Parishes as Wellsprings of Mercy and Renewal

Pastoral Exhortation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to open the
Year 2017 as the Year of Parishes, Communion of Communities

Marian photo: 500th anniversary of Gospel’s arrival in the Philippines – Fourth Year of Novena

Beloved people of God:

We welcome the year 2017 in our “novena-years” of preparation for the grateful celebration in 2021 of the five hundredth anniversary of the first coming and first receiving among our people of the Gospel of Christ Jesus and of His holy Church.

That forthcoming 2021 celebration, recalling the first Mass and first baptisms in our shores, should be a new and joyous explosion in our lives of faith, hope and love throughout our country. Surely such will be our response to the free and gracious gift from the heavenly Father which made the year 1521, for us Christians first of all, a memorable and incredibly significant “new beginning” in our history.

As we began this “novena” we raised a banner of hope and renewal for the Church in our land with the motto, “Live Christ, Share Christ!” That is the firm resolve with which we now open the Year 2017, and the cry of all of us, dear brothers and sisters is — “Live Christ, Share Christ!” This cry can rightfully be the motto for the now-ongoing “new evangelization” in the Philippines, which the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines already proclaimed in 1991. To that “renewed evangelization” we brought with us all the hopes and dreams of our people” for a truly “renewed Christian society, life and culture … based on the Gospel Beatitudes, suffused with Christian values of love and peace, of joy and hospitality, of patience and justice.” Thus also did we resolve that the Church in our land would become truly “a church of the poor!” (from ‘The Message of the Second Plenary Council’)

“Live Christ, Share Christ!” As we open the Year 2017, we pray that God may grant us abundant grace to make it a year of fuller fulfillment of that motto and that hope. 2017 has been programmed to focus on the parish, “a community of communities”. As a center and fountain of missionary discipleship and zeal for renewed evangelization, “a genuine center of constant missionary outreach.” in “Evangelii Gaudium” Pope Francis insists that the parish “is not an outdated institution and can possess great flexibility still, depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.” (EG, 28)


The Church is a mystery of communion. Our communion flows from the Trinity overflowing into humanity and sharing a common faith journeying together for the full unfolding of the Kingdom of God. This communion, made possible for us because of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, always has a double dimension—a vertical communion with God and a horizontal communion with our brothers and sisters. The Church’s life of communion is constantly open to ecumenical and missionary action because this communion is always in a state of mission.

The Church in the Philippines is a part of the communion of Churches which is the universal Church. We are a part of the one Church of Christ. In every particular Church “the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active” (Christus Dominus, 11). For this reason, the universal Church cannot be conceived as the sum of the particular Churches, or as a federation of particular Churches. Whoever belongs to one particular Church belongs to all the Churches; since belonging to the Communion, like belonging to the Church, is never simply particular, but by its very nature is always universal (cfr. Lumen Gentium,13).

In celebrating 2017 as the Year of the Parish as a Communion of Communities we are challenged to more deeply discern not only the structures of governance of our dioceses and parishes but also of the quality of faith life in the parish, the fellowship, belongingness, and participation experienced by its members. In brief, our focus will be the building of a parish that is truly a faith community immersed in the lives of its people. (CBCP Pastoral Letter Live Christ Share Christ, 2012) 

In the Philippines our vision of the Church as communion is today finding expression in one ecclesial movement that is the movement to foster Basic Ecclesial Communities” (PCP II, 137).

Usually emerging at the grassroots, Basic Ecclesial Communities consciously strive to integrate their faith and their daily life. They are guided and encouraged by regular catechesis. Poverty and their faith urge their members towards solidarity with one another, action for justice, and towards a vibrant celebration of life in the liturgy. (PCP II, 139).

How can we work at renewing our parish communities so that they can better respond to the challenge of restoring all things in Christ?


2017 is the also the centennial year of the apparition of Our Lady to three children in Fatima. At Fatima, Our Lady asked her children to return to Jesus by the three fold paths of prayer, daily Communion and reparation. The message of Fatima still rings clearly and strongly for us. If we dream of Church renewal, let us return to prayer, let us receive her Son in Holy Communion and let us offer reparation for our sin.

As we pursue the dream to make every parish community a family of families and a communion of communities, let us avail of the message of Our Lady of Fatima to help us reach our vision.

