From separation to reconciliation
Every year on Aug. 3, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente celebrates its Foundation Day, commemorating its separation from the Roman Catholic Church in 1902. This was the “religious revolution” that accompanied the Philippine Revolution against Spain. However, on Aug. 3 this year, a different celebration will be held at the IFI National Cathedral in Manila — a day of thanksgiving for reconciliation between the IFI and RCC communities.
Two joint statements will be read. The first statement, “Celebrating the Gift of Faith, Learning from the Past, and Journeying Together,” traces the beginning of the Aglipayan movement that was not against the Catholic Church, but rather against the continued domination of Spanish bishops and parish priests in the island colony. It was a continuation of the earlier nationalist struggle of the Filipino clergy for recognition, symbolized in the Gomburza executions.
In the statement, both IFI and RCC church leaders “ask and pray for mutual forgiveness for any injuries inflicted in the past” and “strive for the healing and purification of memories among our members.” They also commend “ecumenical cooperation amidst diversity” and encourage “spiritual ecumenism” through joint prayer activities. The statement notes that the IFI also “strives to reach out for healing and reconciliation with other separated churches founded in the Aglipayan tradition.”
A companion document to be signed on Aug. 3 is the statement of “Mutual Recognition of Baptisms between the IFI and the RCC in the Philippines.” The Trinitarian baptismal formula of the IFI is actually recognized already by the RCC in its list of validly administered baptisms by other Christian churches.
What is new in the document is the expression of mutual recognition by both churches, thus reinforcing the statement of the Second Vatican Council in its Decree on Ecumenism in 1964 that “all who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ; … they are accepted as brothers [and sisters] by the children of the Catholic Church.” The Council further notes that many elements that give life to the Church “can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
The document also includes the signatures of two Episcopalian bishops as witnesses, since the IFI entered into full communion with the Episcopal Church in 1961. In 1980, the Philippine Episcopal Church had already affirmed in a signed agreement its mutual recognition of baptism with the Catholic Church.
On Aug. 15, a special day of devotion to Mary shared by both churches, all parish priests of the IFI and RCC communities are asked to include in their homilies the reading or synthesis of the two statements. Hopefully, this should bring down to the grassroots level a renewed spirit of reconciliation and ecumenism.
In addition to the IFI-RCC statements, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has entered into another historical statement, titled “One Ecumenical Family: A Unity Statement of the Christian Churches in the Philippines.” This was signed earlier on Pentecost Sunday by church leaders of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. All these statements were forged during this 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines, to celebrate a common heritage of the Gospel message.
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Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, is archbishop emeritus of Cagayan de Oro.
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