Manila (Agenzia Fides) - "In the life of the Philippine Church, participation in the synodal process - with a view to the Synodal Assembly that will soon begin in the Vatican - has been wide-ranging and fruitful consultations have taken place at the grassroots level in all dioceses. One of the fundamental challenges, among those that have emerged, is the continuation and strengthening of the experience of the Basic Ecclesiastical Communities (BEC)," said Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma (sj), who headed the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro from 2006 to 2020, in an interview with Fides. In the BEC, widespread in the Philippine dioceses, the faithful, live the faith and Christian life in their different life situations: "Men, women, priests, religious, young people, families, are part of it, they give their witness of faith. It is an ecclesiastical Synodal style experience, characterized by an inclusive and participatory character of all the members of the People of God, who contribute to pastoral and mission in accordance with the charism they have received," explains Archbishop Ledesma. The first small communities were established in the Philippines in the late 1960s, immediately after the Second Vatican Council, by foreign missionaries who came to the vast area of Mindanao and surrounding islands. Among the themes addressed in the pre-synodal discussions, the Archbishop highlights "the active presence of the laity in communities, helping to organize pastoral life, but also to provide solidarity and support to the poorest families of a dignified life for all", while "new challenges arise from the use of new technologies and new forms of communication, which particularly affect young people".
Furthermore, said the Jesuit, "synodality is lived by our communities in a very broad sense and includes openness to the ecumenical path and interreligious dialogue, being aware that the direction of this common path is human fraternity, as indicated by Pope Francis".
During the consultations in the Philippines, three main topics were discussed: listening, proclamation and celebration. "Moments and tools for listening, appreciated by the faithful, are the pastoral visits of bishops and priests, pastoral meetings, prayer meetings, catechism and home visits, but also social media, radio and ecclesial media, all of which intend to accompany people to listen to the voice of God". With regard to proclamation, "the faithful valued and desired spaces in the life of the Church that allow them to speak openly, such as the weekly meetings of the basic ecclesial communities, moments of dialogue or discussion". The celebration of the sacraments is significant for the faithful in the Philippines, especially the Eucharist, "which spiritually enlightens and nourishes and gives strength to overcome the hardships of daily life." "The sacraments," said the Bishop, "awaken humility and charity and strengthen the feeling of belonging to the family of God and the desire to keep families together in Christian communities." "I see that in my diocese, but also in many others, religious practice and popular piety are strong, Sunday and weekday masses are well attended, a sign of a faith that is still deeply rooted," notes the Archbishop. All in all, said Archbishop Ledesma, the synodal journey in the Philippines took place "in a missionary spirit and with joy." "We have just celebrated 500 years since the arrival of the Gospel in our country and have become aware of the great gift that we have received. It is now up to us to pass on the gospel of love and joy to the new generations", he concludes. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 26/9/2023)