Wednesday, August 1, 2007


(A Pastoral Exhortation)

From the moral standpoint, we, your Bishops, continue to express our concern over the kind of democracy that we are practicing, whether this leads us to attain the common good. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states:

    "The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of the citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate." (Centessimus Annus, #46)

Charter Change, changing our Constitution, is such a serious matter for the entire country, because it will determine the future of our people. Thus we must make the widest consultation on it for adequate information, discussion and education. That is why we disagree with the so-called "people's initiative" which appeared only as a "signature campaign" without focus on the real intention. The CBCP subscribes to the allegation that the "people's initiative" is an initiative of the ruling power, and not genuinely of the people. From the moral standpoint, it is clothed with suspicion. And so we ask: is it really for the people and the common good? We leave to our well-informed lawyers the legal arguments.

Holding a Constitutional Convention will be very expensive, as it will cost several billion pesos. But it is worth spending that much for something that is good for the greatest number. A Constitutional Convention will be a better political exercise than convening congressmen as a Constituent Assembly which is something that can easily become self-serving. The government has spent enormously to cheating and graft and corruption.

We maybe spending or losing much much more than that through government overspending and cheating and graft and corruption, which are very difficult to assess and account. If it is worth several billion pesos, it is worth spending in an honest way. A Constitutional Convention will be a better political exercise than the present powers-that-be, our Congress, making themselves a Constituent Assembly that can easily become self-serving.

It is said that the presidential form of government is a source of corruption among other things. We should ask a different question: Is it the presidential form that is the source of corruption, or the people in authority who corrupt and abuse the system? Any form of government will have its positive and negative characteristics; but the people who run the government are very crucial; they can either corrupt it or make it serve the common good. Any system or form of government in the hands of honest, just and incorruptible people will be a source of good for the governed. Will the parliamentary- unicameral form of government not be corrupted by the people who will create it?

It is in this light that we have made our position clear on Charter Change from the moral standpoint, and we reiterate it:

"Changing the Constitution, involving major shifts in the form of government, requires widespread participation, total transparency and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate. This is best done through a Constitutional Convention." (CBCP, January 2006)

Heeding the exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est that the Church "is called to contribute to the purification of reason" (# 29), we would like to ask these and similar questions to guide the discussion, discernment and debate on the charter change. Are you convinced that the Charter Change as presently presented by our governing politicians is really for the common good? Are you convinced that the "people's initiative" is genuinely the people's activity, and has its real source in the people? Do you want our legislators to convert themselves into a Constituent Assembly where they alone will rewrite our Constitution, and have it only approved by us in a plebiscite? Is it enough to say YES to Charter Change?

We are in a democracy. Should not then the citizenry be made to participate by electing their delegates to a Constitutional Convention?

These are the questions we would like our people in our dioceses and parishes to participate in answering regarding so serious a matter as Charter Change.

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

September 14, 2006



Just as not to defend truth is to suppress it, so also not to oppose what is immoral or illegal is to approve it. To neglect to fight evil when one can do it is no less a sin than to encourage it. (Pope Felix III).

This is an urgent and ardent plea addressed to our government officials from the local to the national level. It is also a straight and strong appeal to private individuals and corporate entities involved in the same serious moral issue with socio-political undertones.

Stop the Small Town Lottery or STL, please!

For those who do not know and those who refuse to admit it: STL is the legal cover-up for the illegal numbers game of jueteng. The endorsement of STL simply means the promotion of jueteng. We were well appraised that all intelligent computations mathematically show STL will not survive financially without jueteng behind it.

In fact, we are told both STL and jueteng have the same operators and collectors, the same poor victims and the same influential wealthy beneficiaries. With STL and jueteng, our poor people become poorer while the gambling payola recipients become twice enriched. STL and jueteng together is legal and illegal gambling combined. They are a dangerous and insidious pairing.

We ask: Is it not enough that there are already millions of poor people in the country? Is it not enough that there are men, women and children in the country who no longer eat what they need, when they have to? Is there not enough poverty in the country that the poor should have even less because of STL and jueteng?

It would be hard to find elected officials in the country who did not promise during elections that they would serve the poor, work for human development and attend to the common welfare. This is why it would be unconscionable for them to adopt STL and automatically allow jueteng that exploit their already poor constituencies. We pray: Would that our elected officers do not allow themselves to be instruments of poverty aggravation instead of poverty alleviation.

Even if STL is legal, does this make it necessarily moral? And when something legal as STL is paired with something illegal as jueteng, is this not in fact something illegal? And would our local and national officials dare promote any illegal operation in the country? With the adoption of STL, it would be next to impossible to stop Jueteng.

And so we make this appeal: Stop STL please! It is another cause of corruption, another means of exploitation of the poor. The country has enough of these anti-social factors. Whatever economic development our government shall have proudly achieved will be diminished or negated by the corruption and exploitation that accompany STL and jueteng.

"If corruption causes serious harm from a material point of view and places a costly burden on economic growth, still more harmful are its effects on immaterial goods, closely connected to the qualitative and human dimension of life in society. Political corruption, as the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches, 'compromises the correct functioning of the State, having a negative influence on the relationship between those who govern and the governed. It causes a growing distrust with respect to public institutions, bringing about a progressive disaffection in the citizens with regard to politics and its representatives with a resulting weakening of institutions.' (No. 411)." (The Fight Against Corruption, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Vatican City, No. 4)

For the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines,

CBCP President
November 30, 2006


Pastoral Letter on the Commemoration of the Centenary
Of the Episcopal Consecration of Bishop Jorge Barlin (1906)

One hundred years ago, in 1906, the grace of the Episcopacy was granted to the Filipino people in the person of a Bicolano born in Baao, Camarines Sur, Jorge Barlin, who took as his Episcopal motto: "Bonus miles Christi" --- A Good Soldier of Christ. It was the first time after three hundred years of Christianity in the Philippines that a Filipino was given such a dignity --- certainly, a milestone in the Philippine Church History, an event worth remembering and celebrating.

Dear brothers and sisters, the present-day circumstances pose new and numerous challenges to our faith and ministry. The poverty and suffering many experiences sometimes lead us into thinking that love of God and country are two opposite realities. However, there are to be found in our history persons who had shown us that love for God and country are not incompatible. Among these is Bishop Jorge Barlin.

This letter then is a call to our dear Faithful: clergy, religious and laity to honor the memory of Barlin.

In engaging into this task of remembering, we wish to express gratitude to God for the grace of the ministry, particularly that of the episcopacy, which consists in the service of teaching, sanctifying and governing.

