion to the Divine Mercy, — as incarnated, embodied, symbolized in the Pierced Heart of Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord.

Pope Francis, from the first days of his papacy, has been preaching insistently and passionately on God’s constant and untiring mercy, and on the primacy of the Church’s mission of mercy and compassion. Mercy – both divine and human, — is so much needed today in a troubled, confused, and divided world, with so much brokenness, sin and injustice, with a secularized culture that has no place for God.

Pope Francis speaks of our world’s urgent need to return to the unbounded mercy and untiring patience of God towards sinners, toward our human weaknesses and failures. And “it is Jesus who shows us this merciful patience of the loving and forgiving God.” “It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that … we encounter the boundless love of his Heart.”

The Holy Father also reminds us that we encounter Jesus by living out his compassion and mercy towards our brothers and sisters who are in need of our own compassion and mercy, — brothers and sisters in poverty, suffering, loneliness, brokenness, difficulty and despair.

Like Thomas the Apostle in the Gospel (John 20), our life will only be changed when we touch Christ’s wounds present in the poor, the sick and the needy. . . . The path of our encounter with Jesus is his wounds. There is no other.” (Pope Francis, 3 July 2013)

The Church, People of God and Body of Christ on earth, must thus also become more and more truly “the Church of Mercy”. Where may we then draw the profound grace and spirituality which can and will renew the primacy of Mercy – both divine and human – in and for our own lives and the life of the Church? Christian spiritual tradition; the constant teaching of so many of our Popes; and the lives of the Saints give us one clear and certain answer– from the Pierced Heart of Jesus on the Cross.

This in turn urges us to seek from the Lord a renewed, genuine conversion of heart, and a true reviving and deepening of “the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus” in our lives! This must necessarily involve a renewal and intensification of prayer and devotion in faith and interior life, yes, but it will also call for ongoing earnest, self-sacrificing deeds of love, justice and compassion toward our brothers and sisters. We need to go out from our “comfort-zones” and go forth to give ourselves to others – to “the poor” – in deeds of charity, sharing; in deeds of justice and merciful love.

We are called to consecrate ourselves and our lives anew to the Pierced Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; earnestly to return to the Eucharist and the sacramental life, and the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Dear faithful people of God, above all – dear lay people, — men and women, adults and young people: Can we make June 2014 of this Year of the Laity a “really special month dedicated to MERCY from the PIERCED HEART OF JESUS”? Can we make this a month wherein by God’s grace the Divine Mercy can fill out our own hearts and lives, can bring conversion into our lives, and through us radiate in some very true way in our communities, our parishes …? A month when we will earnestly ask the Hearts of Jesus and Mary to change us – yes, even little by little – to the likeness of their own hearts, through prayer and devotion, and through deeds of self-giving mercy, compassion, justice and self-sacrifice?

Dear brothers and sisters, our laity and young people above all, what will our response be? The Lord’s Pierced Heart awaits the sincere response of our hearts.

From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, June 8, 2014, Pentecost Sunday

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Images of Santa Magdalena de Nagasaki (1611-1634)

 Processional Image of Sta. Magdalene de Nagasaki
in Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City, Philippines

Sta. Magdalena of Japan in the Torment of the Pit (Tsurushi 釣殺し) 
illustrated by J. Puigart and J. Miró published in a book (Lit. Hurtado, Barcelona, Spain).

 Computer Painting  of Sta. Magdalene de Nagasaki
by Filipino Kevin Angelo R. Eguia

 A Contemporary Sketch of Sta. Magdalene de Nagasaki
by Filipino Vincent Galileo Loiz (2001)

 A Painting of Sta. Magdalene de Nagasaki

                               One of the Women Martyr depicted in this Painting 
                                                is Sta. Magdalene de Nagasaki


Sta. Magdalene of Nagasaki is also honored 
by the Augustinian Recollect Sisters in the Philippines by placing a painting of her 
(depicting her in a kimono with the black Augustinian cincture/belt) 
at their Tagaste Retreat House,
named after Santa Monica de Tagaste (Mother of St. Augustine), established in 1991 
and located along Magallanes Drive, Tagaytay City, Province of Cavite, Philippines

Oil painting of Sta. Magdalene de Nagasaki 
at  the Seminary of St. Ezekiel de Pozos de Santa Ana (Costa Rica)

