A Statement of the
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” (Lk 3:4)
At no time in our country’s recent history has this Advent cry been more poignant and imperative. The publication of our 1983 Pastoral Letter, Dialogue for Peace, calling for discernment on the root causes of social unrest, the conclusion of the 1983 Synod of the World’s Bishop’s in Rome on Reconciliation and Penance, the Feast of Christ the King, whose kingdom is one of Love and Justice–these ecclesial events gain greater significance in the light of our massive social and political unrest.
Many events have pushed our country closer to the brink of chaos and anarchy. Among these events are numerous unexplained killings, the heinous crime of assassination at the Manila International airport, the worsening economic insecurities brought about inflation and devaluation, the widespread clamor for justice dramatized by all sectors of our society through rallies, demonstrations and strikes.
2. The Task of the Church — Reconciliation
Yet we believe that in the mysterious ways of God the movement towards national reconciliation that tragedy has given birth to is a providential grace from God, the Lord of our history.
The whole believing community must never cease being a prophet of reconciliation. We rejoice that the laity has taken the initiative in the socio-economic and political sphere.
As Church leaders, we address ourselves to the issues facing the process of reconciliation. We are firmly convinced that the moral and religious dimensions are the sphere proper to our teaching.
Sharing “in the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties” (GS 1) of the flock, as the Lord did, we continue to announce the Gospel in the light of our existential situation.
We reiterate the need for reconciliation as an alternative to the continuance of present injustice and violence which would put brother against brother in a bloodbath of revolution where the Gospel ethic of love would undeniably be sacrificed.
3. The Evangelical Bases of Reconciliation and the Issues
For us, the plan of God “is that we should live as one family in justice, truth, freedom and love” (Message of the Synod of Bishops, 1983). These are the underlying values of reconciliation–values of God’s reign that we are called to realize ever more fully in our midst.
True reconciliation can take place only in truth, sincerity, freedom and justice. To the extent that these values are not realized in our society, reconciliation would only be a shallow veneer.
Hence, in the dialogue towards genuine reconciliation, first of all, there can be no room for deceptive propaganda and lies. The situation calls for the full exercise of freedom for media and communication.
Secondly, our people’s basic human and political rights as guaranteed by our Constitution must be respected. Any political compromise to the contrary would be self-destructive of the common good.
Thirdly, with the freedom to dissent there must be openness to listen and understand our people’s problems and honest sincerity in effecting needed reforms.
Following these general principles based on the Gospel values of freedom, truth and justice, we especially urge the restoration of the writ of habeas corpus, a repeal of repressive decrees violative of due process and our basic rights. We echo the call for open and honest elections. We ask for a constitutional solution to the issue of presidential succession and an end to graft and corruption which have eroded the credibility of government.
In all these, we ask only that the common good of 50 million Filipinos be placed above the petty and narrow interests of any political family or party.
It is for all of us and for our integral liberation that the Lord Himself gave up His life.
4. Love and Genuine Reconciliation
If genuine reconciliation requires truth, freedom, and justice, it demands above all the Gospel force of love. Love is at once the motivating force and the objective of authentic reconciliation. It is love that prepares the way of the Lord, makes straight His path into the human heart and into the heart of society. It is love that impels true conversion of heart, the transformation of selfish self into the self for others, of a sinful society with its unjust structures into one that is truly a servant of the people.
For at the root of division, deception, and deprivation is sin, both personal and social. And love is God’s healing, transforming and redeeming grace.
5. Challenge and Call
Because we believe in the Gospel values of truth, freedom, justice and love, we call for a return to these values. Without them we are neither true believers nor disciples of the Lord.
We ask those in mass media to be conscious of their dignity as disseminators of truth and so fulfill their duty in accordance with the dictates of a properly formed conscience.
We ask those in charge of elections not to intimidate or exert force on public school teachers and others entrusted with the electoral polls in violation of their duty to respect and uphold the integrity of our people’s ballots.
We call upon the military and para-military forces to demonstrate that their loyalty is not to any individual, nor to itself as an institution, but to the Filipino people and to accept fully the principle of civilian supremacy at all levels of political and economic life.
We call upon Christians who believe in armed revolution to consider their option against the unique demands of gospel love and the deepest feelings of the greater majority of our countrymen who yearn for a peaceful and non-violent solution to the problems of our country.
We call for the austerity and simplicity of life that is demanded by the Gospel, for a true poverty of spirit, for repentance and effective conversion.
We call for the social transformation required by authentic reconciliation with God and with one another. We call for a genuine listening and responding to the needs of our people.
We echo the Message of the recent Synod of Bishops: “We may have the will to achieve change of heart but not the power. We call on those who have the power to summon up the necessary will to give a more just and peaceful society.”
Finally, appropriate at the beginning of Advent, let us redouble our prayers and practices of penance and mortification, for reconciliation is principally an action of grace and a response of man.
It is our hope that as we re-consecrate our people to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the coming Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Lord may answer our prayers through her intercession for a reconciliation based on truth, freedom, justice and love.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+ANTONIO Ll. MABUTAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 1983
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