Filipinos’ faith introduced to Pope
At Pope Francis’ first Holy Mass in the Philippines yesterday at Manila Cathedral, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, in his own effusive way, introduced the Filipino people to the Pope and pointed to the reason for their resiliency and strength amidst tragedies. Quoting noted historian and the Pope’s fellow Jesuit Fr. Horacio de la Costa, Tagle said: It is the Filipinos’ love for music and their faith.
From Pope Francis, a solemn statement rang loud and clear, louder than the roaring organ and singing at Manila Cathedral, clearer than the joyful shouts of welcome from the thousands who cheered him outside and on the streets of Manila.
“The poor are at the heart of the Gospel. If we take away the poor from the Gospel, we cannot understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.”
This reminder, simply and directly said, could very well be the heart of Pope Francis’ homily for more than a thousand bishops, priests, religious men and women and seminarians at Manila Cathedral, or Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Intramuros.
It was also for the more than 20,000 bishops, priests and religious who were not present and who serve some 89 million Filipino Catholics in various ministries.
Because his message was going to be grave and serious, Pope Francis must have thought it is best to start off by putting everyone in a happy, receptive mood.
“Do you love me?” he began his homily by asking the question Jesus asked Peter in the Mass’ Gospel reading (John 21: 15-17). After hearing a yes, he promptly said, “Thank you very much,” making the audience break into laughter.
He was serious from then on. Jesus’ question for Peter, the Pope said, was the first thing he wanted to ask, because “these words remind us of something essential. All pastoral ministry is born of love. All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love.”
Like St. Therese
He reminded: “Like St. Therese, in the variety of our vocations, each of us is called, in some way, to be love in the heart of the Church.” Although St. Therese of Lisieux was a contemplative Carmelite, she is also known as a patroness of the missions. She died at the age of 24.
The Gospel reading from which the Pope drew his message had Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved him, Peter exclaiming “Yes” each time and Jesus telling him every time: “Feed my sheep.” Jesus couldn’t have been more serious than that.
And so the Pope was rallying his troops, so to speak, in the same way. “Allow the word of God to shake our complacency, our fear of change, our petty compromises with the ways of the world, our own ‘spiritual worldliness.”’(cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 93)
But for these to happen, Pope Francis said, there must be “a conversion to the newness of the Gospel (which) entails a daily encounter with the Lord in prayer.” The saints, he said, taught us that prayer is the source of apostolic zeal.
He warned against “a certain materialism which can creep into our lives and compromise the witness we offer.” He added that “only by becoming poor and stripping complacency will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters.”
The Pope recently caused a stir when he enumerated the sins that ailed the powerful Vatican curia.
Pope Francis, like the poverello saint whose name he took after he was elected Pope, came to Mass simply robed. No gilded raiment for him, just a white chasuble and miter sparingly embroidered with leafy greens.
Not once did he mention the words “mercy and compassion” which form the theme of the papal visit, but they were written between the lines throughout his homily.
Pope Francis was gentle but direct in a fatherly way in addressing the Church’s foot soldiers. He once likened the Church to a field hospital where the weary and battle-scarred should be welcomed and cared for.
“Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent… Be present to those who, living in the midst of a society burdened by poverty and corruption, are broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and live on the streets.”
The Philippine bishops had asked the Pope to declare 2015 “The Year of the Poor.”
After yesterday and today’s rousing welcome, the Pope, accompanied by Cardinal Tagle, had a private meeting with kids of the Tulay Kabataan. It was all hugs and kisses for and from the little ones in need of a home.
Deeply rooted inequality
He called on “the Church in the Philippines… to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ.”
The Pope must have been briefed about politicians who have plundered the country’s coffers and stolen money meant for the poor. “The Gospel calls on individual Christians to live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good. But it also calls Christian communities to create ‘circles of integrity,’ on networks of solidarity which can expand to embrace and transform society by their prophetic witness.”
Noting the Filipino diaspora and the Filipinos’ fervent piety, he said these could be a “powerful missionary potential.”
The Pope also scored “the confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.” Society, he said, is “under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”
This statement could be a cause for speculation among those who live unconventional lives, and those who find the Pope too welcoming and inclusive.
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