The Archbishops, Bishops and Prefects-Apostolic of the Philippines in Conference Assembled
To His Eminence, the Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia
and Their Excellencies, The Archbishops and Bishops
of the Catholic Church in the United States of America
Peace and Greetings in the Lord!
We acknowledge with the sincerest sentiments of joy and gratitude the kindness and solicitude which prompted you to send to this country a representative whose duty it is to survey the extent of our sufferings and the damages the Church has sustained so as to be able to inform you of the magnitude, nature and urgency of the needs of these Islands. In times of God’s visitation like the present, there is nothing more comforting and more consoling than the spirit of mutual help which characterizes the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Separated from us by thousands of miles, you have not forgotten “the bonds of common faith, as well as those ties of fraternal charity made stronger in mutual understanding, esteem and friendship”1, and the close political and economic ties that for so many years have bound us together. Since the Episcopate is “the natural organ of this spiritual interchange”2, We, the Archbishops, Bishops and Prefects-Apostolic of the Philippines, “comforted together with you by that faith which is common to us”3, wish to signify our deep appreciation of your charity. We thank God that as He has made us feel the weight of His chastising and chastening Hand, He has permitted us to realize likewise the truth of those words of Ecclesiasticus “a faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality”4.
Warfare in modern times being not merely a matter of conflict between opposing armed forces, entire populations are affected by its ravages. Mutual suspicion and distrust of belligerents no longer recognize God’s temples as sanctuaries, nor cities as refuges, when primarily they were founded to be so. Here in the Philippines we have experienced the devastating effects of modern warfare, suffering alike from the bombs and shells of friend as well as foe. “The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed!”5. “As dying and behold, we live, as chastised but not killed”6.
Besides the imminent danger of death to which each of us has been exposed at least on two occasions, when our respective Cathedral sites or places of refuge were bombed, taken and recaptured, we were continually watched and suspected by the enemy. Some of us were subjected to cross-examination as to our opinions regarding the righteousness of the Japanese position and the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”, on nationalization of culture and nationalization of the clergy. Some of us have suffered indignities. Still others and many of the clergy and religious of both sexes endured considerable hardships in concentration camps, but their personal sufferings paled before the heart-rending thought of the many sheep thus ruthlessly deprived of their shepherds. Some of our priests, and sisters, too, were not spared the horrors of the worst of prisons in which they were frequently tortured, and no news has so far reached us of a number who, without reason or warning, were captured by the enemy. One Bishop who unflinchingly defended purity, when the choicest of the lambs of his flock were to be snatched and violated, and an ecclesiastical edifice to be dedicated to Tersichore, Bacchus and Venus, was brutally tortured and killed and afterwards maligned of having taken away his own life. We were “straitened on every side.” “They respected not the persons of the priests, neither had they pity on the elders”7 . Hundreds of the laity of both sexes were tortured and butchered. Even women were not exempt from third degree tortures. “They oppressed the women in Sion and the virgins in the cities of Juda”8. And thousands at the approach of your liberating army were made victims of wholesale carnage.
For four years we were under those terrible scourges of God’s Justice: famine and disease which always follow in the wake of war. In the years of peace and plenty we were yet obliged to import rice, the staple food of the people, but during the years of captivity none could be brought into the country. On the contrary we had to supply our captors with food, and towns were threatened with decimation if they could not give the quota of rice demanded, which, in some places, was even greater than the amount actually produced in the locality. “Vae victis!” Medicine was scarce, and owing to the exorbitant prices could not be obtained except by the very rich. Consequently many died of malaria and other diseases. No textiles were imported nor could they be locally manufactured in sufficient quantities to clothe the people. Cotton grown ostensibly for this purpose was used by our conquerors for their guns. Manila priests have either lost or worn out their meagre supply of vestments and clothing and Religious were forced to wear threadbare habits. The poor had to cover themselves with jute bags, formerly used as sacks for rice, and even these were not always obtainable. Many of the rich who lost all through fire and looting were in rags. Abundant supplies of both medicine and clothing stored away in the warehouses of local merchants were all confiscated by the enemy. Corn and sugar were likewise confiscated to be coverted into alcohol for the fuelling of the enemy’s machines.
