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A Pastoral Letter on AIDS

None  of  us  lives  for  himself,  and  no one dies for oneself (Rom. 14:7-8).  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer  with it…  You  are Christ’s  body, and individually parts of  it (1 Cor. 12:26-27).

Our dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

The words of St. Paul strongly remind us that we are responsible for one another.  They reverberate in the declaration of Vatican II:  “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the peoples of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well”  (On the Church in the Modern World, no. 1).  More recently the words are echoed by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in its clarion call for solidarity (PCP-II Acts and Decrees, e.g. no. 295).

Today, the call for mutual caring and solidarity is more urgent than ever as we Filipinos face a threat of potentially more catastrophic proportions than volcanic eruptions, floods, and conflicts.  The name of this threat — the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — or HIV-AIDS for short.

The AIDS Situation:  A Pandemic

First identified in 1981, the dread disease has swiftly spread in the space of less than ten years to every continent of the world.  It is truly a pandemic, ravaging millions of lives, the lives of those infected, of their families and other loved ones as well.  It cuts across all geographical and cultural boundaries, all classes and ages, although the young generations are particularly hit.

While statistics from 1984 to October, 1992 tell us that in the Philippines only 356 had been diagnosed as HIV infected, including 84 AIDS cases, health officials believe that the actual number is hidden behind fear of exposure and ostracism, stigma and shame.

AIDS is transmissible by exposure to HIV-infected blood through transfusions, administration of blood products, organ transplants from infected donors, use of unsterilized, HIV-contaminated needles and other equipment by drug users and in health care facilities.  It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn  child.

But the most common means of transmission is through promiscuous sexual behavior.

To date, no known vaccine or cure is available to combat the disease.  Those who are infected with HIV will remain infected for life.  Although they may live for many years without symptoms, they will eventually develop serious illnesses which will lead to death.  The grim image of the Apocalypse comes almost inexorably to mind:  “I looked, and there was a pale greeen horse.  Its rider was named Death”  (Rev. 6:8).

Moral Reflection and Response

It is clear that the situation demands the pastoral care of the Church.  For the Church must continue the mission of Jesus.  In announcing the Good News of salvation, in healing the sick, in forgiving sinners, in being compassionate with the multitudes, Jesus showed what the Church must do.  God’s people must be at the side of those who suffer.  Especially for the needy and the suffering of today, the Church must be the Compassion of Jesus.

Our ministry of compassion for the afflicted must overcome fears and prejudices.  Jesus has shown us the way, through the manner in which he dealt with lepers, the ostracized and “untouchables” of his time.  “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I do will it.  Be made clean”  (Mk. 1:41).

For us, an encounter with people infected with HIV-AIDS should be a moment of grace–an opportunity for us to be Christ’s compassionate presence to them as well as to experience His presence in them.

  1. Our  first attitude must be to serve and minister.  Those who contract HIV-AIDS,  whether by accident or by consequence of their own actions, carry with them a heavy burden:  social stigmatization, ostracism, and  condemnation.  Let  us reach out to them, welcome them, serve them, as Jesus did the sick of his time.  To attend to their pain is to attend to  the  whole Mystical Body, to attend to Christ Himself who is the Head.  If there has been any moral responsibility, we must be ready to  say, as  Jesus  to  the  sinner:  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, from now on do not sin anymore”  (Jn. 8:11).
  2. To help stem the spread of this dread disease, we as a Church must collaborate with other social agencies in providing factual education about HIV-AIDS.  So extensive is the popular ignorance about the disease as to encourage an irresponsible, cavalier and casual attitude to sexual relationships.  And too many  are  the  myths  surrounding it as to prevent effective pastoral care for those afflicted.
  3. Most of all, we need to recognize the moral dimension of the disease.  Though  medically  the  cause  of the disease can be identified as  a  virus,  our  faith  tells us  that  its  cause  and solution go beyond the physical.We cannot ignore the possibility that through this pandemic the  loving Lord may be calling us, his children, to profound renewal  and  conversion:   “for  whom   the  Lord  loves,   he disciplines; he scourges every son  he  acknowledges”  (Heb. 12:6;  cf.  1  Cor.  11:32;  Prov.  3:11-12).  HIV-AIDS  and  other calamities that visit us are not necessarily the punishment of a loving and forgiving God for our personal or collective sins.  But we know that Nature itself has often its own unremitting laws of reward and retribution with regard to actions we take, freely or not.
  4. The  moral dimension of the problem of HIV-AIDS urges us to take  a  sharply negative view of the condom-distribution approach to the problem.  We  believe  that  this  approach is simplistic and evasive.  It leads to a false sense of complacency on the part of the State, creating an impression that an  adequate  solution  has been arrived at.  On the contrary, it simply evades and neglects the heart of the solution, namely, the formation of authentic sexual values.
  5. Moreover,  it  seeks  to  escape the consequences of immoral behavior   without   intending  to   change  the  questionable behavior itself.  The “safe-sex” proposal would be tantamount to condoning promiscuity and sexual permissiveness and to fostering indifference to the moral demand as long as negative social and pathological consequences can be avoided.

Furthermore,  given  the  trend  of  the  government’s family planning program, we have a well-founded anxiety that the drive to promote  the  acceptability  of  condom  use  for  the prevention  of  HIV-AIDS  infection  is  part  of  the  drive to promote the acceptability of condom use for the contraception.

For the above reasons we strongly reprobate media advertisements  that  lure  people  with  the idea of so-called safe-sex, through   condom-use.    As   in  contraception,   so   also   in preventing HIV-AIDS infection condom use is not a  failsafe approach.

