Here are excerpts of his address: “To hope is to recognize the lights and shadows around us yet confidently expecting blessings and good things to come. Hoping is not closing our eyes to the sad realities that plague our nation. How can we not see and think of around 3,000 who died and hundreds of houses swept away in Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Dumaguete due to typhoon Sendong last month? We know many other dioceses devastated by calamities last year. How true what our brother of happy memory, Bp. Franciso Claver had observed: ‘Some years back, in 1993, a study of natural disasters occurring all over the world in the years since 1903 was reported...Typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, mudslides – destructive occurrences of natural causation...The study had the Philippines at the top of the list with more than 700 such disasters during the 90 years studied. India came second with just about half...With such a record of calamities, we can rightly call ourselves ‘the Natural Disaster Capital of the World’—a distinction we would rather not have!’
“Aside from the natural calamities, there are a brood of factors that cause untold pain and suffering to our people. The reality of graft and corruption, unemployment and unabated devastation of our forests and seas led to poverty and related problems. At this time with the obvious confrontations among the main branches of our government make us wish we are not stuck up in pinning down the guilty but instead we are now marching and collaborating with each other in implementing laws and programs that bring about growth and development. Certainly we can say there are dark clouds in the sky.
“Under the dark clouds and in the midst of poverty and suffering, I reiterate, I feel a great hope. I pray that we, as members of the CBCP, own up and declare that there is hope. We hope because in (Pope John Paul II’s 2003 Apostolic Exhortation) Pastores Gregis, that is what we are called to be: harbingers of hope. As bishops, we are to give people a reason for living and hoping.
“Whether we are kneeling in prayer or picking pieces of broken lives or rebuilding communities, or revisiting diocesan programs or planning for the 25th anniversary of PCP II on 2016 or the 5th centenary of Christianity on 2021 may we have that eager expectations of blessings and good things to come. In every here and now we know that as bishops we should be men of communion, open to all, gathering into the one pilgrim flock those which the goodness of the Lord has entrusted to us, helping to overcome divisions, to heal rifts to settle conflicts and misunderstandings, to forgive offenders” and promote the reign of God in our church in the Philippines.”