Collage of Sta. Magdalene de Nagasaki
 by Esteban Peña, OAR

Contemporary Drawing 
of Sta. Magdalene de Nagasaki 

by Gonzalo Tassier

The Official Image of St. Magdalene of Nagasaki by Adriano Ambrosioni

                     Oil Painting of Sta. Magdalena de Nagasaki by Giovanni Hajnal 

                           at the Curia of the Order of St. Augustine in Rome, Italy

Sta. Magdalene of Nagasaki in the book "Vivorum illustrium arctioris discalceatorum instituti in eremitano divi augustini ordine athletarum : IV centenario di Fondazione dell'Ordine degli Agostiniani Scalzi (1592-1992)" by Himlstejn-De Groos, (Prague, 1674)

Oil painting of Sta. Magdalene of Nagasaki
by Ida Lucio at the International College of Saint Ildefonso in Rome, Italy

The Recollect Martyrs of Japan, including Magdalene, in the General History of OAR, 2. Engraving by Claudio Coello (1683).

Sketch by Rafael Nieto, OAR. Augustinian Recollects. Marcilla (Navarra, Spain).

Stained Glass Window by Rafael Nieto, OAR. Provincial Curia of St. Thomas (Madrid)
Drawing by Gonzalo Tassier

Augustinian Heaven. Stained Glass Window. Stone Church. City of Panama (2002)

Image of Sta. Magdalena de Nagasaki in San Sebastian Church in Manila, Philippines

                    A Painting entitled "Tre Maddalene" (Three Magdalenes), 1634
                  depicted by Andrea Sacchi in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica 
                           (National Gallery of Ancient Art) in Rome, Italy.
         It depicts St. Mary Magdalene at the center, St. Magdalene de Pazzi on the left
       and St. Magdalene of Japan on the right wearing the Augustianian Recollect Habit



V. Pray for us Sta. Magdalena de Nagasaki,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let Us Pray:
O God, fountain and origin of all fatherhood, you made Sta. Magdalena faithful to the Cross of Christ to the point of shedding their blood; grant through their intercession, that, spreading Your love among the brethren, we may be called and become in reality Your Children. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Beautiful Story of Love

A very poor man lived with his wife.

One day, his wife, who had very long hair asked him to buy her a comb for her hair to grow well and to be well-groomed.

The man felt very sorry and said no. He explained that he did not even have enough money to fix the strap of his watch he had just broken.

She did not insist on her request.

The man went to work and passed by a watch shop, sold his damaged watch at a low price and went to buy a comb for his wife.

He came home in the evening with the comb in his hand ready to give to his wife.

He was surprised when he saw his wife with a very short hair cut.

She had sold her hair and was holding a new watch band.

Tears flowed simultaneously from their eyes, not for the futility of their actions, but for the reciprocity of their love.

MORAL: To love is nothing, to be loved is something but to love and to be loved by the one you love,that is EVERYTHING. Never take love for granted.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Statement on Assassination of Farmer leader in Porac

The National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace/ Caritas Philippines (CBCP-NASSA), social advocacy arm of the Philippine Catholic Church, strongly condemns the senseless and brutal assassination of farmer leader Menelao “Melon” Barcia on May 2, 2014 in Purok 3, Barangay Manibaug Paralaya in Porac, Pampanga. Barcia was the third, in six months who was killed in relation to land reform.

It is saddening and infuriating that another farmer leader was killed for the second time in Hacienda Dolores. Threats and fear continuously surrounds the whole community, while they are still in the process of asserting their land rights amidst the threats and harassment of the contesting landowner.

Together with some 300 farmer-families, Barcia demanded the distribution of Hacienda Dolores under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). They are only requesting a portion of the 761.1 hectares of agricultural land in the Hacienda which they have been cultivating for more than 50 years.

The death of Melon Barcia and Armand Padino (January 2014) who were fighting for the piece of land they were tilling for a long time, only reflects the inability of the Philippine government to protect the landless farmers against wealthy and politically influential landlords. In an apparent attempt to sow fear and dampen the spirits of the poor tillers struggling for their rights, the killing of Barcia is a clear and shameful act of intimidation and violence against the poor and struggling farmers. The fact that it was repeated within a few months reflects impunity on the part of law and justice enforcers.

The Church, in its prophetic ministry of promoting social justice, stands in solidarity with the small farmers and indigenous peoples in Porac to their struggle for their rightful claim for the land.

