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Filipino St. Valentine’s Day newlyweds release pigeons (no cupids were available) to celebrate marriages

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Newlyweds release pigeons after their St. Valentine's Day mass wedding in Cavite, Philippines, Feb. 14. (CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

Newlyweds release pigeons after their St. Valentine’s Day mass wedding in Cavite, Philippines, Feb. 14. (CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

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Salt Lake City’s new bishop was born in Philippines – updated

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Los Angeles as bishop of Salt Lake City.

Bishop Solis, 63, a native of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, Philippines, has been auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles since 2004. Previously he served the Archdiocese of Manila and the Diocese of Cabanatuan, both in the Philippines before coming to the United States in 1984.

Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Los Angeles as bishop of Salt Lake City. The first Philippine-born prelate to head a U.S. diocese, Bishop Solis is pictured in a Jan. 5 photo. (CNS photo/J.D. Long-Garcia, The Tidings)

Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Los Angeles as bishop of Salt Lake City. The first Philippine-born prelate to head a U.S. diocese, Bishop Solis is pictured Jan. 5 . (CNS photo/J.D. Long-Garcia, The Tidings)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced the appointment Jan. 10 in Washington.

Bishop Solis served as associate pastor of St. Rocco Church in Union City, N.J., from 1984 to 1988 and was incardinated in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La., in 1988 and served as a parish priest for 15 years prior to his appointment to Los Angeles.

In the archdiocese, he was the vicar for ethnic ministry and was the auxiliary bishop of the San Pedro Pastoral Region, covering southern Los Angeles County.

At a news conference at diocesan offices where he was introduced, Bishop Solis said the visit was only his second in Utah, but he pledged to quickly learn about the Catholic community of 300,000 people.
“I humbly submit myself to you as the new servant leader of the Diocese of Salt Lake City and a shepherd for the people of the state of Utah,” he said.
Bishop Solis said he worked “very hard” for the past 13 years in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. “I would like to emphasize the words ‘very hard,'” he said, to laughter from those gathered at the news conference. “And lo and behold, I received a very surprising and shocking phone call informing me that Pope Francis was asking me to become the 10th bishop of Salt Lake City.”

The call from Archbishop Pierre was “a curveball out of nowhere,” Bishop Solis said, recalling how he asked, “Am I in trouble?” But the nuncio “made me feel at peace” with the assignment, the bishop said.

After the call, the bishop said his life changed completely, and he felt that the “world stopped turning around.” He felt afraid of the uncertainties and that the human element somehow overcame the grace of God.

“I was living and working comfortably in Los Angeles,” he said, thinking it would be the place in which he retired, “but the walls of heaven were made open, and a voice came out and said, ‘You fool!’ Because man proposed and God disposes.”

Since receiving the appointment, he has learned about Catholic Community Services’ and other pastoral outreach to the poor and needy. He said he looked forward to hearing the voices of the well-known Madeleine Choir School students and work with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to enhance the well-being of all the people of Utah.

Bishop Solis’ installation is March 7 at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City.

The Diocese of Salt Lake City has been without a bishop since Archbishop John C. Wester was installed in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe June 4, 2015.

Bishop Solis earlier told the Angelus News, the archdiocesan multimedia platform, that his appointment is “a recognition of the diversity of the church in America and the universality of the church.” He added, “I know what it means to be a pastor, a shepherd of a particular diocese. It is a tremendous blessing and a responsibility and a privilege to be of service to the local church in the United States of America, coming from the Philippines.”

He said he would miss friends and priests in Los Angeles. “But I know God has something in store for us when he leads us to a new place,” he said. “I have wonderful priests in Utah and wonderful people. I know we won’t go wrong if we work together as a church, as a community. God will provide the rest.”

He added that there’s always a reason when God puts you in a new place.

“It’s always God’s will. I don’t have expectations. I don’t have any hidden, personal agenda,” he said. “I’m just going with an open heart and an open mind, with the willingness to embrace and love the people that I will shepherd, to listen to them, and to establish a beautiful working relationship to build the local church in Utah.”
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said Bishop Solis will be missed by the archdiocese.

