Tuesday, 8 July 2003

Davao (Fides Service) – “My programme is dialogue. I have always worked for peace and reconciliation in Mindanao and I will continue to do so” , these were the first words entrusted to Fides Service by the new president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao on the island of Mindanao where separatists are waging a guerrilla war. Archbishop Capalla was elected during the general assembly of the bishops 5-7 July in Tagatay (Manila).
The Archbishop described the situation: “Mediation and reconciliation in Mindanao is important not only for the Church and people locally, it is important all over the Philippines because we need to build national unity, confidence and stability. For some years we have tried to find peaceful ways of solving the conflict in Mindanao. Recently the rebels seem more willing to negotiate. There is new hope, an opportunity which the government in Manila must not waste, seeing also the pressure it receives from abroad. The conflict in Mindanao is political and economic. It is necessary to work for the development for the people and to enable displaced people to lead dignified life”, he said.
He also outlined a peace commitment undertaken by the Church in the Philippines: “to work constantly to promote interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, founded on reciprocal forgiveness in the spirit of the Bible and the Koran. An authentic spirit of faith is never an obstacle to peace, indeed it can be a bridge for harmony between different communities”.
Archbishop Capalla, 68, was head of the Bishops’ Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue for several years. He succeeds Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, as President of the Bishops’ Conference. Formerly bishop of Iligan and apostolic administrator of Marawi from 1987-1991, Mgr Capalla was appointed coadjutor of Davao archdiocese in 1994 he took office as Archbishop two years later.
Since 1980 he has taken an active part in commissions for mediation and negotiation with rebel groups in Southern Philippines, involved by former Philippines’ presidents Fidel Ramos, Corazon Aquino, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Arroyo.
Archbishop Capalla is also head of the Bishops-Ulama Forum set up in 1996 in Mindanao, today Bishops-Ulama Conference, which promotes initiatives of dialogue and peace. PA (Fides Service 8/7/2003 EM lines 33 Words: 388)