In support of the call of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga, we urge the government to uphold the law and protect the rights of the farmers and Aeta communities in Porac. We demand the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Special Concerns and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to immediately act on the resolution of the land conflict in Hacienda Dolores particularly the ancestral domain and the CARP issues. We urge the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation, identify the perpetrators and masterminds, and bring them to justice. We also urge the lay faithful to be brave in defending justice and sacredness of life and dignity, especially for the poor and defenseless.

National Director, NASSA

Chairman, ECSA-JP

May 10, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Statement of the Asian Conference on the Family 2014


We, 551 participants, lay faithful, religious and clergy, coming from 14 Asian countries, 60 Philippine dioceses and 20 lay associations, gathered in Manila from 13 to 16 May 2014 to celebrate with exuberant joy the thirty years since the Charter of the Rights of the Family was promulgated. With us was the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Bishop Jean Laffitte, as well as 28 bishops and some men and women of other faith traditions.

The Charter of Rights of the Family
The Charter manifests that nothing authentically human fails to find an echo in the heart of each believer (Gaudium et Spes, n. 1). It expresses what we hold to be the basic framework within which the human family—any human family, every human family—can form, flourish and fulfill its mission.

50 years since Vatican II
In the past 50 years, the world has been undergoing great changes in the economic, social, political, cultural and religious spheres. Affected by these changes is the most basic human institution, the family. In fact, the family itself has been the primary beneficiary and victim of these changes, which have become challenges to families all over the world.

Challenges and Threats
These challenges present themselves as threats to the very existence of the family itself. Abortion kills the very life without which no family can exist. Contraception and sterilization – and a contraceptive mentality which refuses to shoulder the responsibility of having children – threaten the procreative purpose of marriage and the family by attacking the very wellsprings of human life. The advocacy for same-sex marriages likewise attempts to reduce marriage to a sterile relationship between people of the same sex.

An amnesia of God and moral relativism
A consumeristic, materialistic and individualistic culture that suffers from an amnesia of God (Pope Benedict XVI) and is fed by a certain liberal and moral relativism has also threatened the family by breeding lifestyles harmful to family living. And so people live, motivated not so much by the cultivation of healthy human relationships but driven rather by the desire for money, pleasure and success. The outcome is a society where fidelity and commitment come in short supply and are subordinated to the accumulation of possessions and the achievement of personal ambitions; hence, the widespread phenomenon of divorce and marital infidelity.

Poverty breeds moral desolation
Looming large like a storm cloud whose waters can drown the family is the poverty that afflicts billions of people in our continent. This poverty has resulted in conditions which make moral living almost impossible, and has become a fertile field of temptations for impoverished families to surrender their own human dignity in order to meet the economic requirements of survival. Poverty is the fertile ground for pornography, cybercrimes, prostitution, human trafficking, slavery, and other practices that dehumanize and divide members of families. Poverty has also driven people to seek means of livelihood that separate husbands and wives from each other and from their children. Thus, poverty, the deprivation of the necessities for decent human living, has led to the destruction of families.

The ambiguity of affluence
If poverty is gravely harmful to the family, affluence also affects families destructively if it is not tempered by a sense of solidarity with others, especially the poor. Affluence, when enjoyed in a self-centered manner, can only result in the destruction of the lives of individuals and families through hedonism and extravagance.

Threats from other institutions
Compounding the threats to the family are governments and other social institutions that militate against life and the family through coercive measures that run counter to the rights of individuals, couples and families to flourish according to the natural law and the laws of the Church. This natural law we refer to is the participation of human beings in God’s eternal law, a participation inscribed in our very humanity and can be discovered by the light of reason aided by the grace of God. Governments that promote contraception, abortion, sterilization, coercive population control, divorce, same-sex marriages and euthanasia, destroy families which they are duty-bound to protect and foster.

A tsunami of evils
The result of all of these and other threats to family life is a tsunami of evils threatening to engulf families today, whether they be rich or poor.

The family is dear to the heart of God
But the present changes present not only threats but opportunities for families. We believe that the family is especially dear to the heart of God, for the family is the first social institution established by God to foster, defend and promote human life and human love. It is by way of the family, that the good of society, of humanity and of the Church herself passes (CRF, Preamble, K). Because it is so precious to God, it must also be most highly valued by us. Thank God, we in Asia do. Because the family is so valuable and because God wants the future of humanity to pass through the human family, we must safeguard, protect, foster and promote the family. We – each one of us, all of us – must individually and together do this for what is at stake is the future of humanity.