“Our loss will be a gift to the family of God in Salt Lake City,” he said. “I know that Bishop Solis will be for them a model of prayer and compassion and a great bishop. And I fully expect that he will become the leading voice for the millions of Filipino Catholics in this country, who are a beautiful sign of growth and renewal in our church and in our country.”
After arriving in the U.S., Bishop Solis served as associate pastor of St. Rocco Church in Union City, New Jersey, from 1984 to 1988 and was incardinated in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, in 1988 and served as a parish priest for 15 years prior to his appointment to Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, Bishop Solis served in a variety of roles, including as vicar for Ethnic Ministry from his ordination in 2004 until 2009. He also served as the director of the Office of Justice and Peace from 2005 to 2009. Then he was assigned to the San Pedro Pastoral Region, covering southern Los Angeles County, where he serves today.

Contributing to this report were Marie Mischel, editor of the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Salt Lake City Diocese, and J.D. Long-Garcia is editor-in-chief of Angelus News, the multimedia platform of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

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Philippine church leaders feel powerless to stop extrajudicial killings

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Catholic leaders say they are powerless to stop a growing number of extrajudicial killings that have come with President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

Relatives of an alleged Filipino drug dealer killed by police mourn at a cemetery in Manila Aug. 7. Catholic leaders say they are powerless to stop a growing number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines that have come with Duterte's war on drugs. (CNS photo/Francis R. Malasig, EPA)

Relatives of an alleged Filipino drug dealer killed by police mourn at a cemetery in Manila Aug. 7. Catholic leaders say they are powerless to stop a growing number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines that have come with Duterte’s war on drugs. (CNS photo/Francis R. Malasig, EPA)

“What I predicted is happening, and the church is powerless to stop the killings,” Redemptorist Father Amado Picardal, head of the Philippine bishops’ Commission for Basic Ecclesial Communities, told ucanews.com. He said the killings are “already unstoppable,” adding that some church leaders are losing hope.

Father Picardal, who has linked the president to a death squad allegedly responsible for the killings of more than 1,400 people, warned of “dark prospects” for the Philippines following Duterte’s election in May.

During his campaign for the presidency, Duterte vowed to stop criminality, especially the illegal drugs trade, and corruption in the first six months of his term, warning that his administration would be a bloody one. Ucanews.com reported estimates of more than 600 people killed since Duterte was elected in May; 211 of those were murdered by unidentified gunmen.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the bishops’ conference, appealed to Filipinos’ sense of humanity amid the killings. He said he was “in utter disbelief,” adding that the killings “are too much to swallow.”

“There is a little voice of humanity in us that I believe is disturbed by the killings,” the archbishop said in a statement read in churches in his archdiocese in early August. He said the “voice of disturbed humanity is drowned out by the louder voice of revenge or silenced by the sweet privileges of political clout.”

“In our dream to wipe out drug addiction, are we not becoming a killing fields nation?” he asked.

“I don’t have to be a bishop to say this. I do not have to be a Catholic to be disturbed by the killings that jar us every time we hear or watch or read the news,” Archbishop Villegas said.

“From a generation of drug addicts, shall we become a generation of street murderers? (Can) the do-it-yourself justice system assure us of a safer and better future?” he said.

After three drug suspects were found murdered in the city of Tacloban in early August, Father Virgilio Canete of Palo Archdiocese said the killings are “out of control.”

The victims, two of them women, were shot several times. A crude sign that said “I am a pusher, Lord I am sorry” was placed next to the bodies.

On Aug. 3, six people linked to a drug syndicate were killed in a police operation in the small town of Albuera in Leyte province.

“Only the police and the president can stop the killings by declaring a moratorium,” said Father Canete.

“The church cannot do anything now,” said the priest. “It had already warned of the consequences. Only those who started these bloodbaths can stop it.”

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Philippine nuns, priests say role in revolution affected their faith

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MANILA, Philippines — Religious and clergy in the Philippines say their experiences in the People Power Revolution 30 years ago have had a lasting impact on their faith and vocations.

