ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Christians and Muslims greet the "bishop of dialogue"

Monday, 15 January 2024 dialogue   islam   bishops  

Davao (Agenzia Fides) - This morning, January 15, in Davao, city on the Philippine island of Mindanao, the Filipino Catholic community - with a large assembly of bishops, priests, consecrated people and lay people - paid tribute and celebrated the funeral of Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Emeritus of Davao, who died in this city on January 6 at the age of 89. The thousands of faithful present, who packed the Cathedral of Davao, as well as the Muslim leaders and faithful, remembered him for the great care he took in his pastoral work, for his charity, for his commitment in favor of Muslim-Christian dialogue, a mission in which, in the south of the Philippines, he worked tirelessly, putting himself personally at stake. Romulo Valles, the current Archbishop of Davao, presided over the funeral mass while Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop Emeritus of Cotabato, who knew Capalla well and worked with him for a long time, delivered the homily, remembering him with these words: "He was a man of profound peace. Peace and dialogue marked the life of Bishop Capalla", who led the community of Davao from 1996 to 2012. "The holiness of Monsignor Capalla was imbued with evangelical values: mutual respect and understanding; friendship with people of other faiths; empathy and deep acceptance of differences; promotion of convergence between different faiths, especially Islam and Christianity," Quevedo said. His collaborators, as well as Muslim leaders, remember him as a man characterized by gentleness and humility, qualities that enabled him to face various crises and moments of tension in an area, such as the island of Mindanao, crossed by inter-religious conflicts and even terrorist violence.
Leveraging his skills as a relationship builder, Capalla was one of the creators and promoters of the "Bishops-Ulama Conference" (Muslim religious leaders, editor's note), an organization that he co-founded and which succeeded in bringing together religious leaders from different communities to initiate authentic interreligious dialogue and effective collaboration. Founded in 1996, the Bishops-Ulama Conference, in nearly 30 years of activity, has encouraged dialogue in the southern Philippines to improve coexistence between Muslims and Christians. Leaders of different religious communities met in conferences, study sessions, moments of prayer and seminars during which they jointly addressed issues such as development, human rights, dignity, social justice, peace and interreligious understanding, seeking common ground and promoting initiatives of mutual cooperation, for the common good. The conference has also developed important institutional partnerships, being sought as an advisor by the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Philippine Government for the Peace Process, as well as by the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. For this commitment, Capalla received the "San Lorenzo Ruiz Award for Peace and Unity", which recognizes his valuable contribution. Capalla served as president of the Philippine Bishops' Conference (2003-2005), a member of the Central Committee of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), and a member of the FABC's Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (2000-2005). Given his expertise and commitment, he was appointed member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. In a message sent by Pope Francis and read at the funeral ceremony, the Pope praised the archbishop's "dedicated episcopal ministry, particularly his pastoral charity and commitment to promoting interreligious dialogue." This is how Father Sebastiano D'Ambra, PIME, founder of the "Silsilah" dialogue movement in the southern Philippines, who worked closely with him, remembers him: "He was a good friend who contributed a lot to the promotion of interreligious dialogue in Mindanao, but also nationally and internationally. When I founded the Silsilah movement in 1984, he was happy with this new beginning and appreciated it. I think many of us can say many things about the goodness and generosity of Archbishop Capalla. It was he who approved the animation of the Emmaus Dialogue Community, a new form of consecrated life in the local Church, and he was very happy to support our Emmaus College of Theology, specialized in Interreligious Dialogue". "The creation of the Ulama Episcopal Conference - continues the missionary - is one of his precious legacies. Much more can be said about Bishop Capalla's passion and determination to promote multiple forms of dialogue at all levels, as in the case of Mindanao Peace Week. His commitment was crucial at the national level for the peace process between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which have now reached a formal agreement with the government in Manila. Today, the Church invites us to continue the mission of Msgr. Capalla. We all continue to remember the legacy of Msgr. Capalla and continue the mission of dialogue and peace with courage and determination". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/1/2024)