Therefore, we must continue to insist that:
– the family is based on marriage, that intimate union of life in complementarity between a man and a woman which is constituted in the freely contracted and publicly expressed indissoluble bond of matrimony and is open to the transmission of life;
– marriage is the natural institution to which the mission of transmitting life is exclusively entrusted;
– the family, a natural society, exists prior to the State or any other community, and possesses inherent rights which are inalienable (CRF, Preamble, B-D).
Because the family exists prior to the State, we should not allow the State to encroach upon the inherent and inalienable rights of families.

We urge respect for every human life
We urge respect for every human life from conception to natural death and echo the words of St. John Paul II, the saint of the family, who called upon the faithful in Asian countries “where the demographic question is often used as an argument for the need to introduce abortion and artificial population control programs, to resist ‘the culture of death’. They can show their fidelity to God and their commitment to true human promotion by supporting and participating in programs which defend the life of those who are powerless to defend themselves” (Ecclesia in Asia, n. 35).

The family and the destiny of nations
We should also ensure that the family remains “the place where different generations come together and help one another to grow in human wisdom and to harmonize the rights of individuals with other demands of social life” (CRF, Preamble, F). We should realize that our place in human history comes by way of our family.

The need for social equity
We commit ourselves and we urge our Asian societies to work for a more equitable sharing in the goods of this world so as to enable all families to have their rightful share in this world’s goods.

The family and the Church as sacrament
We in the Catholic Church have a special obligation to protect and promote the human family and the Christian family. For the Church is of its nature a sacrament of salvation which both signifies and effects the union of God with human beings and the union of human beings with each other (LG 1). Hence, what makes for the unity of human beings should be protected and fostered by the Church. The family is, of course, most necessary for the union of human beings with each other. But we in the Church should especially protect and foster the Christian family because it is the basic unit of the Church, the domestic Church, the Church in the home. As the Christian family goes, so goes the Church. If the Christian family is strong, the Church will be strong. If the Christian family is weak, the Church will be weak.

The Church protects the family
But it is also true that the Church is the most potent protector of the family. If the Church cannot protect the family, the family will be left without much protection. But if the Church is vigorous in protecting and fostering the family, the family will be protected and flourish.

Governments must protect the family
We urge governments to consider seriously the Charter on the Rights of the Family in the formulation of policies affecting the family. We pledge ourselves to encourage dialogue with our respective governments on matters affecting the family.

The witness of families…
During this assembly, we have heard and seen couples and young people witness how the Christian family has been a powerful transmitter of Gospel values, and of the Good News itself. Where Christ is accepted in faith and imitated in love, there also Christian values are protected and transmitted and the Christian family is strengthened.

…under the sign of the Cross
In this assembly, we wish to express our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Asia and in other parts of the world who are prevented from expressing their faith in God by oppressive cultural systems and government policies.

With brothers and sisters of other faiths…
We have come to appreciate more through the sharing of our brothers and sisters who are of other faiths that they are also our allies in transmitting to our future generations the values of God and his Kingdom.

We choose life!
Today, we are challenged to choose between life and death for the human family. If we choose life and obey the law of God written in our hearts, we shall live (cf. Dt 30:19f). We in this assembly choose life for the family! We will pray and work for the protection, preservation, and flourishing of every human family.

Encouraged by one another, we are joyful missionaries!
Strengthened by the testimony of those who have given witness in this assembly, encouraged by our togetherness and sharing, and fortified by the Spirit of the Lord, we go forth in joy to make of the family and especially the Christian family Good News for the salvation of the world. We shall be joyful missionaries for the family, proclaiming the Gospel of life and love so as to be “a voice in public life” on behalf of freedom and justice that cannot be silenced by force (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 74).

The Holy Family, the Family of Life
We ask the Holy Family of the Lord Jesus Christ – who is Life (Jn 14:6) – the Blessed Virgin Mary – Mother of Life (cf. Jn 19:26f; cf. Rev 12:1-6) – and St. Joseph – Guardian of Life (Mt 3:13-23) – to intercede for us in our prayer and work for the family to the praise and glory of the Blessed Trinity.

May 16, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

Survivors: Pope Francis saved many in dirty wars

Survivors: Pope Francis saved many in dirty wars

SAN MIGUEL, Argentina (AP) — Gonzalo Mosca was a radical on the run. Hunted by Uruguay's dictators, he fled to Argentina, where he narrowly escaped a military raid on his hideout. "I thought that they would kill me at any moment," Mosca says.