  1. We cannot emphasize enough the necessity of holding on to our  moral  beliefs  regarding love and human sexuality and faithfully putting them  into  practice.  All  these,  in order to prevent the spread of the disease and to provide the foundations for effective and compassionate pastoral care for those afflicted.

Among these moral beliefs is the beauty, mystery and sacredness of God’s  gift of human love.  It reflects the very love of God, faithful, and life-giving.  This  marvelous gift  is  also a tremendous responsibility.  For sexual love must be faithful, not promiscuous.  It must be  committed,  open  to  life,  life-long and not casual.  This is why the full sexual expression of human love is reserved to husband and wife within marriage.

Monogamous fidelity and chastity within marriage–these are ethical  demands,  flowing  from human love as gift and responsibility for the married.

As  for  all  those  who  are  not married, we will not cease enjoining fidelity to the  same  moral  beliefs.   Our  secularistic era may scoff at  them  as old-fashioned.  But modernity and its worldly  values  do not abolish the continuing validity of St. Paul’s  words — “Your  life  is hidden with Christ in God…  Put to death then, the parts of you that are earthly:  immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” (Col. 3:3-5).

When  one lives by faith, as all followers of Christ must, one is convinced that chastity and the refusal to engage in extra-marital  sexual activity are the best  protection against HIV-AIDS.

To our beloved Priests, Religious and other Faithful who have committed themselves to a life of celibacy, we say:  You are a sign for others that chastity lived  for  the  Kingdom  of God and  a  well  integrated  and ordered sexualities are not only possible but are actually being lived.

  1. In  the  face of  the  rapidly  spreading scourge of HIV-AIDS, we cannot overstate the need for a profound moral renewal of our people.  This was the call of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines for the transformation  of our society (PCP-II Acts and Decrees, e.g. no. 32).  This, too, is  our call for the radical prevention of the HIV-AIDS disease.  Nothing short of this can effectively respond to the deep-rooted moral cause of the problem.  It is at depth a  moral  issue.  We  must  not, therefore, forget  the  absolute  imperative of moral renewal, while continuing to search for the medical solution.


We invite all persons of good will to be in solidarity with HIV-AIDS patients.  They are our sisters and brothers.  We see in their faces the suffering image of Jesus himself:  What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me (cf. Mt. 25:40).

As we minister to the afflicted, we proclaim to all the infinite compassion of God and the redeeming passion and death of Christ, the Savior of all.

May our Blessed Virgin Mary whom we invoke as Mother, “Health of the sick” and “Comfort of the afflicted” accompany us through this passion of modern times.

For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the  Philippine

Bishop of Butuan
President, CBCP

Tagaytay City
January 23, 1993

Back to: CBCP Documents


The kidnapping of innocent persons is one of the most disturbing facts of the present times, and one that has done incalculable harm not only to individuals but to the whole country.  Hardly a day passes by without news of some kidnapping.  Victims vary — children, adults, Chinese, Filipinos, Americans, and now Spanish nationals, married people, religious priests, sisters or a brother.  Places vary:   urban and rural areas, crowded streets and beaches.  The only unvarying element is the demand for ransom money in exchange for the safe return of the victims.

Sometimes kidnappings happen in broad daylight, in crowded places, in open defiance of the law enforcers who more often than not are exposed as incapable of retrieving safely the victims.  Worse even, many people have lost their trust in the law enforcers who have been entrusted with the duty to protect them but who are suspected to be in connivance with the kidnappers.

We condemn unreservedly these kidnappings even as we sympathize with the victims and their families and beg the Lord to touch the hearts of the kidnappers.

We appeal to the kidnappers:  “Release your victims.  Mend your ways.  Kidnapping is a despicable crime, a violation of the human dignity of the victims, a traffic in human beings, robbery of the first magnitude.  It causes untold anguish to the victims and their families.  It sabotages our economy and destabilizes society.  You will pay dearly for this crime.  You may evade the police but not the justice of God.  ‘Vengeance is mine’ (Rom. 12:19), says the Lord.  It will be terrible for you to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).”

We appeal to our government authorities to do all in their power to render our society safe from kidnappers and other disturbers of the peace.  We ask for more effective enforcement of the law and a speedy execution of justice, especially in kidnapping cases.  We ask for the full protection of witnesses so that they may not fear to come forward.  We also ask that all efforts be made to restore the confidence of the people in the integrity and capability of our law enforcers.  To this end we ask that resolute action be done to weed out and prosecute those suspected of masterminding or protecting kidnappers.

We appeal to our law enforcers in the PNP and in the military:  “Cleanse your ranks of kidnappers accomplices or masterminds and improve your own competence in dealing with kidnappers.  No one can restore the confidence of the people in you if you do not do so yourselves.”

We appeal to the different insurgent groups to exert their influence on members of their groups or of other armed groups in order to stop kidnappings and to obtain the release of kidnap victims.  Such action will certainly contribute to the atmosphere of trust necessary for peace-building.

And we appeal to you, our fellow citizens.  Immediately report any kidnappings you may know of and any details which can lead to the speedy arrest and conviction of kidnappers.  By common action with others, express your indignation against all kidnappings.  And pray that our society will be cleansed of this scourge.  Kidnappers are the instruments of evil powers greater than themselves which can be overcome only by prayer and penance.

While we sympathize with the victims of kidnappers and with their families, we wish to point out that the payment of ransom encourages further kidnappings.

Let us implore our Almighty Father who loves us to save from harm all His children and to mete out justice to all kidnappers.

May Mary Help of Christians obtain from her Son, Jesus Christ our Savior, solace and hope for the families of kidnapping victims and the grace of security and peace for all of us.

For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,

Bishop of Butuan
President, CBCP

January 25, 1993
Tagaytay City

Back to: CBCP Documents

Dearly beloved countrymen:

Peace be with you all!