By recalling the memory of Barlin, we wish to remind ourselves too of who we are as a people; of what we have accomplished; and of what we can still do.

Our country, our society, our communities, even our families, need hope. The calamities that have struck us in recent years had been terrible. Yet it is in these same difficult moments that goodness, kindheartedness and hope have also shone. Good as it were is never extinguished. And looking back in history, we find signposts of this in our journey as a people and church.

At a time, when the capability of Filipinos was doubted, especially with regard to fulfilling the task of parish priest, more so that of a bishop, there was Jorge Barlin, who showed us what the Filipino is able to accomplish.

Barlin, Filipino, early in his age showed talent which was immediately recognized by the famous Spanish Bishop Francisco Gainza, O.P. The good bishop took him under his care.

In the early years of his priesthood, Barlin showed docility and humble obedience when from being the capellan de solio and majordomo of the Cathedral of Nueva Caceres, he accepted the humble task of a missionary-curate in the remote and poor fishing village of Siruma, Camarines Sur.

Barlin's capability was once again recognized, when from being an ostracized priest in Libog, Albay, he was appointed Vicar Forane of the whole Province of Sorsogon and parish priest of its capital. It was an unprecedented appointment for he was a young upstart. For sixteen full years he labored with distinction.

During the turbulent days of the revolution, Sorsogon did not suffer a bloody September. This was due to Padre Barlin who commanded the respect and esteem of the people, and his pacification campaign. When the last Spanish Governor Senor Villamil left for safety, he entrusted to Barlin the reins of the government and peacefully surrendered his official prerogatives. Barlin figured prominently in the establishment of the revolutionary government as well as during the arrival of the American government. In all these changes, Barlin was instrumental in rallying the people in the maintenance of peace and order.

In 1902, Gregorio Aglipay, taking notice of his capability, offered him the supreme prelacy of the Philippine Independent Church. To such invitation, Barlin replied: "Prefiero ser lampazero a ser la cabeza de su jerarquia cismatica." (I prefer to be a sweeper than to be the head of your schismatic hierarchy.)

It was the same Barlin who gave the most damaging blow to the new sect from which it never recovered. Elsewhere in the archipelago, many Filipino priests had defected to the schismatic church with the support of their congregations. Because these defectees had moved into the ranks of Aglipayanism without vacating their churches, a question arose for the American authorities to order. To whom did those churches belong?

When Fr. Ramirez, Parish Priest of Lagonoy, Camarines Sur, refused to vacate his church, Barlin, then Apostolic Administrator of Nueva Caceres, struck the blow when he won the case against Ramirez in the Supreme Court, which in 1906 decided in favor of Barlin. The blow to the movement was almost irreparable. Aglipayan sectarian priests throughout the Islands were compelled to vacate their churches, in so doing began to lose hold on their congregations. Had Barlin lost the case, it is probable that many of our churches would have been occupied by the Aglipayans and many would have remained in the sect.

In December 14, 1905, he was named Bishop by a secret consistory. He was consecrated bishop on June 20, 1906. In the words of a historian: "He bore the promise of a new era for the long-suffering native clergy. In his name his countrymen saw the hope of a race." He became the first Filipino Bishop, perhaps also the first from the Malay race, and the only one during his time. His elevation to the Episcopacy proved the capability of native priests who had been regarded as inferior and unworthy of any high office. For at the time, there was a prevailing view that indigenous priests were only good to be coadjutors, let alone unworthy of the episcopacy.

As the only Filipino bishop, Barlin was given the honor to deliver the invocation at the inaugural session of Philippine Assembly on October 16, 1907. Two months later he took a prominent part in the deliberations of the first Provincial Council of Manila, which had been convened to discuss problems under the new government setup. It was reported that: "His experience and the practical knowledge which he had of church affairs in the Islands were a valuable help in the solution of not a few problems in that respectable assembly."

In all these, Jorge Barlin put above all else service to God and people. When the temptation of power and prestige was offered him, he chose to remain faithful to his commitment. When such power was in his hands, he used the same responsibly --- always for the good of those he served.

Although Barlin rose to prominence at a time of schism in the history of the Church in the Philippines, remembering him in such light actually prompts the Church to promote Christian unity all the more, and invite people of other faiths to engage in dialogue.

Our dear faithful, we need men and women whose vision is beyond themselves. Indeed at a time when suffering can impair our memory; when our sense of altruism may be covered by the need for survival; when difficult and severe conditions can make us numb to the needs of our brethren and blind to nobler things. Thus, let us look back to gain inspiration from our elders. They, whose character, integrity and vision cannot be bought. They, who are willing to stand up for the commitment they have made and their fundamental vocation.

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, in recalling the memory of Jorge Barlin we also ask you to continue to pray for us your bishops, that we may remain steadfast in living out our vocation as bishops, and like Barlin may we be, "Good soldiers of Christ.

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

28 January 2007



"Choose wise, discerning and experienced people" (Dt. 1, 13)

"The Church values the democratic system." (Centesimus Annus, 46) These words of Pope John Paul II inspire this letter, which we, your shepherds, write to you as the national elections of 2007 draw near. We seek only one thing: to apply the values of the Gospel to our electoral process.

Elections in a democracy allow citizens to choose freely those who will govern them and be instruments of a better life and a more just society for all. These coming elections in May 2007 are especially important. Many of our current political problems, which have hindered fuller economic development and social justice, especially for the poor, can be traced to unresolved questions concerning the conduct of past elections. As a nation, we cannot afford yet another controversial electoral exercise that further aggravates social distrust and hopelessness.

In these two years past, we are only too aware, it has become easier to succumb to apathy and hopelessness about our country and its political life. But as followers of the crucified and risen Lord, we are called never to lose the hope that creates energy and the love that creates responsibility.

Therefore, this time, we are determined that we come together once more and organize ourselves more effectively than we have done in the past to make this year's elections credible---and as free of violence as possible.

This means that every parish organization and institution---and the BECs most especially---be mobilized to the utmost to do what each can do towards that end. This means too that they must form linkages with one another and with other like-minded civic and religious associations that are working to help clean the dirt from our easily corrupted electoral process.

The Lord of truth and justice be with us all in this crucial undertaking to his greater praise and glory. And may Mary, Our Lady of Peace, intercede for us.

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines,

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

28 January 2007

On The Human Security Act

On The Human Security Act

We are all for the pursuit of peace and we condemn terrorism as a glaring obstacle to peace.

