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.

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