With nowhere else to turn, he called his brother, a Jesuit priest, who put him in touch with the man he credits with saving his life: Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

It was 1976, South America's dictatorship era, and the future Pope Francis was a 30-something leader of Argentina's Jesuit order. At the time, the country's church hierarchy openly sided with the military junta as it kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of leftists like Mosca.

Critics have argued that Bergoglio's public silence in the face of that repression made him complicit, too, and they warn against what they see as historical revisionism designed to burnish the reputation of a now-popular pope.

But the chilling accounts of survivors who credit Bergoglio with saving their lives are hard to deny. They say he conspired right under the soldiers' noses at the theological seminary he directed, providing refuge and safe passage to dozens of priests, seminarians and political dissidents marked for elimination by the 1976-1983 military regime.

Mosca was 27 then, a member of a leftist political movement banned by the military government in his home country of Uruguay. Bergoglio answered his call, and rode with him for nearly 20 miles (30 kilometers) to the Colegio Maximo in suburban San Miguel.

"He gave me instructions: 'If they stop us, tell them you're going to a spiritual retreat,' and 'Try to keep yourself a bit hidden,'" Mosca recalled in an interview with The Associated Press.

Mosca said he could hardly breathe until they had passed through the seminary's heavy iron doors, but Bergoglio was very calm.

"He made me wonder if he really understood the trouble he was getting into. If they grabbed us together, they would have marched us both off," said Mosca, who stayed hidden in the seminary for days, until Bergoglio got him an airplane ticket to Brazil.

Soldiers prowled inside the walled gardens, sniffing for fugitives. But a full raid on the spiritual center was out of the question since Argentina's dictators had cloaked themselves in the mantle of Roman Catholic nationalism. And a constant flow of people masked Bergoglio's scheming from an air force outpost next door.

Several new books assert that Bergoglio's public silence enabled him to save more people.

"Bergoglio's List," by Vatican reporter Nello Scavo, is already being developed into a movie, its title playing on the "Schindler's List" film about the Nazi businessman whose subterfuge saved hundreds of Jewish prisoners during the Holocaust.

Marcelo Larraquy, author of "Pray for Him," told the AP that Bergoglio saved "20 or 30" people. Scavo said about 100 owe him their lives. Both authors say the full number will likely never be known, largely because Bergoglio remains so circumspect.

Like many Argentines, Bergoglio "remained silent in the face of atrocity," but he was determined to thwart the death squads when he could, said Larraquy, who runs investigations for the Argentine newspaper Clarin. "He used back channels, did not complain in public and, meanwhile, he was saving people who sought refuge in the Colegio."

"He locked them up in the compound, gave them help and food, and set up a logistical network to get them out of the country," Larraquy added. "But his condition for giving them refuge was that they had to give up all political activism."

New ways of thinking were running through the lower ranks of Latin America's Catholic Church in the 1970s, influenced by Vatican II reforms announced in 1965. Many lay workers and clergy embraced "liberation theology," which promoted social justice for the poor.

Many were politically active and some were Marxist, but others were simply committed social workers. The right-wing military made few distinctions. Priests as well as Catholic lay workers began to disappear at the hands of death squads.

Sitting in a seminary garden whose tranquility was broken only by the gurgling of a fountain and leaves rustling in the breeze, theologian Juan Carlos Scannone quietly told the AP of the terror he felt decades ago.

Scannone said he was targeted because he promoted a non-Marxist "theology of the people" and worked with slum-dwellers in the city's "misery villages." He said Bergoglio not only defended him against criticism within the church, but personally delivered his writings for publication even when the military was trying to find him.

"It was risky," Scannone said. "Bergoglio told me never to go out alone, that I take someone along so that there would be witnesses if I disappeared."

Scannone said he "wrote a lot about the philosophy of liberation and the theology of liberation, which at the time was a naughty word ... Bergoglio would read it and tell me, 'Don't mail this from San Miguel, because it could be censored,' and he would mail them from Buenos Aires with no return address."

His recollection suggests Francis' view on liberation theology may have always been more nuanced than some of his critics suggested before he became pope. Francis still draws a line against Marxism, but has helped rehabilitate some liberation theologists. The movement's founder, Gustavo Gutierrez, received applause this year during a book presentation at the Vatican.

Bergoglio also intervened, at the request of outspoken Bishop Enrique Angelelli, to save three seminarians after Catholic lay workers were killed in western La Rioja province in 1976. The seminarians were being followed by the same death squads and accused of being "contaminated with Marxist ideas." No one else would take them.

Bergoglio was able to rescue Mario La Civita, Enrique Martinez and Raul Gonzalez just as Angelelli was assassinated in August 1976.

