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MANILA, Dec. 4, 2013—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Sunday declared 2014 as the Year of the Laity to emphasize the role played by the Catholic faithful in the “sanctification and transformation of the world.”
In its pastoral exhortation “Filipino Catholic Laity: Called to be Saints…Sent Forth as Heroes,” the bishops’ collegial body stressed the need to empower the laity, noting that the political upheavals faced by the country may be caused by the evident disconnection between the faith they profess and actions they commit.
“It is certainly a shameful proof of our failure to evangelize our country that our churches are filled with people, our religious festivities are fervent, our Catholic schools are many, but our country is mired in poverty and in corruption,” the CBCP said.
“Many, perhaps the majority of the corrupt people in politics and in business are graduates of our own Catholic schools and are “practicing” Catholics. The majority of those who cheat in elections and those who sell their votes are also baptized Catholics. This is also true of the bribe takers in public offices and the looters of our public coffers,” it added.
“The criteria for decisions taken by many in politics do not derive from faith but from other sources inimical to the Christian life. The poison of the greed for power and wealth has already pervaded the political and business systems,” it said.
Noting the “systemic” corruption destroying the country’s political and economic landscapes, the bishops urged the faithful to “unite in groups which through prayer, discernment and concerted action will renew the social and political fabric of our country.”
“Individual goodness is not sufficient anymore. The good individual will only be swallowed up by the evil system. While individual witness is important, it is in unity that good Christian people will get their strength and attain victory,” they said.
Greatness of dignity
Despite the seeming disconnection between the faith and action of many, the CBCP lauded the faith exhibited by Filipinos, especially when faced with devastating calamities.
“The first and most important truth about you Filipino Catholic laity is not poverty but the greatness of your dignity. This dignity derives from God’s unmerited choice of you to belong to God’s holy people,” it said.
“The devastation that typhoon Yolanda brought upon our brothers and sisters in Samar and Leyte has created surges of pain and anguish all over our land and even beyond our shores. The typhoon left us dazed and lost, groping in the dark for answers and explanation,” the bishops said, describing the situation of the Catholic laity as the “paradox of poverty and abundance.”
“Your membership in the Church is a full membership. You belong to the Church as much as any pope, bishop, priest, or religious does. You are not second class members of the people of God. When you live the life of grace, you are full citizens of God’s kingdom on earth,” they added.
Need for ‘integral faith’
The 120-strong CBCP stressed the role of the laity to transform the world and bring Christ’s kingdom into it through penetrating the different straits of society where they participate.
“Your own specific task, and the special responsibility given to you by the Lord is to find your own sanctification in the world, and to sanctify the world and transform it so that this world becomes more and more God’s world, God’s kingdom, where his will is done as it is in heaven,” they said.
“You must go into the world of the family, of business, of economics, of politics, of education, of the mass media and the social media, to every human endeavor where the future of humanity and the world are at stake and to make a difference,” they added, noting the words of the Supreme Pontiff.
The bishops also noted the importance of living one’s faith, stressing that it is only through an “integral faith” that systemic concerns hounding the country may be resolved.
They called on the faithful to strengthen their faith through reading the good news, seeking recourse to the sacraments, and contributing to the mission of new evangelization through their own simple means.
“We urge you to promote a continuing education towards maturity of faith among our people, starting with our Christian families. But even more importantly, we ask you to make your faith bear on your day to day decisions and activities,” the bishops noted. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)