Post Papal Visit Statement of the CBCP President

From euphoria to reality! This will be the mood after the papal visit. How long will the glow last? The media are still in a religious-reflective mood; but maybe not for long. Already there are controversies simmering in the media pot, the Malacañang-bishops tiff for example, revived, they said by the rather “inappropriate” reference of the President to the bishops who criticized him while keeping quiet about the past administration’s questionable actions. There is the all too trivial “bashing” of the priest-emcee at the pre- and post- Mass event at the Luneta, who was called a barker by netizens, when the poor priest had been seen clearly as merely performing the heroic task of “ministering” to the waiting crowds, all on their toes and later on pelted by the rain.

The focus is being turned towards the surface and not the substance. As expected there were much interest on what the Pope ate; the type of chairs he sat on; the vestments he wore; the vehicles he rode in. Clearly the Holy Father was not paying attention to all that. All he wanted was to be nourished so he would have the strength and energy for the demands of the events, and to have the proper transport for his interaction with the people lined up in the streets that he passed by. He even wore a plastic raincoat over his vestments!

Of course we are greatly grateful for the media for a very comprehensive coverage of the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis, with many TV stations preempting shows so that the papal events could be shown live. Their efforts to provide in-depth and substantial commentary from Church experts were very commendable. Throughout the five days of the visit the media performed their task with professionalism, and in most cases, with enthusiasm and heartfelt emotion.

We have seen the people in the streets; everywhere the Pope turned he saw multitudes of people, the children, the elderly, the families, young men and women, even the disabled. They happily cheered, clapped their hands, waved their handkerchiefs or bandanas, raised their children, and shrieked, and cried.

The Holy Father spoke to us with his heart, in his beloved language. In the following days we will collate all these words in very readable form and send them out to all parishes, schools and communities, where, led by their pastors, the faithful can reflect on them as a community or with their families and friends. For example, what does it mean to “cry”; to be open to surprises; to love; to dream; to have no words to say; to be silent?

We will encourage that from their reflection they come up with “actions”. Pope Francis was very emphatic, he would often say, to priests at the Cathedral, and to the people in other events, “act!” “Acts” are important he said.

Our beloved Pope Francis also constantly asked us, “Pray for me.” We all promised to pray for him, but in the days and weeks ahead we will pray as the Church of the Philippines, through this prayer for Pope Francis, that we will request to be prayed in all Masses in all parishes, shrines, chaplaincies, communities and schools. Individuals can pray them by themselves as their own fulfillment of their promise of prayer for Pope Francis.

The glow will fade slowly in the media, especially in the social media (where millions of selfies have sprouted!). But if we continue to reflect on the words he left us, if we continue to etch in our memory his loving smile, his tender of selfies embrace for the children, the sick, the elderly, the destitute; if we continue to act on his words, the glow will ever remain in our hearts, giving us the joy, the hope, the faith and the peace that comes from Jesus, our Lord, whom he brought to us in those five glorious, grace-filled, joyful, jubilant, ecstatic days in January.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, January 22, 2015

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

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