Republic Act No. 9372, dubbed as Human Security Act of 2007, signed into a law by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on March 6, 2007, is to take effect two months after the elections of May 14.

Many voices are apprehensive about this law on the basis of constitutionality and provisions that may legalize objectionable methods of fighting and quelling opposition to the obtaining government. Hence there are calls for bringing the Human Security Act to the Supreme Court for review and for studying and discussing further this law in its contents and repercussions. Some sections have caused lawyers and others to question the effectiveness of this law such as:

  • The definition of terrorism in Section 3 is broad and dangerous. It may serve and create a condition of widespread panic.
  • Section 26 allows house arrest despite the posting of bail, prohibits the right to travel and to communicate with others.
  • Provision for seizure of assets in Section 39 and surveillance or wiretapping of suspects in Section 7, investigation of bank deposits and other assets in Section 28 – raise up many eyebrows of lawyers and others.

Since we as pastors have to look more into the morality of this law and make a pronouncement in that level, we feel that the atmosphere created by this law and its impending implementations calls on us to appeal to those concerned to review this law so that in consultation and dialogue we may have a law that is truly relevant in promoting the security of the nation and in the pursuit of authentic peace.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
July 8, 2007

CBCP Pastoral Statement on the 2007 National Elections

CBCP Pastoral Statement on the 2007 National Elections

We are grateful to the many people who worked hard for honest and clean elections last May 2007. In a special way we commend the lay groups under the leadership of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the National Movement for Free Election (NAMFREL), the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, the Catholic Media Network, and the newly organized Legal Network for a Truthful Elections (LENTE). Their efforts undoubtedly contributed to the emergence of a new political consciousness among the electorate. In many cases, the voters were not naively allured by popular personalities or by those who gave away much money. We thank the thousands who, in various capacities, devoted themselves to achieving Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful and Peaceful Elections (CHAMP).

Nevertheless, we are mindful of the many evils that continue to plague our electoral exercise. As we have done in the past, we condemn the dirty conduct of elections in some provinces. The buying, padding and selling of votes have embarrassingly become systemic and threaten to become a cultural element of our elections. It has been reported that some voters went to the precincts only when first paid by some candidates. We also express our disapproval of candidates coming from the same family or clan, thus keeping power and influence within the family. We hope and pray that implementing norms be approved to arrest the spread of this malaise.

Likewise we protest against the injustice done to people as their right to choose their leaders was desecrated. We are horrified by the violence inflicted on innocent people during the campaign and election periods. But we are equally edified by the heroism of those who defended the sanctity of the ballot, even to the point of death.

It was an achievement in itself that elections were held on May 14, 2007. But given a climate of social distress and hopelessness, the challenge was how to restore credibility to the electoral process as a core democratic institution for resolving political conflict, and how to get the citizenry, especially the youth, to become politically engaged. On the whole, despite the deep flaws in the process and its administration, the last election maybe said to have been a qualified success with the results generally reflecting the popular will (e.g. only 5 percent of the contested positions are being questioned).

Vigilance, Volunteerism and Coordinated Action.

For the first time since 1992, the Church-based groups, PPCRV, NAMFREL, NASSA worked closely together and were better prepared and organized to make a qualitative impact on the elections, even in Muslim Mindanao. A new group called LENTE (Legal Network for Truthful Elections) was organized on the initiative of One Voice with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) as co-convenor— the first time that lawyers, paralegal volunteers were mobilized for electoral work. LENTE focused on the weakest link in the electoral process—the canvassing of votes at the municipal and provincial levels. These groups agreed to coordinate their work through a grouping called VforCE (One Million Volunteers for Clean Elections). The doggedness of these groups, despite the limited time to organize and coordinate, contributed to the deterring large-scale fraud. VforCE offered a framework for coordinated election. The May 2007 elections indeed led to a manifestation of volunteerism and vigilance, underscoring the critical importance of collaboration and partnerships, and providing concrete opportunities for citizen engagement in various aspects of electoral process.

There also were signs of increased maturity among the electorate as the election results demonstrated that sheer popularity/celebrity status and huge media expenditures do not necessarily translate to election victory. These results may also be an indicator of some success in the voters’ education efforts. The citizen groups, including Church-based organizations, have worked on this for years.
But the last elections also showed the continuing dominance in the Philippines of a few political families, and revealed the persistence of vote-buying as a serious problem (including pay-offs not to vote) in a social context of widespread poverty and gross inequality, even if there were a few positive stories of reversals of these old trends. Much remains to be done in the area of political recruitment and financing of alternative candidates, and thus in the development of genuine political party system in the Philippines. That is why the flawed party list law and its problematic implementation is real cause for concern. There were also signs of alienation from the electoral process among the citizenry: a lower-than-usual voter turnout (60-65 percent of registered voters), including a very low level of participation from overseas absentee voters (14 percent).

Agenda for Electoral Reforms and Continuing Political Involvement

Both the positive and negative experiences of the last elections point to a number of important electoral reforms that needed to be pursued:

1. A full revamp of the Comelec, beginning with the appointment of a new chair and commissioners with unquestioned integrity and competence, especially in systems and management. These appointments are going to be in the hands of the President and the Commission on Appointments of the Philippine Congress, and it is our collective responsibility to monitor closely the process of selection, appointment and confirmation. There should also be serious efforts to de-politicize and professionalize the bureaucracy.

2. Holding those responsible for anomalies in past elections and the recently concluded ones accountable to the people. Good career people in the Comelec can be the catalyst for the renewal of the institution.

3. Modernization of the electoral system in time for the 2010 presidential election. There should be broad-based and transparent discussions on what type of poll automation is appropriate and how it is to be piloted and implemented.

4. Particular attention should be given to ARMM and the problem of warlordism, because it is of the scale that can affect the national elections. We also owe it to the voters in those areas who are effectively disenfranchised when elections are not meaningful, truthful and free. Historically, those in power have found it useful to rely on the brazen exercise of power through intimidation, violence and fraud.

5. A review of laws affecting the electoral system. Among the most urgent are the reform of the party system, party-list law, overseas absentee voting, political dynasties, the “legal” entry of nuisance candidates, and the formulation of an agenda for institutional reform.

6. The development of mechanisms for deepening the political education of voters (e.g. Pinoy Voter’s Academy and Gabay Halalan), fostering public accountability of politicians to the electorate (e.g. Bantay Pangako) and sustaining coordinated political engagement especially among the youth, the citizens’ groups, and Church-based organizations (e.g. VforCE).

