Vatican City (Fides Service) – “The pledge of the Church in the Philippines to engage in renewed integral evangelisation demonstrates her desire to ensure that Christian faith and values permeate every aspect of society. ” With these words Pope John Paul II addressed a third group of Bishops from the Philippines, and more in particular from the Ecclesiastical provinces of Manila, Lingaven-Dagupan, Nueva Segovia, San Fernando, Tuguegarao, together with the Miiltary Ordinary, whom he received in audience on 30 October for their five yearly ad limina visit.
The Pope recalled that their country "is home to the largest Catholic presence in Asia and is one of the most vibrant Catholic communities in the world": ad limina visits of Bishops offer an opportunity to look more closely at what has been achieved by the Church and the challenges she faces. An essential element of the process of evangelisation is witness: “Today’s world is one that is constantly bombarded with words and information. For this reason and possibly more than at any time in recent history, the things Christians do speak louder than the things they say. Perhaps this is the reason that the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta speaks to so many hearts. She put what she heard into action, spreading Christ’s love to all those she encountered, always recognising that "it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do" that matters.”
In her effort to “carry Christ to other” the Church in the Philippines has developed programmes of social assistance for the poor and the excluded, and she has promoted effective use of the means of social communications. “Notwithstanding these notable achievements – the Pope said - there still remain various obstacles, such as the participation of some Catholics in sects which witness only to the superstitious; the lack of familiarity with the teachings of the Church; the endorsement by some of anti-life attitudes which include the active promotion of birth control, abortion and the death penalty.” John Paul II then reminded the Bishops that “a solid way to address these concerns is found in your commitment to animating and developing the mission ad gentes”, giving special care to the formation of those sent to carry of message of Christ to the whole world.
The Holy Father did not fail to mention corruption which undermines social and political development: “In this regard, it must be made clear that no office of public service can ever be treated as private property or as a personal privilege... The people of the Philippines are aware that to denounce corruption publicly requires great courage. To eliminate corruption calls for the committed support of all citizens, the resolute determination of the authorities and a firm moral conscience. The Church has a major role here inasmuch as she is the primary agent for properly forming people’s conscience”.
Remembering World Youth Day in Manila, 1995, the Pope congratulated the Bishops for the pastoral care given to young people, while not overlooking the obstacles to the evangelisation of this age group: illiteracy, the desire for material goods, a casual attitude towards human sexuality and the temptation to abuse drugs and alcohol. The Pope ended his address calling on the Bishops to: “to continue to encourage the clergy and religious who spend so much of their time and energy trying to develop creative and effective ways of spreading Christ’s saving message,” and he expressed his gratitude “missionaries and religious of the past who brought Jesus to the Filipino people and also to those who continue to make his presence known today.” (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 31/10/2003 – lines 44; words 618)