Sister Porferia “Pingping” Ocariza, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, said that what she did Feb. 23, 1986, was worth it.

Sister Porferia Ocariza, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, holds a book on the People Power uprising in the Philippines 30 years ago to oust dictator Ferdinand Marcos.  She is still recognized today for her stunned expression, left image, as military tanks approached. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

Sister Porferia Ocariza, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, holds a book on the People Power uprising in the Philippines 30 years ago to oust dictator Ferdinand Marcos. She is still recognized today for her stunned expression, left image, as military tanks approached. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

“Because for me at that time when we were facing the tanks, I believed heavily that God was there,” she told Catholic News Service. “God was there as if the seed (of democracy) was being planted.”

A three-week protest that saw millions of Filipinos converge on a main thoroughfare just outside the country’s military headquarters toppled Ferdinand Marcos, who had been in power for more than 15 years. Marcos had ordered his military to disperse angry crowds that claimed he stole a snap election from Corazon Aquino.

Standing in pairs, Sister Ocariza and 16 other nuns led the rosary as soldiers escorted rolling military tanks with their turrets trained on the sisters. The nun said staring down those tanks has been the scariest experience of her life.

“I said, ‘Lord forgive me for all my sins and even the offenses of our Filipino people.’ If really the tanks would crush us, at least the two of us … kill us sisters, not the people because we (did not) want bloodshed. I love my country.”

But the tanks stopped. And the soldiers joined the protesters reciting the rosary.

Sister Ocariza said she believed that God heard their prayers and saved the country from what could have been a violent, bloody uprising. She said she looks back to that time as a source of courage and a reminder to press ahead to fight for what is right. Today, she continues to press for housing for the poor in metro Manila.

Sister Ocariza, along with droves of clergy and religious, joined the 1986 protests after a message broadcast from then-Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila.

Father Larry Faraon, a former Dominican, was station administrator for Radio Veritas, which at the time was one of a handful of broadcasters not controlled by the government.

Cardinal Sin “only called up once,” Father Faraon said. “But then it was my decision to replay it … every 10 minutes.”

The cardinal had implored citizens of the overwhelmingly Catholic country to pray and especially go and support the rebel forces led by then-defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Gen. Fidel Ramos, who both turned against Marcos and sided with the Aquino camp.

Father Anton Pascual, current president of Radio Veritas, said the Marcos regime was “aware of the church’s moral ascendancy. He (Marcos) knew how to play politics with the church” and that the church was very powerful whenever it “would flex her muscle.” But Father Pascual, who was a 25-year-old seminarian assigned to help monitor the vote counting, said Marcos retaliated against the station over the message of Cardinal Sin.

Father Faraon said that, during the turmoil following the snap elections, the Marcos military brought down the Radio Veritas transmitter in Bulacan province, just north of metro Manila. He said he learned from rebel troops guarding the station’s only temporary transmitter in Quezon City that their antenna was in danger of being razed.

Father Faraon had to decide whether to close the station. With just little more than a year in the priesthood, he called it “a defining moment” in his vocation.

He said, “I really had to make a choice between being a martyr or just living it off and returning to my convent and telling everybody, ‘Well, that’s all for you. That’s not for me.’”

But his staff said they wanted to see the work through.

“All of a sudden I felt there was a very, very strong call … to answer right now. … I used to receive a proposal and study (it) and then make a decision, but that was a time that I really had to make a decision, right now … a ‘matter of life and death’ decision. Somehow it helped me. It transformed me. I learned so much … from that personal experience,” said Father Faraon.

— By Simone Orendain

 

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Eucharist, the Lord’s meal, must create a culture that welcomes all, says Manila cardinal

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CEBU, Philippines — The Eucharist is supposed to create a new culture, one that is welcoming and only sees the flaws and failures of others as a reminder of one’s own need for God’s mercy, said Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. Read more »

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Greece’s Caritas aids refugees with food, clothing, human warmth

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Catholic News Service

IDOMENI, Greece — Weary faces, fussy babies, little boys teasing little girls to the point of tears and repeated uses of the Arabic word, “inshallah” (God willing) reflect the uncertainty faced by refugees trying to reach northern Europe.

