AMONG the thousands of postings that were weaved by social media during past few days, two stood out. One was the apology issued by a Catholic university for inviting a person who is reputed to be a major protagonist in a political dictatorship. The other was the video of a Redemptorist priest in Cebu who lectured a 17-year old single mother at her child’s baptism. Both have gone viral and earned a good amount of bashing.
But come to think of it, both are “fertile grounds” for contemplating the pastoral letter “A nation of mercy and compassion” issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to prepare the country for the forthcoming Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis.
CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas said it best at his speech during the opening session of the 109th Plenary Assembly held last weekend. He said, “Perhaps we can reach out to more people by stretching our minds and lowering our fences and listening like Jesus without being judgmental or punitive.” The good archbishop considers today’s paradigm that is Pope Francis as challenge who “has slowly moved the Church from being a dogmatic, self-engrossed and authoritative sick institution to being a gentle, outreaching, compassionate and persuasive Church through the power of love and mercy.”
Compassion is the whole sense of the Pope’s visit to the Philippines in January next year. Overtly, it is compassion for the victims of the calamities that hit the Visayas to an unimaginable proportion last year. “His visit carries a message of pastoral love, mercy and compassion from a Pope with the scent of a Good Shepherd,” says the aforesaid pastoral letter.
On another sense, perhaps the physical brokenness caused by these natural calamities may not be as deep-seated as the “shadows” that often take the center-stage more than the “lights” in the whole drama of almost 500 years of the Filipino brand of Catholicism. This religious pathology has already been diagnosed by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991. But if such should be the case, then there is a deeper sense of compassion that this country needs that may be provoked by the pope’s visit.