"I watched him save lives," La Civita recalled. "It was a difficult time because two or three soldiers were always walking around in the back of the compound. Bergoglio had a strategy of generating confidence in them so that they wouldn't think he had people hidden."

But Bergoglio couldn*t save everyone he tried to help.

Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, a communist who had been Bergoglio's boss in a laboratory before he became a priest, pleaded with him to hide the Marxist literature in her house after her daughter was kidnapped and son-in-law disappeared. "Those were the books that Bergoglio fought (against), but he carried them away anyway," Larraquy said.

A short while later, she co-founded the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, publicly demanding that the junta account for the missing. Soon, she disappeared.

Bergoglio's role was more ambiguous in the case of two slum priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics. He supported their social work, but not their political activism, much less their contacts with armed revolutionaries, and he made them quit the Jesuit order, leaving them without church protection, Larraquy said.

"Bergoglio told them to abandon their political project in the slum, and they refused; they were insubordinate," Larraquy said.

Yorio, Jalics and some Catholic lay workers were seized a short time later after holding Mass, and taken to the regime's clandestine torture center inside the Navy Mechanics School.

Bergoglio testified as part of a human rights trial in 2010 that he persuaded another priest to fake an illness so that he could hold a private Mass for dictator Jorge Videla and personally plead for the Jesuits' release. They were set free in October 1976, left drugged and blindfolded in a field.

"Bergoglio contributed by helping the persecuted, and he dedicated himself to obtaining the release of his kidnapped priests. Still, he didn't participate at the time in the fight against the military dictatorship in defense of human rights," said Adolfo Perez Esquivel, whose human rights work in Argentina won him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Very few other detainees emerged alive from the Mechanics School, and when Bergoglio testified, he didn't reveal any new details about the others who disappeared, "even when their families are demanding an answer," complained human rights lawyer Myriam Bregman.

Bregman says Francis should clear up doubts by opening the church's archives.

"We've asked for it and we keep waiting. The church was part of the dictatorship, it was a direct accomplice, and today it continues without revealing all that it has in its archives," Bregman said.

Mosca sides with Bergoglio. Referring to Yorio and Jalics, Mosca said: "He did not hesitate in risking everything for my cause. He didn't know me. If he did all that for me, how much would he have done for those two?"


Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield at the Vatican contributed to this report.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Poverty that Dehumanizes, Poverty that Sanctifies

Poverty that Dehumanizes, Poverty that Sanctifies
Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)

CBCP Lenten Message 2014

As we begin this Lenten Season in the Year of the Laity, we invite you, our brothers and sisters, to reflect on poverty, particularly the types that contradict God’s Kingdom as well as those other types that promote and establish the Kingdom. We do this following the lead of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, whose own Lenten Message takes its inspiration from St. Paul writing about our Lord Jesus Christ: “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).

There are many forms of poverty. Those that degrade and dehumanize, we are to reject and work against. Those that paradoxically humanize and sanctify, we are to embrace and through them, by God’s grace, be transformed. We encounter such opposing forms of poverty on three dimensions of human existence: material, moral, and spiritual. Allow us now to describe them in a framework that may help us all observe this season of grace more generously and fruitfully.

Poverty that degrades and dehumanizes 

In his earthly life, Jesus was no stranger to poverty. He knew well how people suffered from it and he tirelessly went about lightening their burdens: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness” (Mt. 9:35).

He worked against this kind of poverty because it degrades and dehumanizes humanity; deforming the very ones created lovingly in God’s image and amounting to a grave insult hurled at God. Such poverty continues to undermine and threaten our existence.

In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis declares in no uncertain terms, “No to an economy of exclusion!” (EG 53) This exclusion is the defining characteristic of poverty in our country and in the world today. As the Pope has stressed, “Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry.”[i]

Indeed, it is a great scandal that takes us all to task.[ii]

No to Material Destitution 

In the material dimension, poverty that degrades and dehumanizes exists for individuals and families as destitution, which is an exclusion from the basic needs of life. In the past few years the poverty rate of the country has hovered at over 20% according to the National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB). This means that one in every five Filipinos are in households earning less than the level of income needed for a family to meet its minimum food and non-food requirements. While the poverty rate has gone down from its peak of 29.7% in the early 90s, to have such a huge segment of our population living in such abject poverty is an unacceptable scandal. These official figures are further enhanced by the real life perceptions of people. In its survey on poverty for the last quarter of 2013, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) reports that 55% of respondents actually consider themselves poor, up from 50% the previous quarter. Clearly, many people see themselves as being excluded from opportunities to live a decent life.