7. Cleansing and publication of the voters’ list long before the day of election.
As we appreciate and thank the men and women of good will and courage who influenced our last election, so do we thank the Lord for continuing to guide the journey of the Filipino people.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
July 8, 2007



Dear People of God in the Philippines,

In response to the Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is love), we declared 2006 the Year of Social Concerns (CBCP Pastoral Exhortation, May 11, 2006). For the God who is love bids us to be love too. In our Pastoral Exhortation naming 2006 the Year of Social Concerns, we expressed the hope that we would be able to educate ourselves more intensively in what the social teaching of the Church is all about. For that teaching in the end comes to only one thing: love of neighbor because of God's love for us.

The over-riding social concern of the Church of the Philippines has been all these years centered on the inequitable distribution of the nation's wealth and the endemic social injustices that underpin that evil. We would like in this statement to focus our attention on the greatest victim of our unjust economic order, the rural poor, and the diminishment of their dignity as people and as citizens. We cannot put it too strongly, but this diminishment is a negation of Christian love---and hence of the God who is love. (Cf. Jubilee of the Agricultural World Address of John Paul II, Nov. 11, 2000l also, Land and Agrarian Reform, Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Economy, no. 54, CBCP, 1998).

Our Situation

The greater number of our poor are in the rural areas. The poor abound in our cities too, and we must be as concerned for them as for our rural poor. But if the urban poor are growing in numbers, it is largely because of rural folk crowding into our cities to escape the debilitating poverty of the countryside. It seems obvious then that to attend to the first problem (rural poverty) would be to help lessen the second (urban poverty).

The one big effort of the government at alleviating rural poverty has been its on-going land reform program, the CARP (the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program). The law instituting it was passed years ago but its full implementation is still far off in the future---if ever. The law was defective in the first place, emasculated in the very beginning in a landlord dominated Congress, further watered down in its implementation. At this stage, a year before the scheduled end of the program, there is much that has not yet been done and the general situation of our farmers is still as bleak as ever.

The lack of vigor and determination shown by the government in its poor implementation of the law mirrors the still over-powering opposition of the landed classes, the traditional political and economic elite of our country. What this means simply is that selfish class interests outweigh concern for the common good---the main target of the Church's social teaching. And that selfish unconcern in turn translates into sheer neglect of the poor, an utter disregard of the dignity of a whole class merely because of their bad economic plight.

This disregard is horrendously displayed in the recent extra-judicial killings, perpetrated by groups from both the right and the left, of farmers whose only "crime" is their continuing struggle for agrarian reform or their inability to pay the "revolutionary tax" demanded of them by the NPA. As a religious people---and it doesn't matter whether we are Christians, Muslims or adherents of other religions---we must vehemently condemn the continuing murder of such rural folk.

We condemn too, just as vehemently, the un-abated killing of unarmed men and women on the mere charge or suspicion that they support or belong to leftist political groups.

Our Response

Condemning evil is not enough. As we must have learned from our consideration of the Church's social teaching this past year, we must try bringing an end to evils that harm people and their good.

As always, our first reaction to national problems is to call on government to do what it is supposed to do. We do so here. We ask that the CARP, defective as it is, be finally completed next year as it has been targeted. And if it is not sufficiently implemented by then, the program should be further extended and funded more seriously and generously. But we asked that the law itself must be reviewed and improved.

The government and the military's response to the shameful "extra-judicial" killings of unarmed crusaders for justice and equality is most unsatisfactory, their protestations of concern not too convincing. The greater and more effective performance of their duties as guardians and protectors of our peace---this too we must demand as strongly as we can.

Putting the burden of action on people whose responsibility it is to act, however, is not enough. We must ask ourselves: What do we do as individuals, as families, as communities? What must we do? The responsibility to act is just as much ours as those who have the official responsibility.

For years now we have been pushing the development of BECs or BEC-type Church communities and organizations. And we do so because such communities are, or should be, fully participative communities. Problems, national or local, big or small, weighty or light---and the problem of the rural poor we are speaking of here now is probably our weightiest---all must be looked at and become community concerns for the solving of which their participation is needed. Involving themselves in meeting those problems, they must do so according to the social teaching of the Church which always looks to the achieving of the common good. This demands continuing discernment from all of us, both as individuals and as communities. The answers will be varied, but, we trust, all issuing from genuine Christian charity.

On our part, and in view of what we are asking you to do, we make a very specific proposal.

A Rural Congress

The year 2007 is the fortieth anniversary of the National Rural Congress of 1967. It was at this Congress that the participants, most of them diocesan and parish social action workers, came to the crucial conclusion that the Church must go to the barrios. The reason was the heavy realization that the rural parts of the country were the most neglected by both the government's development programs and the Church's pastoral care.

To commemorate that crucial event in our life as a Church---and to make us meet in true Gospel fidelity our present social concerns---we propose that we revive the memory of that Congress by holding one again this year.

But this time our farmers must do that speaking by themselves, the discerning, the proposing of their own ideas, the planning of how we must as a people come together to work for the common good of the country and of ourselves. Doing so, they will be effectively asserting the dignity that for so long has been denied them. And the rest of us, participating with them in their reflections and deliberations, we will be honoring their inborn dignity as children of the same Father in Heaven.

Possibly a small thing. But in the larger picture of the country's many ills, we see that it is in not honoring the dignity of the least of our brothers and sisters among the poor that we contribute not a little to the injustices and inequalities that have become deeply ingrained in our national life; and today the murders and killings, the corruption and thieving, the crimes that are being committed daily with impunity against our poor, these we see too are all rooted in the practical denial of the basic human dignity and rights of our very poor. Christ himself acknowledged and honored their dignity, identified himself with it: "If you did it for one of my least brothers or sisters, you did it for me" (Mt. 25, 40). Because he did, so must we.

Today we see only too clearly the need for the reform not only of our national institutions but of our very moral fiber as a people. We start meeting that need by acknowledging the God-given dignity of the least of Christ's---and our---brothers and sisters. And not only in word but in act. That in itself is reform.

The Lord who loves the poor be with us in this, our common task.

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines,

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

28 January 2007

Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines



"Any person or family that, without any direct fault on his or her own, does not have suitable housing is the victim of an injustice."

