(A Pastoral Exhortation)

Beloved people of God,

As we conclude the year of St. Paul which the Holy Father inaugurated on June 29, 2008, we invite the Filipino faithful to start preparing spiritually for another crucial transition in the life of our nation—namely, the elections in May 2010.  For this purpose, we are declaring the post-Pauline year (from June 2009 until June 2010) as a year of Prayer and Work for Peace-building and Lay Participation in Social Change.  By way of transition, we can draw our inspiration from St. Paul’s timeless reflections on “Christ as Ambassador of Peace and Reconciliation” (2 Cor 5: 18-20 & Eph 2:12-18) in order to dispose ourselves for the next thematic year.

CONSECRATION TO THE TWO HEARTS

We will launch this new thematic year by consecrating our country to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary when we celebrate their feast days on June 19-20, 2009—a few days before the formal closing of the Pauline Year on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, 2009.  This Year of Prayer and Work for Peace-Building and Lay Participation in Social Change will begin and end with the feasts of the Two Hearts (June 2009- June 2010).

PEACE-BUILDING

From the wounded Heart of Jesus flowed the grace of healing and reconciliation.  Let this grace flow through us, the community of Christ’s disciples, into the bloodstream of our nation.  Let it find a concrete expression in serious advocacies for peace and dialogue, healing and reconciliation amidst conflict-situations in all possible circumstances of life.  Let us all actively pray and work for peace, following the inspiration of that popular prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me bring love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy,” seeking at each time, not so much “to be consoled as to console, to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love…” and believing firmly that “It is in giving, that we receive; …in pardoning, that we are pardoned; …and in dying, that we are born to eternal life.”

While we go on with our pastoral programs in all Church units and organizations, basic ecclesial communities, parishes, dioceses, and regions throughout the country, we also ask that all ecclesial entities all over the country strive to establish and form groups that can effectively focus their ministry or apostolate on peace-building and genuine reconciliation through dialogue, drawing encouragement especially from St. Paul’s profound insights on these topics.  Let us consciously lay the moral foundations on which we can build a more stable, more mature Philippine society.  Let this foundation be not just a change of leaders or a change of social and political structures, but above all, a radical change of heart, commending ourselves to Jesus and his Blessed Mother as we entreat them to “…make our hearts so like to (theirs) that we may holy be!”

LAY PARTICIPATION IN SOCIAL CHANGE

For the past few months now, we have noted a mounting call for “moral regeneration” in our country.  Not only do we welcome this; we your pastors are encouraged by the fact that this call has been coming mainly from the laity.  You know that we have sounded this call too many times already in the past.  Perhaps because this task is expected of us, there has been a tendency to take it for granted that we are also to carry it out by ourselves.  One journalist wrote in a commentary recently, “The task of moral regeneration is too big to entrust to religious leaders alone.”  We couldn’t agree more.

As your pastors, we exercise spiritual and moral leadership as regards our communal and ecclesial life in our parishes and dioceses throughout the country.  But we cannot just extend that leadership into the spheres of politics and governance, in business and economics, in the sciences and the mass media, etc., without running the risk of being misconstrued as engaging in power-play or over-extending our sphere of influence beyond our offices.  The participation of the laity in moral leadership pertaining to every specific discipline and institution in the Philippine society is most essential, if we want the Gospel and the social teachings of the Church to have a tangible and positive impact at all on our life as a nation.

We challenge our Catholic laity, in particular, to take the lead in the task of moral renewal towards a deeper and more lasting change in the Philippine society.  We challenge all lay people involved in politics to renounce corruption and bond together in the task of evangelizing politics for effective governance and the pursuit of the common good.  We challenge the laity involved in legislation to unite themselves and consciously allow their actions to be guided by the truth of the Gospel and the Christian faith.  We urge the Catholic lay people involved in legitimate business to organize themselves and consciously practice their trade with a strong sense of corporate social responsibility informed by the social teachings of the Church.  We enjoin all Catholic law enforcers to form associations among themselves that consciously renounce violence, respect basic human rights, and truly work for the preservation of peace and social order.  We call upon the Catholic laity involved in social communications and the modern mass media to form networks among themselves that can articulate a genuinely Christian ethics in their practice of their profession.  We urge every Catholic lay person to give a concrete expression to Christian discipleship through responsible citizenship.

PRAYER

In closing, may we ask that we start praying the following prayer at least every Sunday after communion in all Catholic churches and chapels all over the country from June 2009 to June 2010:

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, the reality of our deeply wounded and broken country impels us to respond with new urgency to the most pressing problems of our times.
We are a broken people; our hearts are fragmented and we are discouraged. We need Your Heart, O Lord, as we seek to be made whole.
Rooted in our faith in You and love for our country, we want to participate in Your work of transformation of persons, families, organizations, and society.
Through the transforming power of the love of Your Heart, we draw a new dynamism, a strong   inspiration, a fire, which can change and transfigure our lives as individuals and as a nation.
(please pause for a specific intention)

Love of the Heart of Jesus, give us courage and patience. Wisdom of the Heart of Jesus, teach us to pray and to act with hope and charity at all times. Amen.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

May Jesus, the Source of Divine Mercy, and His mother Mary accompany us in our work of peace-building, and social and moral regeneration.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,

+ ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
April 19, 2009

Feast of Divine Mercy

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