A Pastoral Statement
of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
Beloved People of God
“Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:3).
We write you once more during this hour of crisis, of transition for our nation, in order to guide and give hope, to strengthen and encourage.
We continue to long anxiously for a just and lasting peace. This hope was at the root of the dramatic change that overtook our country in February 1986. It motivated those who labored to draft a new Constitution, a covenant for peace. It has been the impulse for our political leaders to begin repealing repressive decrees, instituting changes in the government, and working out a ceasefire with rebels so that peace would finally have a chance, and end 17 long years of bloodletting.
But there are those who make it difficult for us to have peace, those who strive to sabotage the efforts towards peace, and wish to destabilize the present government. There are those who continue to believe that only through violence can radical change be possible. These various forces constantly exert such pressure as to make it well nigh impossible for trust to be built and for serene and rational conversation to take place among contending parties.
Rumors of war and coup d’etat, threats of violence and reports of massacres, continuing taxation by rebels and bandits, terrorism, warlordism and extortion make justice and peace-making extremely difficult agenda. The web of graft and corruption that has so long bedeviled our national life has not been swept away. The plight of the poor, of farmers and workers, of the ordinary person has yet to find substantive resolution.
Requirements of Peace
A just and lasting peace, we realize, is not the fruit of four days of people power nor of seventeen years of revolution. It is not the work of one leader no matter how respected, how sincere and peace loving.
Peace is the fruit of justice (cf. Is. 32:17; Jos. 3:18) patiently, consistently, and unceasingly pursued. It is the work of everyone.
The task of forging a just and lasting peace is as delicate as that of nourishing love between persons. It requires the building of trust upon trust, the healing of wounds, the humbling of oneself for the sake of the other, the respect for the other’s dignity, the sacrifice of narrower interests for the broad interests of the common good. For peace is not simply the cessation of conflict and hostilities, though this is necessary.
Peace is from the heart. We cannot build peace by way of force and violence nor by way of manipulation and deception — and injustice.
Peace has to be built on the values of the Kingdom of God, on Gospel values and on the authentically human values of justice and truth, of freedom and love. It is only on such a foundation that we can build genuine and lasting peace. That is likewise the only environment in which peace can flourish.
Therefore in the light of the Gospel values that are so necessary for all who strive for true and lasting peace, we as pastors declare the following shared convictions:
- We believe that to work for peace, we must seek justice by working towards effective land reform. We call on the government to work out soon, and in dialogue with all affected sectors, short-term and long-term responses to the clamor of farmers.
- We denounce extremists in any political camp who, in relation to the draft Constitution of the Philippines and the coming plebiscite, attempt to sabotage the efforts towards peace, violate freedom of conscience by threats, acts of violence and of disinformation.
- We deplore the violence at Mendiola on January 22, 1987. We deeply sympathize with the families of the victims and support the initiatives of government and the concern of citizens to uncover responsibility for the tragic event. The senseless destruction of human life, already in itself abhorrent, is, in the context of peace initiatives, an objectively destabilizing factor. And so would any concerted mass action that is manipulated to provoke violence.
- We urge the principle of rational and sincere dialogue between brothers as the way of peace at all times. Demonstrations, rallies and other mass actions must themselves be forms of dialogue and lead to further dialogue.
- In order to dissipate the confusion among people, we wish publicly to say now what we have in the past directed only to those involved. We believe and teach that it is inconsistent with the Gospel values for lay faithful, priests, religious brothers and sisters, seminarians and church workers to support or join organizations or movements that espouse violence as the road to social transformation, that promote and intensify class struggle, instrumentalize the faith and religious symbols; exploit or manipulate pastoral and religious resources and activities, and in effect, make deception a value in furthering their objectives. These we believe, are not the way of evangelical truth, justice, and peace.
- Priests, religious brothers and sisters, seminarians and church workers, involved in such activities are urged to refrain from leadership roles which identify them with the Church. The faithful will recognize that those who engage in the aforementioned activities do not act according to the Church’s mind and with her support. We hereby also reiterate the condemnation, already made by the Church on previous occasions, of ideologies that profess either atheistic communism or liberal (materialistic) capitalism.
- We believe that genuine social transformation can, indeed, take place even without violence, if we truly follow the way of justice and peace. This, we Filipinos, have shown at EDSA. For this reason, we express once more our commitment to work for that transformation through our various pastoral and social programs, to side with the poor by assisting them towards integral liberation and condemning whatever oppresses them.
Conclusion: The Eucharist as Peace
As we see the magnitude of the problems before us, we are strengthened and encouraged by our faith in the Lord. “He is our Peace”. (Eph. 2:14)
The “great peacemaking act” of the Lord was his sacrifice on the cross through which we have become his brothers and sisters. Peace is now possible (cf. John Paul II, Homily at Quezon City Memorial Circle, Feb. 19, 1981). We believe that in the Eucharist “we re-present to the Father the sacrifice of His Son and we receive in return the gift of reconciliation and peace–the gift of Jesus Himself. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, communicates Himself and becomes our peace” (Ibid.).
The Lord is bidding us in this National Eucharistic Year to work for justice and peace. He is bidding us to live the peace we have received, to proclaim and communicate it to our nation in travail so that we may, indeed, be One Bread, One Body, One People.
May the Eucharistic Lord quench our thirst for justice and bless our efforts for peace.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(SGD.)RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL
Archbishop of Cebu
January 26, 1987
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