We could therefore cry out with Jeremiahs, “The enemy has to put out his hand to all… desirable things”9. “They that were fed delicately died in the streets; they that were brought up in scarlet have embraced the dung”10. “All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given all their precious things for food to relieve the soul”11, the “precious things” include virtue and honor for the sake self-preservation. It means, therefore, that hundreds of souls were driven to moral and spiritual ruin of our schools, hospitals, churches and cathedrals!
But by far the greatest of our sufferings was the privation of the frequent reception of the Bread of Angels, the Food of Pilgrims. Since wheat and grapes are not produced in the Islands, the little Sacramental “materia” which we had in store when war surprised us had to be used most frugally, with the constant anxiety lest our small supply might be exhausted before the coming of our liberators. The Japanese government after many promises could not give us wine, and flour confiscated in local warehouses was ostentatiously distributed as having been brought as a gift from Japan. In many places Holy Mass was said and Holy Communion distributed only on Sundays and holydays of obligation. In every place only sufficient drops of wine needed for validity were used and ablutions with that precious liquid were dispensed with through necessity and with Papal authorization. We celebrated with small hosts and cuttings, ordinarily thrown away, if sufficiently large to be consecrated were utilized for communion to the laity. We therefore thank you most sincerely for the suppply of wine and flour you have thoughtfully sent us at once.
Venerable Brethren, you have here an adequate picture of our past sufferings and the problems which face us at the present time since owing to war conditions sufficient aid has not yet reached us. Our gigantic task now is to rebuild and reopen our schools, hospitals, seminaries, churches and cathedrals and to reestablish the Catholic Press, that agency so necessary in this period of reconstruction and rehabilitation and so essential to the preservation and spread of our Holy Faith. We feel that the whole body of our brethren in America would like to have an exact idea of the losses which the Philippines has sustained with regard to these sacred and ecclesiastical edifices. To find in this letter a catalogue of the misfortunes of each Ordinary would be wearisome to the reader, so we determined that each one would give an exact and succinct account of the said losses in his individual Diocese or Prefecture-Apostolic, to be appended rather than herein embodied.
This letter would not be complete if we refrained from mentioning our deep appreciation of the United States Armed Forces, upon whom we invoke the Lord of Hosts, the God of Victories, to shower all blessings and success. Under God’s guiding hand they have restored by their arms that security which enables us to say in truth to our flock, “PAX VOBIS”. In the first place they have freed the Church and her ministers from the danger of that worst of all plights… conversion into mere tools and instruments of a pagan Caesaro-theocratic Government. From the beginning there have been clear indications that the Japanese government intended to absorb the Catholic Church as a potent agency to control the Filipino people. Circulars were issued commanding all priests to preach extolling the advantages of the so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, of the surrender to Japanese arms of the guerillas in the mountains, and the total submission of the prople to their government. Subtle appeals to racial self-sufficiency and supernationalistic aspirations were made use of, which if successful by the permanency of the Japanese rule, would have deprived again the teeming millions of Catholic Filipinos of the service and ministrations of American and European missionaries of both sexes, who have pledged their lives to work for souls in these far-flung Islands. And that beautiful and very patent proof of the Catholicity of the Church — the earnest, united and harmonious, disinterested working of native and foreign clergy under both native and foreign-born Bishops, a thing no other human society anywhere except the Catholic Church can show, would undoubtedly have been destroyed.
Surely a pagan and at the same time theocratic imperialism, more exclusive and fanatic than the old Roman Empire, though not externally bigotted, could not long permit the existence of the Catholic Church. In fact the Japanese openly call the present war a holy war to restore to their Emperor whom they acknowledge as son of their sun goddess, his divine right to rule all lands illumined by that celestial orb.