Thousands of people fleeing Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan pass through the makeshift transit center daily at Idomeni, a Greek village, population 120, on the border with Macedonia.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila gives a food bag to a refugee family as they arrive at a transit camp in Idomeni, Greece, on the border of Macedonia Oct. 19. Thousands of refugees are arriving into Greece from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries and then traveling further into Europe. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila gives a food bag to a refugee family as they arrive at a transit camp in Idomeni, Greece, on the border of Macedonia Oct. 19. Thousands of refugees are arriving into Greece from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries and then traveling further into Europe. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The crossings began as a trickle in the summer and by late October were occasionally reaching 10,000 refugees passing through in a single 24-hour period.

“Uncertainty is the name of the game,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of Caritas Internationalis.

The cardinal visited the camp Oct. 19 with members of Greece’s Caritas Hellas and helped them hand out bags of food to refugees arriving on buses from Athens, 380 miles to the south. With a little bit of rest, some food, water and a toilet break, the refugees continue their journey north, most hoping to join family already in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden or Norway.

Amin and Sambra are a young Sudanese couple who were living and working in Syria when the war broke out; they were given refuge in Turkey, but not a work permit, so Amin could not provide for his growing family. He said he paid 2,500 euros ($2,850) for the whole family to get on a rubber boat to Greece. Sambra gave birth to their fourth child Oct. 13 on the island of Samos. Then they headed for Athens and on to Idomeni.

Those standing in line near the border, marked with rolls of barbed wire, outside the Idomeni camp share key parts of Amin’s story. Fleeing Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan, they traveled to Turkey. From there, they paid smugglers more than 1,000 euros each for a place in an overcrowded rubber boat bound for one of the Greek islands. Once in Greece, they paid to ride a ferry to Athens, and then they paid 80 euros for the bus ride to Idomeni. They will walk half a mile to cross the border, then pay 25 euros for a train ticket to Belgrade, Serbia, four hours away.

Luca Guanziroli, a staffer of the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said the train ticket cost only 5 euros in the summer, but the Macedonian government has raised the price due to the increased demand.

Just outside the Idomeni transit camp, some enterprising Greeks have parked food trucks. It seems, however, that their most popular offering is a connection to their generators; they will recharge cell phone batteries with the purchase of a beverage or sandwich.

The UNHCR still is trying to secure electricity to the camp for more than its current two or three hours a day.

Patrick Nicholson, communications director for Caritas Internationalis, said the Syrian refugee crisis is unusual for the network of national Catholic charities because it involves “working with people for very short periods of time over such a long route. We have people helping them all the way from Turkey to Germany.”

Guanziroli said the refugees are at the Idomeni center for anywhere from 30 minutes to 10 hours, depending on how many trains Macedonia runs and how many refugees there are arriving that day.

With only one paid staff member and dozens of volunteers, the Thessaloniki section of Caritas Hellas is providing what the refugees say they need in Idomeni. “Basically,” Nicholson said, “they say they want a snack and things that they can carry. They have everything they own on their backs and many are carrying children as well.”

Cardinal Tagle, who visited with the refugees after handing out the food bags, said that although the refugees are assured at each stage that they are safe now, the uncertainty continues. They don’t know when the trains will arrive, which borders will be open to them and how they will be treated by police and border control agents.

“What crosses my mind is can the nations not make it easier?” the cardinal said. “Can we not work together and say these are human beings? They already have escaped horrible, horrible experiences.”

Yasin, 29, and his shy young wife fled Aleppo. Syria, to the Kurdistan region of Iraq three years ago. Now, with four children who are between the ages of 1 and 9, they are trying to join family in Norway.

The boat from Turkey to Leros was the worst part, Yasin said. “We were crying and praying because of the waves. … Huge waves made water come into the boat, but at least we had life jackets.” Some news reports have said the jackets cost extra.

Father Antonios Voutsinos is president of Caritas Hellas; he has five paid staff and an army of volunteers who are trying to help meet the needs of the estimated 4,000 to 5,000 refugees entering Greece each day. Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas aid agency, has helped fund the work of Caritas Hellas.