We are fully aware that as we wish you peace, there is no peace in our land.  That is why we pray for this peace upon you and upon us all.

Even as we write to you, the armed conflict between the government and insurgent groups continues.  Political factions and feuding families engage in their own wars of attrition.  Added to this are the almost daily reports of kidnappings for ransom, and crimes of unimaginable cruelty.  The words of the prophet Jeremiah ring true today:  “We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead”  (Jer. 14:19).

But some bright rays of hope have shone on the horizon.  The National Unification Commission established by the President of the Republic has succeeded in making contacts of varying degrees with different rebel groups.

We express our whole-hearted support for the work and impartiality of this commission.

We now feel there is real hope for the cessation of hostilities at least in some fronts.

We must nurture this hope.  We must decide for peace, work for peace together as Filipinos.

In a way we have no other choice but this if we want to survive as a nation and progress as a people.  Either peace, or we perish.

For without peace we cannot remain as one.  Without peace we will continue to be left behind by our neighbors who are making giant strides on the way to economic progress.  Peace is the most important element of the common good, which is the good of each one and of all.

Because of this, peace must also be the work of all.  No one is exempted from making peace.  Each one and all together must be peace-makers.

The peace we must work for is not only the cessation of armed conflict.  The parties in the peace discussions being conducted by the National Unification Commission are convinced that even if the present protagonists were to stop fighting today, other armed conflicts would arise unless the more fundamental issues of poverty and injustice, the inequitable distribution of wealth, and the abuse of power, are addressed radically.  Pope John Paul II is certainly correct when he tells us, “If you want peace, reach out to the poor”  (Message on the World Day of Prayer for Peace, January 1, 1993).

Only all of us together can address these issues and the armed conflicts they spawn.  Peace cannot be the work only of the conflicting parties but must be the work of all of us.  In the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines we on our part directed the concrete implementation of the 10-point Agenda for Peace elaborated in our Pastoral Letter, “Seek Peace, Pursue It” (January, 1990).

But now we ask you:

  1. Let us singly or in assemblies make known clearly and loudly to the  conflicting parties our collective desire that all armed conflicts  should  stop,  and  that  negotiation s for  peace  be carried out at the  dialogue  table.  Let  us  shout:  “No  more armed conflicts!  No more!”
  2. Let all armed groups who have not done so yet come forward to  the  negotiating  table  with  sole motive of doing what is good for our own people and for peace, forgetting their own vested interests.
  3. Let each person respect the right of every other human being be  he  employee  or  employer, worker or capitalist, tiller or landowner, poor or rich, female or male, child or adult.  Let none do to another what one would not want done to oneself.
  4. Let  everyone  do  his/her  duty as a citizen and observe the just laws of the land from  obeying  traffic  signal s to paying correct taxes. Let each one ask, “What can I do for my country?”
  5. Let  everyone  who  is  invited  participate  in  the   different provincial or regional consultations sponsored by  the NUC in order to make known to the NUC and all conflicting parties the genuine mind of the people regarding the things that make for peace.  We ask the convenors of these assemblies to make a special effort to obtain the participation of the voiceless and the powerless in our society.  We pledge to  do  our  share  to make these assemblies real fora for knowing the people’s mind and for achieving consensus.
  6. Let all those who cannot participate directly in these assemblies make their opinions known either to the participants or to the NUC directly.
  7. We ask all persons in authority and in government to create an ambience of peace by disinterested  and competent service of the people’s genuine  interests, and to courageously resist those who work  against the common good.  Peace will go a long way if the government agencies simply carry out  their duties with  competence and honesty, and if government officials and personnel resist temptations to graft and corruption.

But most important, let us all pray for peace, singly in our hearts, and together in our homes, churches and public assemblies.  Peace is God’s gift to us even before it is our task.  He wants to give it to us.  We open our hearts to this gift of peace in prayer.  Let us all pray for peace.  A people at prayer will be a people at peace.

We must add to prayer acts of penance for peace especially during this coming Lenten season.

This prayer and acts of penance will be both a sign and an incentive of that fundamental turning to God without which there can be no peace.  All human conflicts begin with the turning away from God in the hearts of persons.  Peace begins with turning to God in those same hearts.  Hence, our Lord Jesus summons us, “The time has come and the Kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent, and believe the Good News!”  (Mk. 1:15) Repent:  “Magbalik-loob kayo sa Diyos at gawin ninyo and kalooban ng Diyos!”  For in God’s will is our peace.

We have the Lord’s assurance:  “…  then if my people who bear my name humbled themselves, and pray and seek my presence and turn from their wicked ways, I myself will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and  restore their land”  (2 Chronicles 7:14).

May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, “give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, and… guide our feet into the way of peace”  (Lk. 1:79).  May Mary, His Mother, Queen of Peace, obtain this most precious grace for us.

For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,

Bishop of Butuan
President, CBCP

Tagaytay City
January 25, 1993

Back to: CBCP Documents

A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’
Conference of the Philippines

Peace will be but an empty sounding word unless it is founded on truth, built according to justice, vivified and integrated by charity, and put into practice in freedom (Pacem in Terris, 167).

Beloved People of God:

When set in the context of our current situation, the above words written 30 years ago at Easter, 1963, by Pope John XXIII are words that both convict and inpire.  They convict because the very absence of peace in our day implies the lack, too, of the values that make for peace:  order, truth, justice, love and freedom.  But those same words stir our hope.  We need not look far and wide for the road to peace.  The directions are there–in the very practice of those same components of peace.  How easily said, how terribly difficult to do, and live!