No to various faces of the Economy of Exclusion 

On the societal level, the scandal of material poverty can be seen in various faces of the economy of exclusion.

Exclusion from gainful livelihood. The appalling poverty rate is aggravated by the exclusion of many Filipinos from opportunities for economic advancement. The latest Labor Force Survey pegs unemployment at 6.5% of the national workforce and, more tellingly, underemployment at 17.9% (the latter being the percentage of the workforce that is employed but looking for additional work).

Exclusion from sufficient shelter. Shelter is another basic right to which people are denied when poverty strikes. The Subdivision and Housing Developers’ Association has estimated that the housing shortfall between 2001 to 2011 has reached 3.93 million units. The estimates of informal settlers alone run from anywhere between 1 to 3 million households, not counting those rendered homeless by recent natural and man-made calamities.

Exclusion from rural development. Centuries of inequitable land ownership, peace issues, and lack of livelihood opportunities have excluded poor rural folk from genuine progress, driving them into the cities in search of a better life. Sadly, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) is set to expire this June 2014, with land acquisition and distribution targets still unmet.

Exclusion from adequate health care. The poor, who can avail of health care at only public hospitals and local government health centers, are at risk of being further excluded from access to basic health care with the proposed privatization of leading public health institutions such as the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital and the National Orthopedic Hospital. Especially vulnerable are children and the elderly, unless government continues to aspire for the ideal of “universal health coverage.”

Exclusion from quality education. While we have had good progress in battling illiteracy, further improvements can be made. The International Labor Organization reports that, in 2010 to 2012, out of every ten grade 1 pupils six finish elementary school and only four are able to finish high school. Overcrowding in schools, large classroom sizes, and double to triple shifts are chronic problems in basic and secondary education. Quality higher education, in particular, is an elusive dream for many. Our Catholic schools in the rural areas continue to suffer from the departure of our well trained teachers in the pursuit of higher monetary gain.

Other faces of poverty. The foregoing are some of the most familiar faces of poverty, but other aspects of poverty also cause concern. In the aftermath of typhoons, droughts, and earthquakes, it is poor Filipinos who are most profoundly affected and further excluded from a decent life. Despite recent progress in the peace accords between the MILF and the Philippine Government, the ravages of war (as seen in the MNLF Zamboanga incursion and the long standing NPA rebellion) continue to affect the poorest who are often caught in the crossfire. The destruction of the environment due to illegal logging and both large and small scale mining disadvantage the poor, especially our indigenous communities, who are often excluded from the benefits of such economic activities. We suffer from ecological poverty due to our neglect of the gifts of creation entrusted to us by God.

No to Consumerism 

On the level of a global ethos, the scandal of material poverty shows itself in the ever-growing influence of consumerism. Pope Francis laments that “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience” (EG 2). In the end, such poverty leads to a self-inflicted emptiness.

No to Moral Destitution 

In the moral dimension, poverty can be debilitating on the same three levels.

Individually, one can experience dehumanizing poverty as a slavery to vice or sin. “How much pain is caused in families because one of their members—often a young person—is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide.”[iii]

On the societal level, moral poverty confronts us everywhere as the malady of corruption. As we have written repeatedly, “We face today a crisis of truth and the pervading cancer of corruption. We must seek the truth and we must restore integrity.”[iv] More recently, on the pork barrel issue, we renewed the call for vigilance and self-critique, “Our protests should not just emanate from the bad feeling that we have been personally or communally transgressed, violated or duped. It should come rather from the realization that God has been offended and we have become less holy as a people because of this.… We are not just victims of a corrupt system. We have all, in one way or another, contributed to this worsening social cancer—through our indifferent silence or through our cooperation when we were benefiting from the sweet cake of graft and corruption.”[v]

Most widely, as a global ethos, we experience moral destitution as inequality. We see this in the critique of capitalism that Pope Francis makes: “In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting” (EG, 54).