In the months of May to October 2017, Catholics all over the world, led by Pope Francis, will recall and celebrate the centenary of the six apparitions of Our Blessed Mother to the “three children of Fatima”- Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta. As we in the Philippines celebrate our parishes as communion of communities, we will also turn with prayer and devotion, deeper reflection and rededication to “the Fatima Message” of Our Lady. All these activities will enable us to learn or relearn “what Fatima was all about”; how important and relevant Fatima still is for our time, and how we can and should put into practice “what Fatima asks of us today”, so we can renew and reinvigorate our parishes in the Philippines.


“The present efforts at Church renewal should center on the parish. Without parish renewal, the family and Basic Ecclesial Communities will not find strong supportive ambience, and will continue to feel isolated.” (PCP II, #604). In the same vein, it would be a lost opportunity if the year of the parish as communion of communities would ignore the clarion call of Fatima for prayer, penance and communion.

Pope Benedict XVI took pains to spell out the fundamental significance of the Fatima events and of the message of Our Lady of Fatima. He believes that the “point of Fatima” was not directed only to the emergence of the disastrous dictatorship of the twentieth century in Russia and Germany. No, it referred “to a critical moment in history … when the whole power of evil came to a head” not only in and through those godless regimes but “in another way is still at work today in our time, in the suffering of the Church and the weakening of the forces of good and of the work of God in our world.”

If the nation needs healing, the healing will start in our parishes. If the nation needs to crush the forces of evil, it will start in our parishes. If the nation needs to strengthen the presence of God in society, the strengthening of the parishes is the only way.

Pope Benedict has written, that “the answer to the power of evil in the world of our time can only come from the transformation of the heart, through faith, hope, love; through penance and conversion.” In this sense, the message of Fatima is precisely not a thing of the past. The Church continues to suffer … even now there is tribulation.” “There is the power which tries to trample down the faith.”

What we beg and pray for is this: “that the power of evil be restrained, that the energies of good might regain their vigor. You could say that the triumphs of God and the triumphs of Mary are quiet, but they are real nonetheless,” said Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict tells us, then, that the framework and meaning of the message of Fatima is the struggle of the work of God in our world today and the struggle of the life of church and of Christians, that struggle in our own time against the massively-spreading, active forces of evil and sin in today’s world, in our communities and societies, in our own homes, in our own lives.


Let us move toward some proposals for a “program of action for our parishes and basic ecclesial communities”, a program which flows from the Fatima message. Pope Paul VI, in his own summing up of the Fatima message, defined it as “a message of prayer and penance”. So let it be for our parishes! Our communion of communities needs a renewed and passionate program of intense prayer and penance.

Parishes and communities will be renewed only through personal and community prayer. Our first mission in the world is to be a leaven to teach our society how to pray. Our first duty in communion is prayer. The prayer of a shepherd for his sheep is always music to the ears of God. Prayer is an act of love. Every prayer whether of praise or contrition or petition is always a plea for mercy. Prayer is our parish anchor. Prayer is our cornerstone. Parishes and BECs will be renewed as oasis of mercy through reparation for sins, frequent confession and acts of mercy.

Parishes and communities will be renewed by living the Eucharist whom we receive every day. The Eucharist is the poverty of Jesus disturbing the complacency of the wealthy; it is the wealthy sacrificing house, family, and fortune to lift up the poor from their poverty. It is the Word of God inviting the confused, the lonely, the bored, the suffering to the joy of the Gospel. It is God’s life humanized in his incarnation; it is human life divinized in his suffering, death and resurrection. It is the compassion of the Father touching the life of the sinner; the conversion of the sinner practicing the compassion of the Savior.

Let us envision parish renewal from the Immaculate Heart of Mary and through the means she gave us at Fatima–prayer and penance intensified in every parish.  Continue reading

The burial is an insult to the EDSA spirit.

CBCP Statement on the Supreme Court decision to allow the burial of former president Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani



We do not forget!

We are saddened by the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the burial of former President Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. We see this as another step to build the culture of impunity in the country. Marcos is no hero! He should not be presented as one. During Martial Law he had made many people suffer by arbitrary torture and death. He has deprived many poor people of their basic needs while his family and cronies were enriched. We do not forget this! We will not allow that this be forgotten by the future generations in order that the same strong-hand oppression may not happen again.