The result of the speech of His Excellency, the Apostolic Delegate, before General Tanaka in January 1943, in which he sought liberty for the Church to continue uninterrupted and untrammeled her divine mission, was the bringing to light of the previously veiled policy of the Japanese Government in a derisive editorial of the Japanese controlled TRIBUNE. Thus was unmasked that surface show of tolerance to the Catholic Church which the conqueror had stressed as being an essential part of his liberal-minded policy to this Catholic country. The arrest of a high church official in the Archbishop’s Palace in Manila on the very eve of the meeting in that place of all the Bishops and Prefects-Apostolic of the Northern Ecclesiastical Province was obvioulsy a move to cow the Ordinaries whose full cooperation in all his plans the enemy sought to have. A year before that event, lying, he announced through the radio that such cooperation had been promised to the Japanese Imperial Army by the hierarchy of the Philippines in conferences alleged to have been held for that object in the Apostolic Delegation and at the Archbishop’s Palace in Manila on January 6th and 7th, respectively in 1942.
The fact that Religious Congregations permitted to open their schools were forbidden to give religious instruction in the classrooms was strong proof that the show of favor to the Catholic Religion was just one more temporizing condescension calculated to wheedle the Filipinos to submit peacefully to the Japanese domination. Our liberation therefore by the American Army was not merely a political one, but supereminently a long-sought religious liberation.
The American Army has strengthened the faith of our people and their trust in God. The frequent public discourses and circulars of General MacArthur asking for prayers and church functions to thank God for victories already gained, to implore His continued blessings upon the Army and the American and Filipino peoples, and the granting of final victory, have made their appeal to the religious instinct of our people.
The bravery of the Catholic Chaplains, their devotion to duty, their kindness to our people together with that of their men compel the admiration of our flock, furthermore, the example of these soldiers, their frequent reception of the Sacraments and their excellent behavior in Church set as an incentive to our youth to follow in their footsteps. (That silent apostolate is necessary in this country where frequent reception of the Sacraments is almost exclusively practiced by the “devoto femineo sexu” while the masculine is adverse and indifferent. We wish to accentuate the generosity of the soldiers in contributing to the Sunday collections because our people, so generous in other ways, are slow to contribute to the material needs of the Church. This is due to the fact that for nearly four centuries many such needs were supplied by the royal patronage of their Catholic Majesties of Spain.)
The whole Philippines thanks the Army also for what it has done to relieve the economic situation in the country. The Japanese currency had become useless and we were left without credit of any kind. Were it not for the humanitarian foresight of the Army, we would have remained until now without any means of acquiring commodities we need, except perhaps by barter. The immediate employment of the people by the Army is helping the nation to recover rapidly its former stability.
Brethren, recognizing how Almighty God has blessed the United States and having seen your generosity towards our suffering brethren in Europe, we, too, confidently appeal to you to do whatever you can for these Islands and its peoples, who, for the last forty-seven years, were placed by Divine Providence under the protection of the Stars and Stripes.
We pray that the desire of every soldier’s heart may be fulfilled, namely, that the Lord speed the day of final victory enabling each one to return to his loved ones at home; and that peace and mutual goodwill may once more reign amongst men. And we implore also the blessing of the God of Victories on Your Eminence and on Your Excellencies and all on your spiritual children at home and abroad.
Manila, Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, Apostle of Charity, July 19, 1945.
(Sgd.)+M.J. DOHERTY, D.D.
Archbishop of Manila
(Sgd.)+GABRIEL M. REYES
Archbishop of Cebu and Administrator of Tagbilaran
Bishop of Lipa
Bishop of Nueva Segovia
(Sgd.)+JAMES T.G. HAYES
Bishop of Cagayan
(Sgd.)+LUIS DEL ROSARIO
Bishop of Zamboanga
Bishop of Calbayog
Bishop of Bacolod
Bishop of Lingayen
Bishop of Palo
(Sgd.)+JOHN C. VRAKKING
Bishop of Surigao
(Sgd.)+PEDRO P. SANTOS
Bishop of Nueva Caceres
(Sgd.)+JOSE BILLIET, CICM
Prefect-Apostolic of Titular Bishop of Emeria
(Sgd.)+JOSE Ma. CUENCO
Mountain Province Administrator of Jaro
(Sgd.)BENITO RIXNER, SVD
Prefect Apostolic of Mindoro
Back to: CBCP Documents