No to Spiritual Destitution 

Material destitution constitutes a scandal. Moral destitution frustrates our striving to respond to God’s call of love. But spiritual destitution is the form of poverty that threatens the core of our relationship with God. Individually, we experience it as loneliness and hopelessness. Mother Teresa declares from her vast experience of being among the poorest of the poor that “the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” Moreover, she is convinced: “We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love…. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty—it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”[vi]

Then, as a society, we see this poverty in religious intolerance. The Pope has spoken out adamantly against it, which exists even within the Church: “The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this [person] is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him.… [T]his ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside…cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and…killing in the name of God… [which] is blasphemy.”[vii]

Globally, spiritual destitution appears as relativism and the loss of a sense of transcendence. According to Pope Francis, “It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It…makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.… There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.”[viii]

Poverty that Humanizes and Sanctifies 

Poverty that degrades and dehumanizes is all around us. One can be disheartened by all this especially in the midst of struggling against. However, the Christian believes that “the Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution.” Pope Francis precisely encourages the faithful to affirm “that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life.”[ix] In the great wisdom that only God possesses, the Gospel proclaims that Jesus resoundingly defeats this poverty by practicing another kind of poverty, namely, the poverty that humanizes or makes one fully human, the poverty that sanctifies or conforms one to his own likeness. This life-giving poverty also has material, moral, and spiritual forms.

Yes to Simplicity, Commitment, and Surrender to God

Material poverty that humanizes and sanctifies is experienced in simplicity of life. Not all are called to choose a life of actual poverty. Many among the laity, the clergy, and the religious do so admirably, whether as individuals or in community, and as a result give a powerful witness to the Gospel. However, all are called to live lives that are marked by a consistent and liberating detachment from such worldly goods as material possessions, resources, power, and social status—a detachment that allows us to be sensitive and to respond to those with less possessions, less resources, less power, lower status.

Such a readiness and ability to respond to those in need finds a stable expression in the moral poverty of acommitment to the Good, the Just, and the True. It is a sustained yearning to participate in the establishment of the Kingdom manifested in concrete decisions and patterns of behavior that always look beyond the private realm of self and family toward the public world of neighbor and society. It is the natural consequence of professing a faith in a God who identifies with the little ones. After all, “how does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods, and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 Jn 3:17).

Finally, humanizing and sanctifying poverty endures in its spiritual form as surrender to God (Ps 9:10, Prov. 3:5-6). According to PCP II, to be a Church of the Poor means “a Church that embraces and practices the evangelical spirit of poverty, which combines detachment from possessions with a profound trust in the Lord as the sole source of salvation. While the Lord does not want anyone to be materially poor, he wants all his followers to be ‘poor in Spirit’.”[x]

Christ’s Invitation, especially to the Laity 

This Lenten season, Christ invites all, but especially the laity, to oppose degrading and dehumanizing poverty and to embrace humanizing and sanctifying poverty. In other words, he invites us to imitate his example. We fight poverty with poverty only because Christ has shown us the way. “Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members” (EG, 186). Much more needs to be done in translating this faith into effective action, in achieving “a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors,” which in the mind of Pope Francis is where the Church relies on the laity (EG 102).

Particularly, we are invited to practice material poverty by taking up a simple lifestyle and works of mercy and justice that attend to the poor and aim for an economy of inclusion, for what the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen calls “total human development.” We are to exercise moral poverty by strengthening our resolve to practice solidarity with the neglected and to denounce injustice and all forms of radical inequality. We are to embrace spiritual poverty by deepening our rootedness in Christ, whose poverty alone enriches us. “Let us not forget,” Pope Francis insists, “that real poverty hurts… I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”[xi] At the same time, “We may be sure that none of our acts of love will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted” (EG 279).

May the Lord bless your Lenten observance and send you forth with love and joy.

May Mary, Mother of the Poor show you the way to the heart of Jesus, our pearl of great price!

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, March 5, 2014 Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent


Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

End Notes:

[i] Francis, Meeting with Students ofJesuitSchools, Q & A, June 7, 2013.
[ii] Cf. CBCP, Pastoral Exhortation, “To Bring Glad Tidings to the Poor” (Luke 4:18), January 27, 2014.
[iii] Francis, Lenten Message, 2014.
[iv] CBCP, Pastoral Statement, Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity, February 26, 2008.
[v] CBCP, Pastoral Statement on the Pork Barrel, “Hate evil and love good and let justice prevail…” (Amos 5,15), September 5, 2013.
[vi] Mother Teresa, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa, 1995.
[vii] Francis, Homily at Mass in Domus Santae Martae on the feast of Santa Rita, quoted byVatican Radio, May 22, 2013.
[viii] Francis, Audience with the Diplomatic Corps, March 22, 2013.
[ix] Francis, Lenten Message, 2014.
[x] PCP II, 125.
[xi] Francis, Lenten Message, 2014.