Those who do wrong should be made accountable. First they should admit the wrong they have done. Up to now this is not being recognized by the Marcos family and his cronies. Then the victims of human rights abuses have not been properly compensated for. This is a matter of justice.

Burying Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani will not bring peace and unity to the country. Peace can only come if there is justice. Justice demands recognition of the harm done to the people and restitution to the victims. We as Church work for peace and unity that is based on truth and justice for all, especially for the poor and the victims.

We are very sad. The burial is an insult to the EDSA spirit. It mocks our fight to restore democracy. We are puzzled and hurt and in great grief. It calls on us for greater courage to make the full truth of the dictatorship known.

Yes, we do not forget and we will not forget!

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, November 9, 2016

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

We are sending wrong message to young people

Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas
Statement on the Supreme Court’s Decision on Marcos Burial

The Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas believes that the Supreme Court’s decision rejecting the petitions to stop the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani is a barefaced disrespect to the victims of one of the darkest moment in the history of our people and our country in general. Burying Ferdinand E. Marcos alongside our nation’s heroes who fought for our freedom is a great insult to the thousands of victims of atrocities committed during his reign. Burying him at the Heroes’ Cemetery is a mocking act that will send a strong distorted message to our young people that in this country, dictators, plunderers and executioners are being rewarded.

The Supreme Court’s decision appears to have been anchored only on the legal provisions of the Philippine Constitution but with apparent complete disregard for moral issues that go along with it. Marcos may have been a President but he ended up a dictator; he may have been a soldier but his grave abuse of power and systemic violence undermines his well flaunted valor.

Marcos burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani will undoubtedly constitute a claim for recognition as a hero, absolutely setting aside the causes raised and won by the spirit of EDSA 1. It will degrade the Filipino’s integrity as a people and distort truths and realities of Philippine history as a nation. It will not bring healing as the Marcos family and their cronies continue to deny the injustices they have committed and the victims of Martial Law are not properly restituted. There can never be peace without truth and justice.

Foregoing considered, we call on all our concerned and patriotic legal luminaries and our legislators to make the proper motions or resolutions on the Supreme Court’s decision. We also appeal on our Cabinet members to act on our country’s behalf in influencing the heart and mind of our President on this very important matter.

For the Board of Directors of Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas,

National President

Noted by:

LAIKO National Director
Chairman, CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Laity

11 November 2016

We will continue to fight for the truth

Ateneo de Manila University President’s  memorandum to the university community on the Marcos burial issue



ABS CBN photo

9 November 2016

On 8 November 2016, the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines decided to allow the burial of Dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the historic and symbolic Libingan ng mga Bayani. With no hesitation, the Ateneo de Manila University expresses its indignation over this decision, calling this an act of convenient equivocation and injustice on the part of the Supreme Court.

In its decision, the Supreme Court argued by saying: “While he was not all good, he was not pure evil either. Certainly, just a human who erred like us.” Such an argument amounts to a monumental denial of the suffering and murder of thousands of our people and the billions of public funds stolen during those tragic years of Martial Law. Ferdinand Marcos did not just err like us. Decisions that were made during his regime were marked by atrocity and impunity. People were imprisoned, tortured, and killed just for harboring different beliefs and convictions. Those years were deliberately disruptive of democracy and freedom. Martial Law wasn’t just a stumble in the dark. It was a careful orchestration of violence and power conducted in the name of order and an artificial peace.   Continue reading

Betrayal of the Filipino People

solidarity_bannerWe in Solidarity Philippines are dismayed over Supreme Court decision which ruled that President Duterte has the authority to order the burial of the remains of the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Jesus said “the truth will set you free” (John8:32). It was a moment when the Supreme Court should have upheld the truth of the Marcos dictatorship: that the Marcos government killed more than 3,000 political opponents and tortured tens of thousands; that members of the Marcos family and their associates plundered about $10 billion from the country while millions of Filipinos lived in dire poverty. Yet the majority of the justices preferred to hide behind untruths using very narrow legal reasoning. It would be laughable that justices would say that the cases against Marcos were only civil and not criminal if it were not for the fact that this is only the case because of the climate of impunity which continues to this day. And as Justice Leonen says “they, (the justices) encourage impunity, which is the result of rewarding the person who presided over human rights violations and who personally participated in the plunder of public treasury.”