Yet constantly, unceasingly, mightily must we “seek peace and pursue it”  (Ps 34:24; 1 Pt. 3:11; cf. our pastoral letter of January 31, 1990).  Peace is the cry and anguish of our people.  It is also the prayer-greeting of the Risen Lord:  “Peace be with you”  (Lk. 24:36).

Although we have written you many times in the past about peace (e.g. pastoral statements of November 21, 1986; January 26, 1987; pastoral letter of January 31, 1990), still we must continue exhorting you, beloved People of God, that we might work together towards peace in our times.  Together then, let us reflect, pray, and act on “the things that make for peace” (Lk. 19:42).

Order.  It was the great St. Augustine who first defined peace as the “tranquility of order” (De Civitate Dei , XIX, 13).  How true this is!  There can be no tranquility when there is disquiet, unrest, confusion, disharmony.  And there can be no order unless there is authority, law, obedience to it, discipline.

And yet we read everyday in our newspapers reports that seem to describe, not order, but anarchy:  kidnappings, massacres, the involvement of  “peace officers” in serious, even violent crimes.  Our people cry out, “If such is the case, who can keep the peace?  Who can enforce law and order?”

Again and again, we must say that keeping the law and observing order are the responsibility of each and everyone of us.  We are not dispensed from this obligation, simply because there are police and military officers whose professional work is precisely to defend and promote law and order.  Still it is this very responsibility that makes it doubly damnable when the violators are themselves officers of law and order.  To them we proclaim the words of the Lord:  “Repent and believe in the Gospel!”  (Mk. 1:15).

Truth .  The order on which peace is to be founded cannot itself be founded on a lie, on untruth.  Order must be built on truth.  “Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace…”  Zech. 8:16).  Otherwise order will collapse, it will disintegrate.  And a most fundamental truth is about the human person:  human dignity, human worth, the human imaging of God who is Truth.

Yet we look around us, we are barraged by various offenses against human dignity and worth, such as the glorification of sex and violence in cinema and television.  Woman is degraded.  Human life is bereft of immortal value.  The truth about the human person is under siege.  We exhort you, our brothers and sisters in the Lord, to join hands in a concerted and systematic campaign to cleanse our media of such untruth.

Justice .  If to respect the truth of the human person is to honor and esteem God’s gift of dignity and worth, it follows that we must give what is due to another.  This is justice in its most fundamental sense.  There are duties to oneself, to other persons, to the community, to the nation, to God.

Yet we are appalled by the many injustices that are being committed, even more by the apparent lack of conscience with which they are perpetrated.  Services, development, rights that are due to the people are not given.  The wheels of justice turn agonizingly slowly, especially for the poor, and often not at all.  Reports tell us scams in government projects, “hoodlums in robes,” ill-gotten wealth, the looting and plunder of public coffers past and present, billions of taxes not being paid.  Such reports describe a people reeling under the weight of injustice.

It is along the lines of justice that we have to reflect on loving forgiveness and reconciliation.  Authentic love requires the exercise of justice.  When thus a person repents–has a change of heart–and resolves to restore/restitute what has been taken unduly from another, or from the community or nation, forgiveness and reconciliation follows.  Without justice love and reconciliation would simply be hollow.

Charity .  Charity is love.  There is first of all the love we must have of God.  And God himself said that love for him is shown in obeying his law (cf. 1 Jn. 5:3), in keeping his word.  But his word is also concernd about loving others as oneself, for if one hates his brother how can one say he loves God?  (cf. 1 Jn. 4:11, 20).  Love demands the kind of concern that will drive one to sacrifice self for the good of others.  “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”  (Jn. 15:13).

But, alas, what do we see around us?  A driving ambition for wealth and power at the expense of the law of God, the self-aggrandizement of the few at the expense of the many, exploitation of laborers, of farmers and tribal communities, the lack of concern for the “little people” who are already without voice and power, vendettas, kidnappings, massacres, crimes against persons and property.  The law, the love of God and neighbor are thrown by the wayside in favor of power, possession and pleasure.

A return to God and one’s neighbor is, therefore, absolutely necessary for peace to be restored.  “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (Ps. 119: 165).  Every measure taken in the achieving of peace will always fall short without the fundamental ingredient of love.

Freedom .  Peace cannot last when it has to be forever imposed and sustained by sheer force.  This is one of the dramatic and tragic lessons of the breakdown of peace in many parts of the world today.  We must, therefore, establish an order in which we freely choose the way of peace, freely do what needs doing for its attainment.

Military operations and armed insurgencies cannot establish such an order.  This is why we are led to reflect at this moment on the ongoing efforts for peace in our land.

Today’s Peace Efforts.  In the first three months of this year, a national consultation was conducted by the National Unification Commission.  The haves and the have-nots , professionals and the basic sectors, people of various  ideologies ranging from the extreme left to the extreme right all had their say.  Unprecedented in its coverage the consultations resulted in the drawing up of a truly people’s agenda for peace.  And their voices resounded as one, naming the root causes of unpeace such as povery and economic oppression, unequal power and its abuse–all traceable to a fundamental lack of truth and justice, the lack of freedom and charity.

One and all they expressed a strong desire and will for peace.  We supprt and shall foster such desire and will.  We welcome new initiatives and developments at peace-making resulting from the popular consultation.  We pray that the holding of talks between dissident groups and the government be pursued to a just and peaceful conclusion.

We shall, by the means available to us, help sustain a climate of dialogue.  We would only ask that solutions agreed on be not purely political quid pro quo compromises but always geared to the real good of the people–what makes for their peace, their development, the improvement of their living conditions.  Let the people be the “third party” to the talks, whether they are bodily present or not.  They must not be left out.