Cardinal Tagle stood in the dusty transit center between a medical tent set up by Doctors Without Borders and the little awning that marks the spot where Caritas volunteers handed out 1,200 food bags in just two hours Oct. 19.

“Caritas Hellas has only one paid staff person here; all the others are volunteers taking their turns every day to pack food, to sort out donations of clothing and coming here to spend the day or evening with refugees,” he said. “That is ‘caritas,’” which means love.

“Yes, Caritas Hellas is the beneficiary of a lot of goodwill and donations from other parts of the world,” he said, “but in the end, without the warm bodies, without the spirit of volunteerism … Caritas as an institution will not survive.”

“Caritas is Caritas because of those simple people who give of themselves,” the cardinal said.

While weary, the refugees are calm at Idomeni. They are organized into groups of 50 to receive food, rest a while, then move in orderly, well-spaced groups across the border and, they hope, on to trains.

The uncertainty obviously is greatest for the children, but the 6-year-old girl in the brand new, one-piece, red polka dot pajamas with reindeer on the pockets was smiling broadly. Cardinal Tagle and the Caritas volunteers gave her raisins and dates and cookies and a juice box and water. And a caress.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Catholic relief workers assess areas hit by typhoon in Philippines

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MANILA, Philippines — Catholic relief workers were on their way to a typhoon-stricken portion of the northern Philippines, including an area from which there had been no communication.

Catholic Relief Services country director Joe Curry said teams from his agency and Caritas Philippines were making their way to at least three provinces in central and eastern Luzon, where much of the damaging floods have been reported.

Residents hold on to a plastic hose and an electricity wire Oct. 19 while trying to cross a flooded road amid a strong current after Typhoon Koppu hit the Philippine province of Nueva Ecija. (CNS photo/Erik De Castro, Reuters)

Residents hold on to a plastic hose and an electricity wire Oct. 19 while trying to cross a flooded road amid a strong current after Typhoon Koppu hit the Philippine province of Nueva Ecija. (CNS photo/Erik De Castro, Reuters)

“Our biggest concern is what we’re not hearing from certain areas where the storm had the biggest impact, especially in northern parts of Aurora province,” Curry told Catholic News Service Oct. 19. “This is where the storm sat for about four hours before it made landfall.”

Curry told CNS his office had not heard anything from that part of the province because communication lines were down and roads into those towns were blocked.

Typhoon Koppu made landfall Oct. 18 on the eastern coast of Luzon, the country’s main island in the North, packing 108 mile-per-hour winds that toppled power lines and trees and blew off roofs. Its pounding rains caused chest-high flooding in some areas, while swollen rivers overflowed and forced some residents to their rooftops.

Government officials confirmed three deaths by late Oct. 19. The civil defense office said more than 280,000 people were affected by the storm. About 70,000 were in evacuation centers.

Koppu, with cloud coverage spanning 375 miles, moved westward slowly and was expected to continue dumping more rain over much of Luzon.

Curry said aid agencies also were concerned about Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya provinces.

“Those are areas around the Pampanga River, which is now flooding, and the flooding will continue because the rain is still coming through,” he said.

In mountain towns, rescue workers towing residents with rope maneuvered rolling currents of brown muddy water that had poured down the mountainsides.

Curry said his office has been in touch with dioceses in central Luzon, but it could not make contact with any churches or the diocese on the east.

In Isabela and Cagayan provinces, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said residents who vacated their homes took to the streets when evacuation centers in their towns became overcrowded. It said the Philippine Red Cross served about 4,100 meals and setting up support services for the displaced.

While Koppu moved northwest at 3 miles per hour, the head of the state weather bureau said some parts on the west could expect half a month’s worth of rain in a 24-hour period.

“There are so many villages on deep slopes in mountains and in valleys near rivers that are very vulnerable to landslides and flooding, so that’s what we want to watch out for in the next couple of days,” Curry said.

 

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Pope, at Mass with millions, tells Filipinos to protect the family

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Catholic News Service

MANILA, Philippines — Pope Francis told a crowd of an estimated 6 million gathered in a Manila park to protect the family “against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture.”