Bongbong Marcos is quoted as saying “It is our sincerest hope that this will lead the nation towards healing: I think this will be the beginning of bringing the country together.” The truth is the opposite will happen. Rewriting history does not lead to healing. Ignoring the pain still felt by those who were tortured and of the families whose loved ones were killed and disappeared does not lead to healing. Only justice leads to healing: justice for all the victims of the Marcos dictatorship; justice for those looking to have the coco levy returned; justice for the Filipino people who continue to shoulder the burden of unjust loans pocketed by the Marcos family. Without this, the country will never be united.

We commend those justices who issued dissenting opinions, for their ability to look to the truth of the Marcos dictatorship and to oppose the burial of the Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. We join with all those who refuse to let history be rewritten and join them in their demand that the truth of the Marcos dictatorship be acknowledged and justice be given to the Filipino people and particularly to those victims of human rights violations. Only by speaking this truth will the nation be healed and be able to move on as President Duterte claims he desires.

Sr. Pat Fox, nds
Solidarity Philippines

Pahayag ng Pagkakaisa at Pagatatalaga ng Sarili Para sa Pangangalaga ng Bulubundukin ng Sierra Madre


HiPinoy photo

KAMI ay mga kinatawan ng iba’t ibang katutubong komunidad, People’s Organizations (POs), Academe, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), Religious groups at mga ahensya ng pamahalaan na kumikilos sa Region 4A na bahagi ng Bulubundukin ng Sierra Madre, na nagkakaisa at naninindigan na dapat alagaan at proteksyunan ang bulubundukin ng Sierra Madre at sa pamamagitan ng ugnayan ng DENR at Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) na nagtipon mula Nobyembre 3-4, 2016 sa Pranjetto Hills Hotel and Convention Center, Brgy. Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal at nagpapahayag ng pagkakaisa sa mga sumusunod na usapin:

YAYAMANG, Ang bulubundukin ng Sierra Madre ay kinikilalang “Gulugod (Backbone) ng Luzon” na nagbibigay buhay sa amin at may pinakamahabang bulubundukin sa Pilipinas. Ito ay may tinatayang sukat na 1.8 milyong ektarya sa sumasaklaw sa 10 probinsya (Laguna, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Bulacan, Rizal, and Quezon) sa Administrative Regions 2, 3, and 4.

YAYAMANG ang bulubundukin ng Sierra Madre ay mayroong pinakamalaking bilang ng protected areas ng buong bansa—68 national parks, watershed forest reserves., natural monuments, marine reserves, protected landsccapes at seascapes at lahat ng CADT. Ang kapal ng gubat ang pinakamalawak na sa Pilipinas—tinatayang 1.4 million ektarya, o 25% ng yamang gubat ng bansa, at kasama ang mataas pa sa 40% ng natitirang old growth forests. Maraming samu’t saring buhay na tulad ng Haring ibon na matatagpuan sa loob ng Sierra Madre. Sa buong mundo ang Sierra Madre ang pinakasiksik sa samut saring buhay.

YAYAMANG, ang bulubundukin ng Sierra Madre ay tirahan at pinangangalagaan ng iba-ibang katutubong komunidad. Ito ay ang mga katutubong kultural/katutubong pamayanan ng Agta, Dumagat/Remontado, Isneg, Ibanag, Ikalahan, Gaddang, Ilonggot, Kabihog at ng Bungkalot. Ang bulubundukin ay pinangangalagaan ng mga katutubong pamayanan dahil matatagpuan sa loob nito ang mahahalagang sagradong lugar na pinagdadausan ng mga ritwal, at painagkukunan ng pagkain, halamang gamot at iba pang produktong gubat;   Continue reading

National Youth Day Formation Program

The National Youth Day Formation Program 2015 to 2016 will close on November 20, 2016.  We share the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth year- long program, with the introductory message of Bishop Leopoldo C. Jaucian, SVD, DD.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines


My dear young people!

It is with great joy that I, together with my brother Bishops in the Episcopal Commission on Youth, greet you all a happy and blessed National Youth Day!