Social Pacts .  From the experience of the recent past we have learned how futile it is to create peace without people’s participation.  This is why Pope John Paul II, referring specifically to the Philippines (cf. Letter of Pope John Paul II on the eve of his birthday, 1991, to the Philippines Ambassador to the Holy See), suggested “a new forum of solidarity”:

It is surely not beyond possibility that in many countries–including the Philippines–there might be established a new forum of solidarity, a social pact as it were, between those responsible for public life, those who control the economy, those engaged in education and scientific and technological development, and other forces within society; a pact in which all would agree to work for improved conditions, but in a way that would benefit even greater numbers of their fellow-citizens by educating them for increased participation in economic and civic life.

The actual social pact arrived at in recent months has specified the Pope’s suggestion regarding “other forces of society”:  Not just government and business and the more affluent private sectors are to be brought into the pact but the basic sectors themselves as well, labor, urban poor, peasants, fisherfolk, tribal communities, such of our people as suffer from inequities of our social order.

The pact looks ultimately to the re-structuring of our political-economic system, more immediately to the redressing of wrongs and the honoring of rights.  All this by actual doing, by concerted action.

We encourage and will help promote the forging of similar pacts at all levels of society:  not only at the national, but also at the regional, the provincial, the municipal, all the way down to the barangay.

A new forum of solidarity, people coming together to bring about a new social order–it is from such a process that peace will flourish forth.  This is why Pope John Paul II is supremely confident that peace is the fruit of solidarity (cf. SRS, 39).

Christ our Peace .  No human effort, no matter how brave, sincere and well thought of, can alone achieve the peace we desire.  The making of peace is a journey that must be made with Christ.  “Christ is our peace…  that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of two, thus making peace” (Eph. 2:14-15).  This is the reason that peace making initiatives cannot do without prayer to the Lord, who himself builds the house of peace.  We, therefore, commend and continue to encourage the many groups of the faithful who have organized themselves to pray for peace.  We ask that at the parish level such groups be also organized.

But even more, we remind the whole Church to be closely united to Christ–”you will have peace by being united to me” (Jn. 16:33).  Separated from him, our efforts will be puny and futile.

United with one another, united with Christ.  Such is true people power, inspired and infused by faith.  Once in our recent history seven years ago at EDSA, in a manner that astounded the world, we demonstrated what people in solidarity can do.

Today it is a challenge that is thrown at us once again:  by our faith to our faith.  May we all rise to this challenge and be equal to it.

May God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, give us grace, mercy, and peace; may they be ours in truth and love (2 Jn. 1:3).

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

Bishop of Butuan
President, CBCP

12 July 1993
Tagaytay City

Back to: CBCP Documents

A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference
of the Philippines on the Family

To our dear Catholic Families:


The United Nations has declared 1994 as the International Year of the Family.  We welcome the event.  It provides us with an occasion to focus on the Family, to heighten our awareness of its importance for society and the Church, and to clarify the identity of marriage and the family.


In concept, we may have no hesitation about identifying marriage or the family.  It is a stable union between man and woman in view of children.  But current practices, particularly among the young, have challenged one or another of those elements.  And the United Nations has declared its openness to give recognition to a diversity of forms of “family”.

We can thank God that our people as a whole can still discern the TRUTH about family from deviations.  But a growing minority is already challenging this truth by the lifestyles they flaunt.

Let us join the Holy Father in welcoming the year with high hopes.  This year will be a year of grace for our families:  one year in an ongoing process of renewal for our families.  And we start by listening first to what GOD’S REVELATION tells us about the family, and then what NATURE says.

What revelation says

Human love is caught by divine love.  That earthly reality of the mutual love between spouses is turned into a sacrament.  So that spousal love is now moved by God’s Covenant with His people, of Christ with His Church.  In the family there is created a true church in microcosm.  Theologically, it is the family that is the basic ecclesial community.  It is the Sacrament of the Covenant that has made of the family a true Church.  The children are holy because they are children of the covenant.  This is the first church for every christian.

It is here where the first steps in faith-life are taken, where all journey together in their pilgrimage.  Is it by chance that significant religious affairs touching individuals–such as Baptism, First Communion and Weddings are also celebrated as family events?  or that major statues of Saints or of Our Lady and Our Lord, used in parish processions are owned by private families? or that some holy image in a home can create a center of devotion?  And this is what revelation says of the christian family:  it is the first church of every christian, where he/she should experience what it is to be church.

What nature says

Nature tells us that it must exercise some control over creatures if they are to survive and to propagate.  And the lower the level of the creature, the more absolute nature’s control.  The young fish, soon after their birth, are left on their own, completely guided by instinct for their survival and nurturance.  On a higher scale, young birds must be cared for and protected by their parents until they can fend for themselves.  But even with birds, instinct still regulates.

Among humans, instinct merely initiates the relations between offspring and parents.  Thereafter, there develops a freedom of choice in the action and reaction between offspring and parents.  There are sites that nature has chosen for the different events in the nurturance and maturation of new human life–from womb to breast to family to society.  We do not yet fully know the ultimate penalty for disturbing this process.  It has been said that God forgives, but Nature never!  But the most crucial in the development of  a person is the development of his/her affectivity.  The behavioral sciences tell us this.  One of the primary educative tasks of parents is the development of the affectivity in the child.

It is in the context of their affective formation that we, your Pastors, are to reflect on family-related disorders in our society.  Child abuse or spouse abuse–would they not have been facilitated by a training in competitiveness, conquest, aggressiveness, toughness but also dependency?  Those wanting in compassion:  have they ever been tender or caring in their growing years?  Formation in the earlier years can be crucial because once an adult, one can put on the face of compassion while harbouring aggression in the heart.  As a rule, in the education of the affective, the family can not be substituted for.  But for the proper education of the child in affectivity, he/she will need to see adults who are caring and tender, while yet firm and uncompromising in the values they hold.  And where might he/she find such adults if not in the family that nature had given him/her?  This is what nature says of his/her family.