(Pontifical Commission Justice and Peace on the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless, 1988)

As we close our Year of Social Concerns, we call the attention of our people to a grave problem that many, especially among the urban poor, suffer the lack of adequate housing. The Church teaches that "the principle of the universal destination of goods requires that the poor, the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern. To this end, the preferential option for the poor should be reaffirmed in all its force� This Love of preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without health care and above all, those without hope for the future."(Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church # 182)

Adequate and humane dwelling is a basic right. (cf. Compendium #166) Their inadequacy breeds other problems such as immoralities in the home, the abuse of children, the lack of education of many young people, unhygienic conditions in the family, joblessness among the people, malnutrition of children, and criminality.

Our urban poor people, as human beings and children of God, have basic human rights to clean and inexpensive water, decent house, communities free of stagnant disease-ridden water, and uncollected garbage. They have a right to security of tenure, to be free of a constant threat of eviction and fire, and very importantly, they have the right to organize themselves to seek solutions to their problems in a democratic and a non-violent manner.

Despite their own efforts and those of many groups, including government and the Church, we cannot say our urban poor people enjoy these rights today.

We are all compelled to do everything possible to remedy this situation. We must all work that all may have their own homes that are suitable for God's persons who are made in God's image and likeness. We cannot achieve complete success in a short time --- we lack resources for one thing --- but we can do something.

A. We call on those concerned to stop uncaring evictions and demolitions. We have laws in the land that tell us the proper processes for eviction. Let these laws be respected and followed, especially by law-enforcing agencies. Among other things, these laws provide us that relocation sites be prepared to receive the evicted families and that these sites should have adequate provisions for basic human needs, such as water, light, access roads, schooling for the children and work for the people. If plans and money are set aside for improvements of the cities and towns that would necessitate people to be moved elsewhere, also proper plans and money be set aside for the places where they are to be settled with painstaking consultations.

B. Government officials have made promises and even made official proclamations of lands to provide security of tenure to many poor families sitting on government properties. Many of these proclamations are not followed; they have remained empty words. Let the officials not play on the basic needs of the people, and cuddle them in pursuit of election victory.

C. As we did in our 1997 Letter on Homelessness, we again urge the immediate creation of a government-church-civil society commission that will provide guidelines for the further development of our cities so that the urban poor will have a decent place to live in and development will combine with sound environmental concern. The said commissions in each city and town can immediately conduct consultations to discuss and resolve the issues on homelessness in a pro-active way. Planning of mass housing for the poor is a concern of public officials for the sake of the common good, and not only of property developers for their own profit.

D. We commend the initiatives of various groups who on their own provide for housing for our poor families. We encourage all people of goodwill, especially people of faith to support these groups or to create their own initiatives to help the homeless to have houses that they can call their own someday. We encourage the homeless to be partners in pursuing the endeavor.

We cannot afford to be indifferent and complacent in front of this grave injustice that many of our brothers and sisters suffer day by day. We, as a Church, are committed to put the resources of the Church towards this dream.

While Filipinos are getting known all over the world as good construction workers and builders, we are not able to provide houses for our homeless.

Let the dream of God for his people be ours. "Look, I am going to create new heavens and new earth� They will build houses and live in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit� For the days of my people will be like the days of a tree, and my chosen ones will themselves use what they have made." (Is 65, 17-22)

Let us dream the dream of God and work that this dream may come true!

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

28 January 2007

Bishops Conference of The United States of America

President of U.S. Bishops' Conference Speaks in Brazil

President of U.S. Bishops' Conference Speaks in Brazil
"The Great Mobility of Peoples Is Interweaving Us in One Cloth of Faith"

APARECIDA, Brazil, MAY 22, 2007 ( Report of Bishop William Skylstad of Washington, president of the U.S. episcopal conference, delivered last week at the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dear brothers in the episcopate of Latin America, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, receive my cordial greeting on behalf of all the bishops of the episcopal conference of the United States. For my brother bishops from the delegation of the United States and myself, it is an honor to be able to participate in this 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean and benefit from the abundance of grace that we are receiving during these three weeks of prayer, study and commitment. We want to have solidarity in the task of evangelizing this entire continent.

How could we fail to recall with profound gratitude the collaboration and closeness there has been between our peoples throughout our history? In many key moments, we have made of our continent, one America, one Church, as the Servant of God John Paul II reminded us. Many of our first parishes and some of the cathedrals of the United States were built with help coming from countries like Mexico, Cuba and Argentina.

In 1965, during the last session of the Second Vatican Council, the prelates of the United States agreed to carry out, through the bishops, an annual national collection to offer economic support to the Church's pastoral projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. The committee offers help to the Church's projects especially related to the application of the conclusions from Vatican II, from the 2nd general conferences of Latin American bishops in Medellin and from the 3rd general conference of Latin American bishops in Puebla. It gives special priority to the pastoral programs and projects that offer the Church in Latin America a base on which to plan its actions efficiently. In the same way, it will be at the service of the initiatives and priorities that arise from our conference in Aparecida.

In 2003, the bishops of the United States and Mexico approved the historic declaration "Together on the Journey of Hope," in which both episcopates joined to examine the impact of migration on the social, political and spiritual life of the two countries. Motivated by the call of the Holy Father for a "new evangelization" and a greater unity among the Catholics of this hemisphere, the bishops offered a detailed guide to all of those who minister to immigrants, and concrete steps for improving pastoral experiences. The declaration also offered a political recommendation to the two nations for respecting the dignity of the immigrant.

Since 2004, we have cooperated with CELAM [the Latin American bishops' council] in the project of translating the Bible of the Church in America; the bishops' council of the Unites States has committed itself to funding for the next 10 years -- using the funds from the collection for the Church in Latin America -- the preparation of a Bible for pastoral and liturgical use for the entire American continent.

Together with the bishops of Latin America, the bishops of the United States share a pastoral concern for young people. In June of 2006, in Notre Dame University, the first encounter for Latin American youth was held. This encounter showed the vigor and quality of the Catholic faith that immigrant youth have brought to this country. We were pleased that a delegation from CELAM honored us with their presence.

In these moments, we are concerned about the immigration reform that is being considered in the United States Congress. I ask your prayers as we continue fighting for a just and broad immigration reform that respects the dignity of the human being and promotes the integrity of immigrant families.

I echo the words of the Holy Father Benedict XVI in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: "Dear friends, the reality of immigration should never be seen as just a problem, but rather also and above all as a great resource for the journey of humanity." The great mobility of peoples is interweaving us in one cloth of faith, rich in diversity and culture. Those who go in search of paths of hope and life demand from their pastors that we are in fraternal communion and committed to giving an answer in solidarity with them.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Holy See Message to U.N. on AIDS

"All of Us Must Clearly Step Up Our Efforts"

NEW YORK, MAY 22, 2007 ( Here is the statement which Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer at the United Nations, gave today at the 61st session of the U.N. general assembly on the implementation of the declaration of commitment on HIV/AIDS.