The pope’s homily at the Jan. 18 Mass also reprised several other themes he had sounded during the four-day visit, including environmental problems, poverty and corruption.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Despite continuous rain, the congregation in Rizal Park began to assemble the night before the afternoon celebration. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila canceled other Masses throughout the archdiocese to enhance turnout. The crowd was so dense in spots that people passed hosts to fellow worshippers unable to reach priests distributing Communion.

The government estimated total crowd size at 6 million-7 million people. According to the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, that would be the largest number of people ever to gather to see a pope. A Mass with St. John Paul II in the same place 20 years earlier is believed to have drawn 4 million-5 million people, often described as the largest live crowd in history.

The Mass was celebrated on Santo Nino Day, or the feast of the Holy Child Jesus, one of the most popular feast days in the Philippines. Many of those who walked great distances down closed roads to get to Rizal Park held statues of Santo Nino.

For his final scheduled public talk in the country, Pope Francis stuck to his prepared English text and did not improvise in Spanish, as he had done at several emotional points during the visit. Yet his voice rose with emphasis during the passage about protecting the family.

Those words echoed his warning, during a Jan. 16 meeting with Filipino families, against “ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family.”

In his homily, Pope Francis said Christians “need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected. And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.”

The pope praised the Philippines, whose population is more than 80 percent Catholic, as the “foremost Catholic country in Asia,” and said its people, millions of whom work abroad, are “called to be outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia.”

Yet he warned the developing nation, one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, against temptations of materialism, saying the devil “hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of being modern, like everyone else. He distracts us with the promise of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes. And so we squander our God-given gifts by tinkering with gadgets; we squander our money on gambling and drink.”

Pope Francis, who had urged a group of young people earlier in the day to address the challenge of climate change through dedication to the environment, told Mass-goers human sinfulness had “disfigured (the) natural beauty” of creation.

Other consequences of sin, the pope said, were “social structures which perpetuate poverty, ignorance and corruption,” problems he had emphasized in his Jan. 16 speech at Manila’s presidential palace.

 

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Pope Francis tells survivors of typhoon they are not alone

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Catholic News Service

TACLOBAN, Philippines — Fourteen months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the central Philippines, Pope Francis braved a tropical storm to encourage survivors in their ongoing work of recovery. The weather forced him to leave the area hours ahead of schedule, so he made up for reduced contact with words and gestures of characteristic spontaneity and emotional directness.

The pope arrived at Tacloban International Airport a little before 9 a.m. Jan. 17, after a bumpy 75-minute-long flight from Manila. For his short ride in an open-sided popemobile to the site of the open-air Mass, he donned the same kind of yellow plastic poncho worn by the hundreds of thousands of people awaiting him in the rain. He kept the poncho on while he celebrated Mass, as strong winds blew.

Pilgrims react during a moment of silence for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 as Pope Francis celebrates Mass adjacent to the airport in Tacloban, Philippines, Jan. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pilgrims react during a moment of silence for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 as Pope Francis celebrates Mass adjacent to the airport in Tacloban, Philippines, Jan. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

For his homily, the pope abandoned his prepared English text to improvise in his native Spanish with the aid of an interpreter.

He recalled his initial reaction, on Nov. 8, 2013, to the typhoon that claimed some more than 7,300 lives and destroyed more than 1 million homes.

“When I saw that catastrophe from Rome, I felt that I had to be here, and on that day I decided to be here. Now I have come to be with you, a little bit late, but I am here,” the pope said.

“I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord and he never lets us down. ‘Father,’ you might say to me, ‘he defrauded me, because I lost my house, I lost what I had, I am sick.’ That’s true, if you would say that, and I respect those sentiments. But I see him there nailed to the cross and from there he does not let us down,” Pope Francis said.

“So many of you have lost everything I don’t know what to say to you. But he does know what to say to you,” the pope said.

