THE message of Pope Benedict XVI delivered in audience on November 29 to the first batch of Philippine bishops who went to Rome on the occasion of their visit ad limina Apostolorum maybe viewed as a congratulatory to the Philippine church.
The Pontiff commended the Church in the Philippines “for seeking to play its part in support of human life from conception until natural death, and in defense of the integrity of marriage and the family.” This, of course, clearly alludes to the efforts of local church leaders in the unrelenting fight against the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill which has been persistent for over a decade now.
He also thanked a generation of zealous Filipino clergymen, religious and laity for promoting “an ever more just social order.” Quoting Gaudium et Spes No. 76, he seem to be referring to the Philippine hierarchy that has been consistently passing “moral judgments even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.” Public perception, though, has been quite vocal in tagging some of the hierarchy’s members who were perceived to have traded “critical collaboration” with the past political leadership for personal favor or accommodation.
In the same message the Holy Father delivers a punch-line challenge beneath his commendations when he started talking about “economic and social concerns” especially with respect to the poorest and weakest of society.
“Many of your fellow citizens, however, remain without employment, adequate education or basic services, and so your prophetic statements and your charitable action on behalf of the poor continue to be greatly appreciated. In addition to this effort, you are rightly concerned that there be an on-going commitment to the struggle against corruption, since the growth of a just and sustainable economy will only come about when there is a clear and consistent application of the rule of law throughout the land.”
While the Successor of Peter appreciates the “prophetic statements” and “charitable actions” ongoing in the Philippine as well as the pockets of efforts to fight corruption, it can hardly be denied that the socio-political order in this part of Christendom is not getting any better.
He takes note that “at the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II), the Church in your nation took a special interest in devoting herself more fully to care for the poor.” It should be interesting to find out after almost two decades now since PCP-II how much of this “special interest” for the poor has gained realization.