* * *

61st Session of the U.N. General Assembly

Agenda item 46:
Follow-up to the outcome of the 26th special session: Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS

New York, May 22, 2007

Madam President,

My delegation thanks you for convening this important progress report meeting where states can share the steps they have taken in their movement towards the goal of universal access to HIV prevention programs, treatment, care and support by 2010. Their honest assessments and commitment to work together are surely a movement in the right direction in caring for all those affected by HIV/AIDS.

The detailed and comprehensive report of the secretary-general lists the greatest challenges: caring for the 39.5 million people presently living with HIV; reducing the number of people dying annually from AIDS, which in 2006 was 2.9 million; preventing new infections, which currently run at some 4 million per year; and taking special care of young people, who accounted for 40% of new infections last year.

While the numbers speak for themselves, they do not capture the whole story. The fact that only 2 million of the 7.1 million people needing antiretroviral drugs receive them represents a sorrowful ratio. Quantifying the resources globally required is thought to be in the region of $18 billion and $22 billion for 2007 and 2008 respectively for low- or middle-income countries for HIV.

These apparently large numbers actually represent only $3 to $4 per person on the planet. In aggregate, the numbers seem overwhelming, but taken in their proper context, person by person, they are really only a fraction of what we as a world community can and should do. All of us must clearly step up our efforts.

That is why, for its part, the Holy See seizes this occasion to reaffirm its commitment to intensify its response to this disease, through its ongoing support for a worldwide network of some 1,600 hospitals, 6,000 clinics, and 12,000 initiatives of a charitable and social nature in developing countries.

Madam President, the secretary-general's report makes five recommendations, and given the time limitations, my delegation would like to address briefly two of them.

First, under the heading "Know your epidemic and intensify HIV prevention," my delegation believes that providing information and opportunities for an education respectful of naturally based values is essential both in the development of scientific advancement and for personal prevention. There can be no excuse that, 25 years into this epidemic, all people in all countries still do not have sound, accurate and reliable information so as to educate themselves and live safer lives.

Second, under the heading "Report progress on international commitments," it appears that, in this house, we oftentimes speak of transparency and collaboration with regard to our respective commitments. My delegation encourages all states to be more forthcoming in providing accurate numbers with respect to monitoring and evaluation, however difficult this may be. A factual understanding as to where the world community stands on this matter will serve us well as we attempt to address all the problems associated with HIV/AIDS and to care for all.

Thank you, Madam President.

Papal Address to "Fidei Donum" Missionaries

"The Lord of the Harvest Will Not Let us Lack Workers"


Clementine Hall
Saturday, 5 May 2007

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am particularly pleased to meet you after the solemn Eucharistic Celebration at which Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, presided. In the first place, I address my cordial thoughts to him and thank him for his words to me on your behalf.

I extend my greeting to the Secretary and collaborators of the Missionary Dicastery, to the Prelates and priests present, to the men and women religious and to all who have taken part in the Congress held in the past few days to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical Letter Fidei Donum of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII.

Fifty years have passed since this venerable Predecessor of mine, facing the evolution of the times and looking out onto the scene of history of new peoples and nations, realized with farsighted pastoral wisdom that unheard of and providential horizons and missionary openings for the proclamation of the Gospel in Africa were unfolding.

Indeed, Pius XII was looking especially to Africa when, with prophetic intuition, he thought of that new missionary "subject" which takes its name "Fidei donum" from the first words of the Encyclical.

He was intending to encourage another type of missionary cooperation -- parallel to the traditional forms -- among the so-called "ancient" Christian Communities and those born lately or which are coming into being in recently-evangelized territories. He asked the "ancient" Churches to send several priests to help the "young" Churches, whose growth was promising, to collaborate with the local Ordinaries for a specific period.

This is what Pope Pacelli wrote: "As we direct our thoughts, on the one hand, to the countless multitudes of our sons who have a share in the blessings of divine faith, especially in countries that have long since become Christian, and on the other hand, as we consider the far more numerous throngs of those who are still waiting for the day of salvation to be announced to them, we are filled with a great desire to exhort you again and again, Venerable Brethren, to support with zealous interest the most holy cause of bringing the Church of God to all the world. May it come to pass that our admonitions will arouse a keener interest in the missionary apostolate among your priests and through them set the hearts of the faithful on fire!" (n. 4).

Consequently, the purpose that inspired the venerable Pontiff was twofold: on the one hand, to kindle a renewed missionary "flame" in every member of the Christian people, and on the other, to encourage a more aware collaboration between the Dioceses of ancient tradition and the regions of first evangelization.

In the course of these five decades, Pius XII's invitation has been reaffirmed on several occasions by all my Predecessors, and thanks to the impetus provided by the Second Vatican Council, the number of fidei donum priests has continued to multiply. They depart with religious and lay volunteers, bound for a mission in Africa and in other parts of the world, sometimes costing their Dioceses many sacrifices.

I would like here to express my special thanks to these brothers and sisters, some of whom poured out their blood in order to disseminate the Gospel.

The mission experience, as you well know, leaves an indelible mark on those who carry it out and at the same time helps to foster that ecclesial communion which makes all the baptized see themselves as members of the one Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

During these decades, contacts and missionary exchanges have intensified, partly because of the development and increase in the means of communication, so that the Church has come into contact with practically every civilization and culture.

Moreover, the exchange of gifts between Ecclesial Communities of ancient and recent foundation has been a reciprocal enrichment and has fostered an increased awareness that we are all "missionaries", that is, we are all involved, albeit in different ways, in proclaiming and bearing witness to the Gospel.

While we thank the Lord for today's missionary commitment, we cannot fail to perceive at the same time the difficulties which are occurring in this context today. Among them, I limit myself to stressing the dwindling numbers and the ageing of the clergy in Dioceses that once sent missionaries to distant regions.

In the context of a widespread vocations crisis, this is undoubtedly a challenge to be faced. The Congress organized by the Pontifical Missionary Union to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Fidei Donum has made possible an attentive analysis of this situation which the Church is living today.

Although we cannot ignore the problems and shadows, nevertheless we must raise our gaze confidently to the future, giving a renewed and more authentic identity to "Fidei donum" missionaries in a world context which has undeniably changed in comparison with the 1950s.