As the little church is, so is the larger

It is then in the church of the home where young christians are formed to take their place later as adult christians in the larger church.  To take their part in the rites of worship for which they were prepared by the life of worship in the home;  to share in the social concerns of the larger church, for which they were prepared by the active concerns of the church in the home; to be involved in works of charity as was the lifestyle in the church of the home.

Furthermore, what the model of the Church of the home is, will have its influence in shaping the larger Church.  Was the church of the home an institution?  or largely a prophet? or a community where life and love held the primacy?  This will tell on the contribution he/she will make towards the shape that e.g. the parish will eventually take.  The key to renewal in the Church is the renewal that takes place in the church of the home.

There are two realities upon which the family is based:  Love and Life.  These two are intimately linked because lovemaking must always be open to the transmission of life.  The most persistent attacks of evil today are on these two, because it is there where the image of God is to be found.


A subtle attack on human life is the erosion of esteem for it under the guise of good.  Thus to limit your children to two–for what end?  To increase the quality of life.  It is intriguing how much acceptance that has found.  For today that  standard of only two children per family has been accepted worldwide, irrespective of conditions of life, in poverty-stricken as well as affluent societies.  What is replacing esteem for young human life is the appeal of the good life.

As against this calculation in how much love to expend, we must praise and give public recognition to parents even among the poor who manage to raise a large family responsibly.  And we are heartened to see this good news proclaimed by not a few.  The mothers are no less fulfilled as mothers.

This is not necessarily to deny material assistance to the poor.  But their stance is that of a beggar before Divine Providence.  This is the stance of the church of the poor.  And here we are affirmed by the witness of many couples.  While thinking themselves poor, they actually possess the greatest gift one can have:  to be able to love unselfishly.

Another indication that our people love children for their own sake is the readiness of couples to adopt the homeless or abandoned.  Yes, even those with straitened incomes.  And this despite the children they already have of their own.

We do not subscribe to the view that couples raise many children to serve as income supplementors.  And that once their economic situation improves, these couples will automatically opt for smaller families.  Watching children about their chore in a playful mood, e.g. fetching water for the family, we can say that they do not feel they are merely being used by their parents.  And fathers give testimonial to their love for children by the attention they themselves give to the children when in public with their wives, and in the care of family resources needed for the proper upbringing of children.


We invite you first to reflect on conjugal love.  The mutual love of husband and wife is both an institution and a mandate from the Creator for the increase of His family on earth.  Marital love is sacred in its origin and destination.

Then reflect too on the quality of love that a woman gives to family.  The womb qualifies a woman’s quality to love.  Although many women work merely to supplement family income, in urban areas at least, there is a trend for work–or career–to exert such an appeal as to begin to alienate women from their womb.  We belive that many of our women are still oriented towards motherhood.  But there is a drive–a sterilization drive–that will eventually wear away the esteem and appeal of maternity.  This drive is being pushed even in the rural areas.  How will this affect the quality of love of the women of our future families?

A renewed church

PCP II invites us to renewal in our Church.  It is calling us to join in that springtime in the universal Church that the 3rd Millennium will usher.  This is the intuition and prayer of the Holy Father.  Joyfully, we make that our own.

On what will the hope for renewal rest?  On the growing awareness by the family of its nature:  by God’s design to be the Church in microcosm, that like the Church, itself Evangelizer.  And so, the Holy Father points, evangelizing the family is at the heart of evangelization.  “Evangelization, in fact, necessarily passes through the family.”  The family itself proclaims the gospel.  And what in the gospel does it specifically proclaim?  It proclaims the very core of the entire gospel:  that GOD IS LOVE.

We can more readily accept his prediction that “as we look on the now imminent 3rd Millennium, the evangelization of families in the Dioceses will intensify”.  This is what we now see happening.

Now God will no longer be thought of as only found in “sacred places, such as the chapels and churches.  He will now also be found closer to all persons meaningfully in the churches of the homes, in the families, and in the daily realities of their lives.  And wherever, too, they extend themselves–their workplaces, markets etc.  There will no longer be purely secular realities.  All earthly realities will have a religious meaning, and offer opportunities for experiencing of the sovereignty of God’s love.

To find God in all things–His presence and His workings.  To experience His covenant with His people in the day-to-day life.  That is the gospel which the Church of the home is called upon to proclaim.  It is the entirety of the Church in the entirety of Life that is being opened to the invasion of the Holy Spirit.  Yes, let us proclaim the family this coming year, and thereafter!

A cause for alarm

We wish to register our strong and unqualified objection to actions of the government and its instrumentalities which (despite any contrary intentions) work towards the destruction of the Filipino family.

The blatant promotion of direct contraception and direct sterilization which separate the two aspects of the conjugal act–the expression of love and openness to the transmission of life–is contrary to the will of God.  Already the evils spawned by these practices have been abundantly demonstrated by the experience of many nations where contraception has met with common acceptance.  The acceptance of abortion, the breakdown of families, the encouragement of pre-marital sex, the increased incidence of sexually transmitted diseases are only some of the evil consequences.

We especially object to the promotion of contraception as an abrasive act of insensitivity to the sentiments of the majority Church whose ethical principles prohibit such practices.  This manifestation of insensitivity comes at a time when the President of the Republic is asking us to unite and work together for our countrymen’s welfare.

This insensitivity is compounded with injustice when the promotion of contraception is accompanied by undue pressure on health care workers to do acts which their conscience tells them are wrong.

