Introduction

In our recent meeting in Baguio, we, the Bishops of the Philippines, have decided to address ourselves once again to the urgent problems of our nation.  We are aware that not everything is wrong with our country.  There is much–very much–to be thankful for.  But we live in critical times, nonetheless, and we are deeply concerned that we all work as one, in the spirit of genuine Christian love, to ease the tensions and heal the divisions that could very well lead us on the disastrous consequences.

Our problems are many–and most complex–but this is all the more reason for us to face them bravely and to honestly examine what each one of us can contribute to their solving.  For we all are responsible.  We all must share in the burden of righting wrongs and bringing justice and peace to  our troubled land.  Hence we have decided to make this report of concrete plans of action to you, the People of God, even as we appeal to the various sectors of society to reappraise themselves and see what conscience tells them is their share in the work of building up a Christian nation.  For we are confident that, as we have done in equally difficult straits in the past, we, as a people, can meet the challenge of these critical times.

The Poor .  The great majority of our people live under conditions that are everyday becoming more and more inhuman and intolerable.  They are poor.  They are weak.  Economically deprived and politically quite powerless, they are easy victims of all kinds of unjust exploitation.  Hence they need to be organized and mobilized for programs of self-help to develop in themselves a true sense of their human dignity and give them the courage to stand up for their rights.  We support all men who, imbued with the spirit of Christian social teachings, are working directly with Christ’s poor with precisely this end in mind.  Besides the many Catholic Action groups that are increasingly becoming more socially conscious and the various social amelioration projects and movements initiated and promoted by the Church like Action Leaven and the Young Christian Workers (YCW), we wish to commend in particular such lay organizations as the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), and other similarly motivated groups in so far as their efforts and actions do not violate the basic laws of justice and charity.  We trust they will continue to work in these uncertain times with a sense of mission which springs from Christ’s Gospel of Love.

For our part, we hope to establish, as we have already done in a number of dioceses, more legal aid bureaus to help the poor in defending their rights against the many oppressive forms of injustice–this, in addition to various other  on-going development projects geared to the same end.

A large problem facing the country today is that of over-population, and it is the poor who are suffering most from its dehumanizing evils.  In our deep concern that these evils should be rightly remedied, we are lending our full support to programs of responsible parenthood conducted according to Catholic principles, more specifically to that of the Responsible Parenthood Council.  And we urge all parents to seriously consider their own responsibility in this regard and to do all within their means to promote its aims.

The Affluent .  The more privileged sector of our society–those who have a sufficiency of this world’s goods and who enjoy the power and the well-being that come from their secure economic position–have heavy responsibilities towards the less privileged sector.  The Church in the Philippines is most conscious today that she must, more than ever, be a Church of the poor.  This does not mean that the rich and powerful are thus being excluded from the life of the People of God; on the contrary, it is an earnest invitation to them to participate even more fully in that life.  For they must be ready to give to the poor and powerless what is due them in justice:  a share in the benefits of our country’s bountiful resources conducive to human dignity; a share likewise in the exercise of power necessary for them to be free citizens, very much as a group  of business men meeting in Baguio last week with some Bishops have conscientiously agreed to do.  In a word, they must respond dutifully to the call of responsible leadership that the nation is in so dire need of today–which many of them, we are happy to say, are in fact already doing.

The coming Constitutional Convention is a special case in point for the exercise of this kind of leadership.  A considerable number of the elected delegates belong to the more affluent classes of our society.  We pray that in their deliberations for the writing of a new Constitution, they will be guided not by personal struggle for power but by a sincere desire for real structural changes that will guarantee protection of individual freedom and create the necessary atmosphere of social responsibility.  And we ask all the People of God in the Philippines to pray with us that they will indeed be so guided.

But we have more than our prayers to offer.  We have voted for the setting up of a consultative body of experts to study what can be done to insure that the Basic Law of the Land will be thoroughly permeated with the spirit of genuine justice and humanity. This must be the concern of every true citizen.

Students .  The general discontent of our studentry is only a sympton of the grave ills and disorders of our society.  We sympathize with their impatient zeal for change but we ask them to be at all times responsible in their reforming activism.  Their evident concern for the poor and the oppressed, their intolerance for any form of hypocrisy, their crusade for justice and equality in the renewal of our nation fabric–all this, we agree, is most laudable.  But we earnestly ask that even as they fight for the rights of the poor, they themselves must take care not to infringe on the rights of others.  Christ’s law of love requires this of all of us.  And we also ask, as once the Holy Father himself asked of them, that they know clearly the direction they are headed for.

The interests of students these days are not all centered, unfortunately, on redressing the ills of society.  Drug addiction is on the rise.  So are filthy movies and pornography.  These are evils that erode most insidiously, the moral fiber of our people.  Do we–and our students especially–see them in this light?

In view of all this, then, we feel that we must make special provisions for their spiritual care.  We have approved in principle the setting up of a distinct vicariate of students served by a Bishop and a specialized corps of trained chaplains.

Clergy and Religious .  Sharing more intimately in the Bishops’ role of moral leadership are our clergy and religious and all other men and women dedicated in a more special way to the service of the People of God.

They continue to labor unstintingly in this service and for this we are indeed most grateful.  They, like the rest of the People of God, have a voice in decisions for the common welfare of the community that is the Church, and hence we have unanimously approved the structures and the avenues of communication that they have requested of us.

Our seminarians are of utmost importance to the further growth of the Church in the Philippines.  Rectors of diocesan seminaries from all over the country have met with us for two full days exploring the possibilities for seminary improvement and reform.  Great strides have been made, and we have plenty of reason to be optimistic that our future priests will in truth be more relevant to the needs of our times and thus better prepared for the service of the People of God.

We also are continuing the updating of the Christian formation of our people through the Christian Communities Program and leadership training of laymen as well as of priests and religious.  More concretely, we are starting this year an annual institute of formation for the training of leaders from every diocese in the Philippines.

Pastoral Council .  Throughout this report we have harped again and again on the idea of shared responsibility of every one of us in the building up of the community of Christ.  It is our strong desire for communitarian responsibility that makes us press for the forming of a national pastoral council to be made up of representatives of the entire People of God in the Philippines.  We trust that this council will be a reality before the year is over.

On the local levels, senates of priests and parish and diocesan pastoral councils are already functioning and sharing wholeheartedly the burden of attending to the problems of their communities.  One general and persistent problem in many areas of the Philippines is that of the Church fees (arancel).  So far, despite continuing experimentation, no satisfactory solution has yet been found.  What other workable manner of support is there whereby the clergy can be provided with the means to meet the many demands of their ministry to the People of God?  This is a question that must be answered by each community in a climate of co-responsibility.

Conclusion .  The memory of Pope Paul’s visit to our shores a few months ago is indelibly impressed in the minds of all of us.  The theme of his pilgrimage was peace and development, and the Asian Bishops, gathered in Manila for the occasion, rallied with force and energy to the challenge of that theme.  They forged together, in an atmosphere of fraternal collegiality, a stirring message of hope for all of Asia in which they vowed to work for integral human development–a truly evangelical commitment.  It is this message that has spurred us on in this meeting in Baguio and we pass it on to you to incarnate in your lives.

In closing, we wish to remind you that this year we celebrate the 450th anniversary of the First Mass in the Philippines on the island of Limasawa.  That was the glorious beginning of our Christianity.  Let us celebrate it then with joy and thanksgiving, yes, but more importantly, with unflinching hope that with God’s grace we will, indeed, become finally one people and, above all, a truly Christian people.

For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:

(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO, D.D.
Archbishop of Caceres
President

February 20, 1971

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