If there are many challenges to evangelization in this age of ours, there are also many signs of hope in every part of the world that witness to an encouraging missionary vitality among the Christian people.

Above all, may people never forget that before leaving his disciples and ascending into Heaven, in sending them out to proclaim his Gospel in every corner of the world, the Lord assured them, "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20).

Dear brothers and sisters, this certainty must never abandon us. The Lord of the harvest will not let us lack workers for his harvest if we ask him for them with trust and persistence, in prayer and in docile listening to his words and teachings.

In this regard, I would like to take up the invitation which Pius XII addressed to the faithful of that time: "Especially in this our time on which the future growth of the Church in many areas is perhaps dependent", he wrote in his Encyclical, "let many Masses be offered for the sacred missions.... This is in accordance with the prayers of Our Lord, who loves his Church and wishes her to flourish and enlarge her borders throughout the whole world" (n. 52).

I make my own this same exhortation, convinced that in coming to meet our ceaseless requests the Lord will continue to bless the Church's missionary commitment with abundant apostolic fruits.

I commend this hope to Mary, Mother and Queen of the Apostles, while I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you who are present here and to all the world's missionaries.

Holy See Address to U.N. Health Assembly

"Urges an Anthropology Respectful of the Human Person"

GENEVA, MAY 21, 2007, ( Here is the address Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer at the U.N. offices in Geneva, gave at the World Health Assembly being held from May 14 to 23. The address was titled "The Holy See and Modern Challenges in Health Promotion."

* * *

Madam President,

1. The Holy See delegation wishes to convey its congratulations upon your election as president of this august assembly as well as its sincere gratitude to Dr. Fernando Antezana AranĂ­bar, who provided such excellent leadership for the World Health Organization executive board as it fulfilled its burdensome responsibility to discern succession to the post of director-general following the untimely death of Dr. J.W. Lee.

2. My delegation also expresses congratulations to Dr. Margaret Chan upon her appointment as director-general of the World Health Organization. We welcome her designation of the health of women and of the people of Africa as major concerns during her tenure in office. The Catholic Church has traditionally been in the first line in the promotion of the authentic health of women, by helping them to harmonize their physical, psychological and social well-being with moral and spiritual values. In this line, the Catholic Church is also convinced of the God-given, equal and complementary dignity of women and men.

The Catholic Church also prioritizes the most fruitful expression of complementarity between woman and man -- that is, the family which is founded upon lifelong and mutually faithful marriage and which continues to serve as the mainstay of human society. This vision of human dignity, strongly promoted by the Holy See, also is shared by citizens in many WHO member states.

In this same regard, it is the fervent hope of this delegation that discussion on and implementation of Resolution EB 120.R6, "Integrating Gender Analysis and Actions into the Work of WHO" will never be utilized to "justify" doing harm to or destroying human life during one of its most vulnerable stages -- when still within the mother's womb. Furthermore, the Holy See wishes to invite the WHO member states once again to understand the term "gender" as grounded in biological sexual identity, male or female.

Regarding Africa, the Popes have repeatedly expressed deep concern over its anguished history "where many nations are still in the grip of famine, war, racial and tribal tensions, political instability and the violation of human rights"[1], and Pope Benedict XVI has exhorted the international community, "we must not forget Africa."[2]

3. My delegation wishes to commend, for particular attention by this assembly, the resolutions and recommendations with regard to the pandemics of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV, as well as those related to the projected exacerbation of avian and pandemic influenza. Much of the threat to health security caused by such diseases could adequately be addressed were the global human family to commit itself to affordable and action-oriented programs of research, vaccination, treatment and preventive education respectful of the natural moral law.

From Nov. 23 to 25, 2006, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry convened more than 500 experts to reflect on "pastoral aspects of the treatment of infectious diseases." In addressing those gathered, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the need to implement social justice in the sensitive area of treatment and nursing and therefore to ensure a fair distribution of resources for research and treatment.[3]

In this same perspective, as the chancellor of Germany prepared to assume the presidency of both the G-8 countries and the European Union, the Holy Father, in a letter to her, expressed the hope that there would be "a substantial investment of resources for research and for the development of medicines to treat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other tropical diseases is needed. … There is also a need to make available medical and pharmaceutical technology and health care expertise without imposing legal or economic conditions."[4]

4. The Holy See shares the concern expressed by the secretariat of WHO in its report on "Better Medicines for Children," for the tragic loss of life each year among some 10.5 million children under five years of age; many of these children die of diseases that are treatable in adults but for which appropriate dosages and formulations have not yet been developed for pediatric use.[5]

Attention to this serious concern seems all the more compelling in light of the recently released report on "Scaling up Priority HIV/AIDS Interventions in the Health Sector," which noted, with much regret, that only 15% of HIV-positive children in need of anti-retroviral treatment actually have access to these life-saving therapies. Such treatment coverage is approximately one-half that achieved for HIV-positive adults.[6]

The international community can no longer turn a deaf ear to the life-threatening needs of children, many of whom can be counted among our most needy citizens but who represent, as well, the future of the human community. While steps are being taken to develop "Better Medicines for Children" and to revise and regularly update the Model List of Essential Medicines in order to include those appropriate for paediatric use, research that is ethically based, transparent, and carefully monitored, must be conducted on the safety of such medicines before they are approved for treatment of diseases affecting children.

5. As we approach the 30th anniversary of the historic Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care, the Holy See delegation is pleased to note the strategic attention being encouraged at this World Health Assembly on such crucial topics as prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases, rational use of medicines, and, in particular, health promotion in a globalized world with a special focus on primary health care.

In all the deliberations during this assembly and in the subsequent implementation of World Health Assembly resolutions at national and local levels, my delegation urges a perspective on health security that is grounded on an anthropology respectful of the human person in his or her integrity and looks far beyond the absence of disease to the full harmony and sound balance of the physical, emotional, spiritual and social forces within the human person.[7]

Thank you.

--- --- ---

[1] Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II, "Ecclesia in Africa," No. 51.
[2] Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See for the Traditional Exchange of New Year Greetings, Monday, Jan. 8, 2007.

[3] Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Participants in the 21st International Congress Organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, Clementine Hall, Friday, Nov. 24, 2006.
[4] Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Her Excellency Dr. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, Dec. 16, 2006.

[5] "Better Medicines for Children," Report by the Secretariat, World Health Organization, 60th World Health Assembly, A60/25, April 17, 2007.
[6] "Toward Universal Access: Scaling up Priority HIV/AIDS Interventions in the Health Sector," Progress Report by WHO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, April 2007, p. 6.