We ask our people–pastors, religious and lay people alike  — to stand up in a united way for the teachings of the Church on contraception, sterilization and abortion, and to refuse to promote contraception and sterilization and abortion should they be ordered to do so by their superiors.  There are times when we must bear witness to Christ and dare to say, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29).  The government itself has said that it will not order health workers to perform acts violative of their consciences and that those who refuse to perform such actions will not in any way be punished.  We ask Catholic health workers to report to us, the bishops, violations of this standing government policy.

Structuring the apostolate

“Evangelizing the family is what we have at heart”, confesses the Holy Father.  And he insists on the central position that should be given the family apostolate in planning the activities of Dioceses and Episcopal Conferences.  And he adds, “No plan for organized pastoral work, at any level, must ever fail to take into consideration the pastoral care of the family”.  And again, “the family should therefore, be at the center of the concerns of every diocesan community, of every parish and apostolate organization”.

But importantly there must be the integration of all family-related activities into the one vision and orientation of the Diocese.  “In the Dioceses then, it would be important to establish some efficient coordinating agencies..  under the active and supportive intervention of the Bishops..”.

We applaud the many associations that are promoting family and child welfare.

The international year of the family

“The primary task then is to form the family so as to enable it to be ..  evangelizer”, aspires the Holy Father.  For our families to grow into the churches that God wants them to be.  To awaken them to the gifts they have been endowed with–of prophet:  to proclaim the gospel of love–of servant:  to witness to service of neighbor–of priest:  to sanctify their world through the sacrament of their covenant–to establish the sovereignty of love over all that they touch.  This year will be a year of grace for God’s people in the Philippines.  And this hope will rest on you, our families.

Let us on this occasion, entrust our inspirations and activities to the Holy Family for their blessing and guidance.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

Bishop of Butuan
President, CBCP

July 13, 1993
Tagaytay City

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“Stand at the crossroads and look.  Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is.  Walk  in  it, and you will live in peace.”  (Jer. 6:16)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

We are approaching a crossroads in our national history, the May 11, 1992 Elections.  For the third time, we your bishops write to you to assist you to participate responsibly in this event.  In our first letter of July 22, 1991, we urged the education of voters to enable them to vote wisely.  We denounced the politics of guns, goons, and gold.  We asked you to organize and band together to prevent election irregularities.  On November 28, 1991 we issued a second letter indicating some guidelines for the wise choice of candidates.  With the same pastoral concern which moved us to write you these first two letters, we now address you this third letter, the fruit of extensive consultation and prayerful reflection among ourselves.

Where We are Now

We see many encouraging signs in our political landscape:  the emergence of a growing number of organizations promoting voters’ education and honest elections, like:  the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPC-RV), Citizens’ Movement for Peaceful Elections (CIMPEL), People’s Election Watch (PEW), NASSA-CARE, GUTS, MAHAL ’92 and NAMFREL; the people’s enthusiastic response to these movements; a more credible COMELEC; members of the board of inspectors with proven fidelity; the PNP and AFP striving to enforce the ban on guns and bodyguards; the new awareness of the poor that God’s power is in them and that they are active agents shaping history; the increasing number of worthy people with little financial resources and not belonging to political parties who present themselves as fresh alternatives to the old politics.

We can sense the renewing breath of the Spirit of God in these and similar developments.

But there are evil winds that blow counter to the Spirit’s movements:  the persistence and worsening of the politics of pay-offs, patronage and personalities; cynicism, and apathy towads the elections; a bandwagon mentality among the voters who will vote for the likely winner rather than for the most qualified; the continuing existence of private armies and arms smuggling; the alleged threats of extortion by the NPA from candidates.

The presence of these countervailing forces reveals a deep crisis in our history.  The Lord bids us to turn this crisis into a national breakthrough.

Where We Should Go

And go we will, if we see our struggle for a renewed political order as a struggle of faith, which we personally and as Church must wage in pursuit of our Christian vocation and the Church’s mission.  We bring to this struggle deep faith-convictions.

We believe that God who in former times acted to free his people and has offered us fulness of life in the Spirit through His Son, Jesus Christ, is with us still.  He remains faithful though we have been unfaithful to Him.

Our God is present in a special way in the poor and powerless.  He who “chose the world’s lowborn and despised to reduce to nothing those who were something”  (1 Cor. 1:28) continues to do the same today.

But He will lift us up (Hos. 11:1) only if we turn to Him.  The very abject situation we are in is a call to conversion to us as individuals and as a people.  In a democracy a people gets the leaders it deserves.  The qualities of our leaders are often a reflection of our qualities as a people.  Our public officials symbolize the values of the people who elect them.  A crooked people will vote crooked candidates into office.  A  God-fearing people will vote for God-fearing candidates.  The fact that we are often reduced to a choice for a lesser of two evils among candidates is itself a telling commentary on our sad state as a people.  We have many unworthy politicians because we have tolerated and even connived with evil especially during election times.

We should turn to God.  We must repent!

Steps We Must Take

We must set our priorities aright.  Honor and dignity before money (Prov. 22:1); service before power; the common good before egoistic or small-group-centered self-interest; the nation before personal relationships and utang na loob.

From a repentant people will arise God’s gift of renewed leaders.  Then we will choose correctly the men and women whom God wishes to vest with authority (Rom. 13:1), and who will lead us out of our deplorable situation.  Our votes are an expression of our own conversion and will be decisive for our country’ s future.  A vote for good leaders will be a choice for our people’s fuller life.

Who are these persons we must choose?  It is not our task or competence as your bishops to name specifically those you must vote for.  We have, however, indicated some requisite qualities in our November 28, 1991 pastoral letter.  Other Church groups have elaborated more extensive guidelines which can also help voters make a wise choice.  But here we wish to simply point out our need to elect competent, committed leaders of integrity we can be truly proud of and whom we can present to the young as models worthy of emulation.