“And beside him on the cross was his mother,” the pope said, pointing to a statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus. “We are like that little child there. In moments of pain, when we no longer understand and want to rebel, all we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly and tell her ‘mom,’ as a child says to his mother when he is afraid. Maybe that is the only word we can say in such difficult times: ‘mother, mom.’”

Pope Francis concluded on a solemn yet hopeful note, drawing a link between the consolation of faith and the solidarity among those working to rebuild the area.

“We have a mother, we have our older brother Jesus, we are not alone,” the pope said. “We also have many brothers who in this moment of catastrophe came to help us. And we, too, feel more like brothers and sisters because we have helped each other.”

“Let us move forward, always forward, and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord,” he said, before the entire congregation observed a moment of silence.

After the pope’s departure, strong winds caused scaffolding in an area near the altar to fall and hit two women. The accident killed Kristel Padasas, 27, of Manila, a Catholic Relief Services employee on a Typhoon Haiyan recovery project who had attended the papal Mass as a volunteer.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told reporters later in the day that Pope Francis was consulting with advisers on the best way to reach out to the dead woman’s family.

The accident left the other woman, Darla Santos, 19, with a dislocated hip.

The pope carried out all the remaining events on his official agenda in a highly abbreviated fashion, so that the plane taking him back to Manila could take off before the worst of the storm hit the area.

At a planned lunch with typhoon survivors, the pope managed to taste some salad and cold soup while urging others present to eat more, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila told reporters later.

A visit to the house of a local fisherman, intended to give the pope a closer look at the life of ordinary survivors, lasted 10 minutes. Stopping at the new Pope Francis Center for the Poor, which had been built with Vatican funds, the pope blessed the building without getting out of his popemobile.

A planned prayer service at the cathedral in Palo, less than 10 miles away from Tacloban, turned into a brief talk by the pope followed by a recital of the Hail Mary. The pope also led the congregation in a round of “Happy Birthday” for a member of his entourage, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state.

Contributing were Simone Orendain in Tacloban and Cindy Wooden in Manila.

 

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Pope urges end to corruption in Philippines, nation’s president claims church leaders silent amid corruption

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Catholic News Service MANILA, Philippines — In a nation plagued repeatedly by corruption scandals, Pope Francis urged “everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption, which diverts resources from the poor.” After an official welcoming ceremony Jan. 16 at the Malacanang Palace, the residence of the Philippine president, the pope addressed President Benigno Aquino III, government officials and diplomats representing their governments in Manila.

Pope Francis and President Benigno Aquino III review an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis and President Benigno Aquino III review an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Telling the government leaders and diplomats that he knew their jobs are not easy and that Asian countries face complex challenges, he also insisted “it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.” Citing “the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity,” Pope Francis emphasized “the duty to hear the voice of the poor. It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression, which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.” Whatever technical, political plans a government or party has, he said, “reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart.” In his speech to the pope, Aquino accused some unnamed Philippine church leaders of being silent in the face of corruption under the government of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “One would think that the church would be our natural ally,” the president said. Asked about the speech later, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, described it as original and unusual for such a formal occasion with the pope. But, he said, looking at the pope’s and the president’s speeches, “you see what is the perspective of the politician and what is the perspective of the pope.” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila told reporters that Aquino was speaking “from a deeply personal and deeply political experience.” He added, though, that Aquino, “in many speeches since he become president, always refers to the previous administration” and the problems it has created. Pope Francis said the values needed to fight corruption and to establish justice are fostered in the family. “It is in the family that children are trained in sound values, high ideals and genuine concern for others,” the pope said. “But like all God’s gifts, the family can also be disfigured and destroyed. It needs our support. “We know how difficult it is for our democracies today to preserve and defend such basic human values as respect for the inviolable dignity of each human person, respect for the rights of conscience and religious freedom, and respect for the inalienable right to life, beginning with that of the unborn and extending to that of the elderly and infirm,” he said. But all of those values can be upheld if a nation is filled with people who have learned to cherish those values in their families, Pope Francis said. Strong families pass on the solid values needed to “bring about a culture of integrity, one which honors goodness, truthfulness, fidelity and solidarity as the firm foundation and the moral glue which holds society together.”

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