A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chroncle
January 25, 2015
For his pastoral visit Pope Francis arrived in the Philippines on January 15 and flew back to Rome on January 19, 2015. He was the fourth successor of Saint Peter to visit our country: the first to visit was Pope Paul VI in 1961. Pope John Paul II came to the Philippines in 1981 and 1995.
To Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Pope Francis had wished: “I am not supposed to be the focus of the apostolic trip to the Philippines. Jesus should be the focus.”
In welcoming Pope Francis, Cardinal Tagle urged us: “But we must listen to Pope Francis. It is not enough that we see him, come close to him or even touch him. We have been begging our Filipino people to listen to the gospel of Jesus that would reach us through the Holy Father. The apostolic visit will make a difference in the Philippine Church and society only if we listen and act on what we have heard.” Cardinal Tagle. “Welcoming Peter’s Successor to PH.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. Jan. 16, 2015.
This is why in this column we concentrate on what Pope Francis said to us in his most welcome, instructive, and inspiring messages that we should take to heart and seriously act upon now and in the years to come.
The central message of his visit is the poor. In a news conference in the PAL plane that flew Pope Francis to Manila on January 15 he said: “The central message of this trip will be the poor, the poor who want to carry on; the poor who suffered from super-typhoon ‘Yolanda’ and who are still suffering the consequences; the poor who have faith and hope, those who suffer from many injustices, material, spiritual, existential. I’ll think of them when I’m in the Philippines.” A million people lost their homes and over 6,000 lost their lives due to super-typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
In Malacañang, January 16. In his message to President B.S. Aquino III and other high leaders [and diplomats] in Malacañang, Pope Francis said: “As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good. In this way they will preserve the rich human and material resources needed to meet the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace.”
He added: “The moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity is essential to nation building.” xxx “It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression, which give rise to glaring, and indeed, scandalous social inequalities.” xxx Due to threats to human values, democracies now find it “difficult” 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.” xxx The Pope called for a “conversion of mind and heart” in “reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor.”
“Together with many people throughout the world, I have admired the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster [Yolanda] and so many others.”
At the Manila Cathedral, from Malacañang. The Pope urged local church leaders, led by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Ligayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, to lead the evangelization of Asia. In his homily he said the Philippine church was called “to acknowledge and combat deeply rooted inequality and injustice [in] society, contradicting the teaching of Christ” and “embrace the path of constant conversion.” xxx “Only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify ourselves with the poor.”
[A personal note. At 1:30 in the morning on Saturday, January 17, I rushed my wife, Coring, to a hospital in Antipolo to learn she had a sudden attack of pneumonia. As I attended to her I also watched ANC’s full coverage of Pope Francis’ visit “at close range.” Miraculously, I’d say, her rapid recovery enabled her to join me watch the events of the Pope’s visit. The media documented the Pope’s statements and dialogues that I have used in this column.]
At the Mall of Asia, January 16. The Pope said: “What a gift this would be to society if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation.” He exhorted the families to “rest in the Lord like Joseph, and rise with Joseph and Mary” and urged them to protect the family from “the ideological colonization” of migration, materialism, and redefinition, and raise holy families. He spoke about a couple dreaming of their child during the nine months of pregnancy. “Is it true or not? He asked the crowd. It is not possible to have a family without such a dream. If you lose this capacity to dream, then you lose the capacity to love.” xxx “Pray often and take the fruits of your prayer into the world, that all may know Jesus Christ and his merciful love. Please pray also for me, for I truly need your prayers and will depend on them always.” xxx “When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world.” In the year of the poor, also reminded Filipinos about their call as “missionary disciples of Jesus.”
In Tacloban and Palo, Leyte, January 17. On Saturday, January 17, Pope Francis flew to Tacloban for his main purpose in visiting our country. At the mass at the Tacloban airport, he said: “I’d like to tell you something close to my heart. When I saw, from Rome, that catastrophe [Yolanda], I felt I had to be here. And on these very days I decided to come here. I am here to be with you. A little bit late, I have to say, but I am here.” Then he said: “Father, you might say to me: I was let down because I’ve lost so many things. I lost my house, my livelihood, my family. I’ve an illness.’ It’s true if you would say that. And I respect those sentiments.”
But as he said this he turned to the wooden cross and added: “Jesus is there nailed to the cross. And from there he does not let us down. He is a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments in life.” As many in the audience wept openly, the Pope said: “So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. Some of you lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silence. And I walk with you all with my silent heart.” xxx “We are not alone. We also have many brothers who, in this moment of catastrophe, came to help you. And we too, because of this, we feel more brothers and sisters, because we helped each other.”
At U.S.T. January 18. To the youth at the University of Santo Tomas, the Pope said. “I wanted in a particular way to meet with young people, to listen to you and to talk with you. I want to express the love and hopes of the Church for you. And I want to encourage you, as Christian citizens of this country, to offer yourselves passionately and honestly to the great work of renewing your society and helping to build a better world.” xxx “Be courageous, don’t be afraid to cry.” xxx “What is the most important subject to learn at the university…to learn in life? To learn how to love.”
“For this the Gospel offers us a serene way forward: using the three languages of the mind, heart and hands—and to use them in harmony. xxx Real love is about loving and letting yourself be loved. It’s harder to be loved than to love. That is why it is so difficult to come to the perfect
love of God. xxx God reveals himself through surprises.” xxx “There is the challenge, the concern for the environment. xxx “And finally, there is the challenge for the poor, to love the poor, with your bishops. Do you think of the poor? Do you feel with the poor. Do you do something for the poor? Do you ask the poor to give you the wisdom they have?
At the Quirino grandstand in Luneta. January 18. “Today. Saint Paul has told us that in Christ we have become God’s adopted children. This is who we are. This is our identity.” xxx “Filipinos are called to be outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia.” xxx We forget to remain focused on the things that really matter. We forget to remain, at heart, children of God. xxx “We need to protect, guide and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage. Specifically, we 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.”
“Now, at the end of my visit to the Philippines, I commend you to him, to Jesus who came among us as a child. May he enable all the beloved people of this country to work together, protecting one another, beginning with your families and communities, in building a world of justice, integrity and peace.” xxx May the Santo Niño continue to bless the Philippines and may he sustain the Christians of this great nation in their vocation as witnesses and missionaries of the joy of the Gospel in Asia and in the whole world. xxx “Reality is superior to ideas.”
As we end our recollection of Pope Francis’ message to us Filipinos, again let us heed Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle who urged us: “But we must listen to Pope Francis. It is not enough that we see him, come close to him or even touch him. We have been begging our Filipino people to listen to the gospel of Jesus that would reach us through the Holy Father. The apostolic visit will make a difference in the Philippine Church and society only if we listen and act on what we have heard.” Cardinal Tagle. “Welcoming Peter’s Successor to PH.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. January 16, 2015.