We appeal to the different candidates to obey the laws of God and of the land in their campaign and election activities.  We ask them not to buy votes.  Vote-buying is not only immoral, but is also an insult to the poor and retards our country’s development.  We urge them to sign a covenant committing themselves to an issue-oriented campaign and to collaborate towards free, honest and peaceful elections.

We ask the COMELEC, the PNP and AFP, the members of the board of election inspectors, and all who are called to serve in the elections to carry our their tasks with continuing fidelity and courage.  Your loyalty is to God and the People and to no one else.

We ask the NPA not obstruct the flow of the democratic process by demanding money from candidates.  Such extortion, if true, perpetuates corruption and diminishes the people’s freedom of choice.

We ask business people to support and to help fund organizations that work for meaningful, honest and peaceful elections, and even to join such organizations.

We call on all mass media practitioners to serve the truth at all times and not partisan political interests.  We ask for objectivity in reporting and fairness in commentary.  We ask them to report news and not to concoct it.

We appeal to our schools to exert efforts to guide our youth both in and out of school towards meaningful participation in the electoral process, and to make their facilities available as polling places, when needed.

We urge the different parishes and dioceses to organize as quickly as possible the PPC-RV or similar groups, and to support already existing ones.  We also urge the Church-based groups and other organizations to continue their educational and organizational activities and to establish linkages with one another.  Specifically, we urge them to list the promises of candidates and to monitor later their fulfillment or non-fulfillment.

And we ask you all, our people, to exercise unremitting effort and unflagging vigilance to make sure that your right and duty to vote is used wisely for choosing persons who seek public office, not to be served but to serve, not to secure their vested interests but to give life to the people even at the cost of personal sacrifice (Mt. 20:26-28; Lk. 22:27). If you can, volunteer to become members of the board of elections inspectors.

Do not sell your votes.  To do so is to offend God, to betray your country and to sell your dignity and future to shameless scoundrels.

To show our repentance and to obtain for our people the grace to choose wisely our public officials in free honest and orderly elections, we urge you to join us in a crusade of prayer and fasting.  The election evils of our nation can be driven out only by such means (Mk. 9:29; Mt. 17:21).  Let us conduct prayer vigils and set aside the Fridays of Lent not only as days of abstinence but also of fasting.  We ask parishes and small Christian communities to hold on May 8-10, 1992 a triduum of prayer.

Our Challenge

The coming elections are crucial to our future.  They will become what we singly and together want them to be, work and sacrifice for them to be.  They can become either another missed opportunity or the best elections we have ever had.  They can signal the first orderly and peaceful transfer of power in our country after almost thirty years, or they can trigger national instability.  They can be a giant step forward or a demoralizing setback. Let us not fail our country.  Let us be true to our best selves.  Together let us build a better future, which will be ours if we choose well our leaders. Our strength is in God and in our solidarity.

Let us heed the call of the Lord:  “Stand at the crossroads and look.  Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is.  Walk in it, and you will live in peace” (Jer. 6:16).

May the Virgin Mary who watches with maternal care over our country and whom we honor in the election month of May, obtain from her Son the grace we need to make and carry out decisions in this moment of the Lord.

In the name of the Catholic Bishops’  Conference of the Philippines,

Bishop of Butuan
President, CBCP

January 31, 1992
Tagaytay City

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Dear Fellow Filipinos:

The Peace of the Risen Christ be with you all!

The May 11 election are a crucial crossroads in our national history.  It is an historic opportunity to elect our national and local government leaders.

We can make this election a real manifestation of our maturity and unity as a people.  Even now, there are many encouraging signs that this election will be generallly peaceful and honest.

We have a very credible and hardworking COMELEC.

We have the Armed  Forces and  the Philippine National Police which  are  both committed  to the  safeguarding of the electoral process and the defense of democracy.

We have a body of dedicated  teachers and volunteers  who will constitute the Boards of Election Inspectors.

We   have  movements   like  the  Parish  Pastoral  Council  for Responsible   Voting,  NASSA VOTECARE,  MAHAL, PEW, CIMPEL,  NAMFREL,   SEMNET  and  many   more  similar organizations  with  hundreds  of  thousands  of  members  who  have volunteered themselves to educate voters and to guard the  polls.

We  have  most  especially  an  awakening  citizenry,  aware of  issues,  who want real change in our politics and who will not  allow themselves to be fooled, frightened, cheated or bought.

Never before in our history have so many positive forces converged on an election.  Though not all things may improve with this election, change has already begun.

We ask you, our dear brothers and sisters, to vote for those whom you believe God wants to put in public office.  Search for the will of God by informing yourselves about the qualifications of each candidate, and by prayer.

Vote for those whom you think are really God’s choice.  Be guided by your religious leaders but do not let them or anybody else impose their choices on you.

We have waited several years to vote for our national leaders.  Vote with dignity and freedom.  Do not dishonor yourselves or betray your country by selling your votes.  Your votes are sacred.  Guard them.

We ask the candidates and their followers:  fight fairly.  Do not buy votes, cheat, or use force.  Abide by the covenants you have signed.  We ask the winners to be magnanimous in victory and the losers to be gracious in defeat.  We ask both winners and losers to work together for the unity and progress of our people after the elections.

We ask the media to report faithfully election happenings and irregularities.  But do not concoct news or make exaggerated reports to agitate the people.  Discriminate between speculation, rumor, and fact.

We ask those who would prevent the electoral process or use its failings to disillusion our people, to think more of their country than of their ambitions.

From this electoral process, may we emerge as a unified and mature people who can live and work together despite our differences.

We commend our country to Jesus, our Saviour, the Son of Mary.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

Bishop of Butuan
President, CBCP

5 May 1992

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