[7] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Message of the World Day of the Sick, Feb. 11, 2000, No. 13.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pope's Intro to Cardinal Bertone's Book

"The Last Fatima Visionary: My Meetings With Sister Lucia"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2007 ( Here is a translation of the Pope's introduction to Cardinal Bertone's book "The Last Fatima Visionary: My Meetings With Sister Lucia" (Rai Eri/Rizzoli). The book was written in collaboration with Giuseppe De Carli.Justify Full

* * *

To Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Vatican Secretary of State

Venerable Brother, Sister Lucia entrusts so many memories to the book "The Last Fatima Visionary" that treat of events that have marked the history of the last part of the 20th century. She has entrusted them to this book so that they do not remain merely precious baggage of personal emotions, but be handed over to the collective memory as they are not without significance for secular history.

In reality, during that memorable time that was the Jubilee Year of 2000, we experienced together the chapter that treats of the publication of the third Fatima secret: I, as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and you, as the secretary of the same dicastery. The great Pontiff who preceded me, John Paul II, fecund with prophetic inspirations and personally convinced that the "maternal hand" of the Virgin had deflected the bullet that could have been fatal for him, saw that the time had come to remove the veil of mystery that covered the last part of the secret that the Virgin had consigned to the three little shepherds of Fatima. The congregation, which conserved the precious document written by Sister Lucia, was put in charge.

It was a time of light, not only because the message could thus be known by all, but also because the truth could be unveiled in the midst of the confusion of apocalyptic interpretations and speculations that circulated in the Church and created anxiety among the faithful instead of inviting them to prayer and penance. Nevertheless, on the other hand, one could see the comforting development of Marian piety, authentic font of Christian life, around the imposing shrine of Fatima and in every part of the world where devotion to the Virgin, under the influence of the apparitions of Fatima, took deep root in the faith of the people, inviting men and women to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The conversations between the visionary, the last remaining of the three shepherd children, and you, a bishop sent by the Pope, have been important not only for the verification of the veridicality of the facts, but also as an occasion to know the limpid freshness of the soul of Sister Lucia, the intelligence of the heart typical of her femininity, transferred into a robust Christian faith. Through this humble nun, there shines the role of the Virgin Mary who with her maternal hand accompanies the Christian through life's bitterness.

I myself oversaw the drafting of the theological commentary on the event, after having intensely prayed and deeply meditated on the contents of the pages written by Sister Lucia. I was deeply affected by the consoling promise of the Most Holy Virgin, which was like a synthesis and precious seal: "My Immaculate Heart will triumph." As it had been written, "Mary's 'fiat,' the word of her heart, changed the history of the world, because it introduced the Savior into this world -- because thanks to this 'yes' God could become man among us and he will remain such forever."

And again, "From the time that God himself has a human heart and directed human freedom toward the good, toward God, freedom for evil does not have the last word." The message of Fatima is a further confirmation of this.

I invoke the protection of the Most Holy Virgin for all those who will read the testimony offered with this book and to you, dear cardinal, and to Doctor Giuseppe De Carli, who shared the work of producing this memoir, I impart the apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, Feb. 22, 2007.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Vatican Address to U.N. Forum on Indigenous Issues

"Show Flexibility and Social Farsightedness"

NEW YORK, MAY 17, 2007 ( Here is the address Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, gave Wednesday to the 6th session of the permanent forum on indigenous issues of the U.N. Economic and Social Council on the special theme: Territories, lands and natural resources.

* * *

Madam Chair,

First of all, my delegation would like to congratulate you and all the officers elected this year and to wish you well in the important task of maintaining the forward momentum in favor of indigenous peoples already achieved by this permanent forum since the start of this century.

From the time the forum met last year, much has happened regarding steps to improve the exercise of the rights of indigenous peoples at the national and international levels, particularly in light of the forum's special theme this year of territories, lands and natural resources.

The postponement of the adoption of the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP) marked a disappointing moment.
After 24 years' discussion in a working group of the Commission on Human Rights, the draft declaration was taken up at the first session of the Human Rights Council and, after a recorded vote, was duly sent to the General Assembly for adoption as part of the first Report of the Human Rights Council.

My delegation would like to express its regret that the adoption of the draft declaration was postponed. In this regard, we would like to draw attention to the benefits which the existence of such a human rights instrument would entail especially for the very poorest living in rural areas, often of indigenous origin and often marginalized by the modern world, and those who could be empowered to contribute much more to the political and economic life where they live.

Various objections have been raised against the draft Declaration as it currently stands. Some say that the DRIP contradicts national constitutions and that self-determination only concerns those who used to live under colonial rule. Others suggest that the DRIP is unclear on what constitutes "indigenous people," while still claiming to support the declaration, in spite of substantive concerns.

While respecting the motivations behind each position, the Holy See wishes to reiterate the particular importance it attaches to the instrument under consideration and encourages U.N. member states to show flexibility and social farsightedness with a view to reaching an agreement during the present session of the General Assembly. My delegation believes that such a political gesture would not only profit the poorest and most excluded citizens in both rich and poor countries of the world, but would also enhance peace among peoples and foster the just and equitable enjoyment of human rights by all.

To judge by events in the Third Committee last autumn, there appear to exist genuine concerns that the DRIP could lead to demands that might break the fragile links forged at great cost among disparate tribal groups born as states within the last 50 or so years. Some also seem to fear that the declaration may become a threat to sovereignty or to state revenues from natural resources. Such concerns however should not marginalize the best interest of the poorest peoples in such resource-rich territories; nor should states be oblivious to the economic progress for all that could be achieved by a greater regard for the particular genius of indigenous peoples and what they may be willing to contribute when their good will, not just their free, prior and informed consent, is sought and received.

The rush to exploit resources which we are witnessing in many places not only puts the natural habitat under stress; there is sometimes little evidence of any good in political, social or economic terms, in favor of the peoples where such resources are found. Given the universal destination of the world's goods, it is hardly surprising when peoples react to the departure of resources from their lands, while they see little coming back to those lands in return.

Madam Chair, this is why the Holy See believes that we should all work toward a consensus adoption of the declaration; but even the absence of such a consensus should not be a pretext for delaying the vindication of the legitimate concerns of indigenous peoples. States have legitimate concerns regarding sovereignty, citizenship, equality and the sane and equitable exploitation of natural resources, but these questions should not allow progress on indigenous peoples' equally legitimate rights and concerns to be postponed "sine die."

Thank you, Madam Chair.

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