In my welcome message to Pope Francis last January 18, when he met with you, young people, at the University of Santo Tomas, I said, “We thank you, Holy Father, for believing in [the youths’] energy and eagerness, their honesty and hope! They are gifts of the Church and treasures of the world. Some of them experience different forms of poverty: the lack of basic needs, food, shelter and clothing, becoming victims of abuse, calamities and conflicts. They see in you as their Father, who listens to their crises, their hopes and their dreams… Amidst the different crosses they bear, they remain religious, faithful and loving sons and daughters of Holy Mother the Church.”

With the same sentiment, I welcomed everyone who came to our national celebration of the National Youth Day 2015, generously hosted by the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao! Let me take this opportunity to express again my heartfelt gratitude to the whole NYD2015 Organization! I salute Most Rev. SERGIO L. UTLEG, DD, Archbishop of Tuguegarao, and his auxiliary Most Rev. RICARDO L. BACCAY, DD for their generous hosting, along with the People of God in the whole host-archdiocese, especially the youth ministers! I thank my brother Bishops for their prayers, presence and support in my first national NYD celebration as Chairman of our Episcopal Commission on Youth!

As we prepare to celebrate the NYD2015 in our own communities, i.e. dioceses, parishes, BEC’s and other settings, I echo Pope Francis’—and Mother Church’s—confidence in you!

I affirm you as gifts and treasures: sometimes unappreciated, or perhaps even wrongly or inadequately valued. But still precious and loved, despite difficulties and evils which undermine or even attack your dignity.

And like Pope Francis, whose message for the World Youth Day 2015 we are taking as our guiding light for the NYD2015, I wish to be father, a shepherd, a youth minister to you, ready to listen to your voices and to rekindle your hope. This same wish is shared by the rest of the Church; that is why we have the National Youth Day!

Even in these local celebrations, let us come together—your Bishops, your priests and religious brothers and sisters, your lay elders, with you, our dear youth—to ponder on the joy of being blessed, to pause in our faith adventure in order to resume it with greater passion, and to pray to become more and more pure, seeking God alone.

I recognize with joy that each one of us has the desire for happiness. In your local celebration, I pray that God may shower His abundant grace upon us to be able to see Him in everyone, in every activity. Let us open our hearts in order to come into a personal encounter with Jesus, who alone makes our hearts burn with mercy and compassion, purifying it, enabling us to gaze at the Divine: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Happy NYD2015! May the spirit of Advent help us live our theme in a most special way, making our Christmas celebration within the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and our own Year of the Family and the Eucharist more meaningful.

Bishop, Diocese of Bangued
Chairman, CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Youth

Download the National Youth Day 2015 Formation Program

Download the National Youth Day 2015 Formation Program Report-Form

Marcos Not A Hero – Labor NGO says

EILER Press Statement
9 November 2016


ABC Australia photo

A labor nongovernment organization is saddened by decision of the Supreme Court on November 8, allowing the hero’s burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) expresses its dissent over the high court’s ruling, citing countless cases of human rights violations, including abduction of numerous labor rights activists, and passing of questionable labor laws.

During martial law, strikes were specifically forbidden and thousands of Filipino workers were denied fundamental rights. Systematic trade union repression, labor rights violations, the killings of unionists and the culture of impunity were institutionalized under the Marcos dictatorship. The impact of the fascist state on Philippine society goes beyond many generations of Filipino workers.

The Libingan ng mga Bayani was established in 1947 as final resting place to national heroes, national artists and scientists, and Philippine military and presidents. The decision yesterday was not only a disservice to the nation, but a deliberate push towards revision of historical facts: that Marcos is no hero and he and his family ruled a regime of violence. He was corrupt, a tyrant, and his ill-gotten worldwide wealth, estimated at least $10 billion, ran the Philippines to the ground.

“We demand President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his statement on allowing the former dictator to be given a hero’s burial. This act will not result in building unity and healing among the people. The systemic violation of the Marcos dictatorship against the Filipino people will never be forgotten and not looted as political concessions among ruling elites” said Executive Director Anna Leah Colina. “We also express our sincerest support to the various groups filing a motion for reconsideration to reverse the high court’s decision.”

The high court reasoned that Marcos is “not convicted” of any crimes, among others. Marcos was not convicted of any crimes because he left the country at a time when he was being pursued by the justice system and came back a corpse years later. The technical nature of the events should not diminish the nation’s collective memory that during Marcos’ regime, freedom was curtailed and those who resisted were tortured and killed.

Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER)