How is your friendship with Jesus? Do you find in prayer a daily space to speak with Him? In these complicated months that we are living, perhaps sometimes you forget to pray, but remember: nobody will listen to you better than He will. With prayer, you enter into dialogue with God, who is Father. Pope Francis says that “if we do not pray, we will not have the strength to go forward in life. Prayer is like the oxygen of life.” During this Advent, share the words of the Holy Father with your friends and remind them that it’s necessary to pray for the challenges facing humanity and the mission of the Church, because “we can do many things, but without prayer, it doesn’t work.”
“The heart of the Church’s mission is prayer.
Prayer is the key for us to be able to enter into dialogue with the Father.
Every time we read a short passage from the Gospel we hear Jesus speaking to us. We have a conversation with Jesus. We listen to Jesus and we reply. And this is prayer.
By praying, we change reality. And we change our hearts. Our heart changes when we pray.
We can do many things,but without prayer, it does not work. We pray that that our personal relationship with Jesus Christ be nourished by the Word of God and a life of prayer.”
Each month, The Pope Video disseminates the Holy Father’s prayer intentions regarding the challenges facing humanity and the mission of the Church.
Dearly Beloved People of God,
The Philippine Church rejoices as it enters a national celebration of the 500 Years of Christianity in our treasured homeland. Five centuries ago we received the marvelous gift of the Christian faith; our hearts overflow with joy and gratitude. Why of all the nations and peoples in Asia was the Philippines chosen by God to be among the first to receive this precious gift? The clear answer is simply this: God’s magnanimous, overflowing love.
We recall what God told his people Israel regarding his choice: “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations. It was because the Lord loved you and because of his fidelity…” (Dt 7:7-8). Only God’s freely given love can illuminate the choice of the Filipino people to receive this valuable gift of faith!
The Christian faith arrived and prospered in our land through the dedication and heroic sacrifices of thousands of men and women missionaries from various parts of the world. They treasured the gift of faith they had received and desired to share this gift with others. As the theme chosen by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for this fifth centennial notes: all Christians are “gifted to give.” This “giftedness” motivated generous missionaries over the centuries; it must also enflame the hearts of all of us today to engage in mission here at home and in other countries (missio ad gentes). Indeed, this is part of Jesus’ mission mandate to his disciples: “What you have received as a gift, give as a gift” (Mt 10:8). We pray for a missionary renewal of our Church—both at home (ad intra) and beyond our borders (ad extra) during our celebration of the 500 years—and into the future!
Missionary Transformation. Our beloved Pope Francis, who visited us in 2015, is committed to the missionary renewal of the entire Church; we can take inspiration from his document Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). He asserts that we need an “evangelizing Church that comes out of herself,” not a Church that is “self-referential” and “lives within herself, of herself, for herself” (cf. EG 20-24). Francis says: “I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation…. All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion” (EG 27). We seek to renew our mission enthusiasm here at home as well as missio ad gentes, mission to other nations and peoples.
Pope Francis continues: “Missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity…. We need to move ‘from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry’” (EG 15). “I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has programmatic significance and important consequences…. Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission’” (EG 25). We must seek to “put all things in a missionary key” (EG 34). We recall the challenge of Pope John Paul II during his 1981 visit to our Church: “I wish to tell you of my special desire: that the Filipinos will become the foremost missionaries of the Church in Asia.” This is a clear invitation to engage in missio ad gentes!
Pope Francis’ insights about Church missionary renewal come from his deep personal relationship with Christ. He writes: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ…. I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day” (EG 3). A pivotal insight of Pope Francis is that “we are all missionary disciples” (EG 119); through baptism, “all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples” (EG 120). All Christians are “agents of evangelization.” Missionary evangelization “calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized…. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples’” (EG 120).
Joy: A Convincing Sign. For Pope Francis, salvation history is a “great stream of joy” (EG 5) which we must also enter. Let the joy of faith be revived, because God’s mercies never end (cf. EG 6). Unfortunately, “there are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter” (EG 6). “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral” (EG 10). We must not become “querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’” (EG 85). “May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ (EG 10; cf. EN 75). We all must not “end up stifling the joy of mission” (EG 79), both here at home and in other lands!
Mercy: Today’s Pathway in Mission. Pope Francis continually insists that mercy is the very essence of God. In his Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy) Francis expresses it this way: mercy is God’s identity card. He says: “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace…. Mercy [is] the bridge that connects God and man” (MV 2). Francis quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas, who asserts that “mercy is the greatest of all virtues; … all the others revolve around it … it is proper to God to have mercy” (EG 37). “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love” (MV 10).
“The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person…. As the Church is charged with the task of the new evangelization, the theme of mercy needs to be proposed again and again with new enthusiasm and renewed pastoral action…. In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (MV 12).
Conclusion. Pope Francis’ profound thoughts on missionary renewal, joy, and mercy provide a solid compass to guide us as individuals and communities during our 500-years celebration and in the year 2021 which is dedicated to missio ad gentes (mission to all peoples). With Pope Francis we ask two graces of the Lord: “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigor” (EG 109). “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm” (EG 80). We remain constant in prayer, asking our two canonized “foreign” missionary saints, Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod, to intercede for us so that our loving God will always abundantly bless our Church in the Philippines and all her many missionary endeavors!
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+ ROMULO G. VALLES, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
29 November 2020, First Sunday of Advent
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is the Philippine’s “gift” to the universal Church, the head of the Catholic hierarchy said Sunday as they bid goodbye to the outgoing Manila archbishop.
CBCP President, Archbishop Romulo Valles, while addressing the farewell ceremony, said that there are more reasons to be joyful than to be sad on Tagle’s new mission.
“We would like to tell the world that he is the gift of the Filipinos to the universal Church and to Rome,” he said, drawing applause from other bishops.
“We are sad but I think that you will agree with me that one of the wonderful gifts that the Church in the Philippines (has) is in the person of Cardinal Chito,” Archbishop Valles said.
The Davao archbishop also regarded the cardinal as the country’s “national flag carrier” who carries the faith of Filipinos to the world.
“It is our prayer that the Lord will continue to bless you and keep you joyful in your difficult task,” he said.
The farewell dinner was held as more than 90 bishops from all over the country gathered for their plenary assembly in Manila over the weekend.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, CBCP Vice President, was also all praises of the cardinal.
The two were together in San Jose Seminary although Tagle was one year ahead of David.
The bishop recalled that one of the things they always look forward to as students of philosophy was the review classes facilitated by Tagle “because he could simplify complicated thoughts”.
“That was the rare gift of Cardinal Chito,” David said. “His brightness seemed to brighten other people.”
For his part, Cardinal Tagle admitted still having confusion in his heart and mind now that he will leave the country for a new mission.
One time, Tagle shared that he was in a chapel to “present this dilemma” and in the end, “the clincher is where can you follow Jesus—the poor, the crucified.”
“And it pointed me to that path,” he said. “So I really cried and cried there in the chapel but there was peace that the cross was the main criteria in the end.”
At one part of the gathering, the bishops surrounded Cardinal Tagle and sung “You’ll never walk alone.”
On Monday, several bishops, priests, nuns, and laypeople prayed over Tagle as he prepares to leave for his new Vatican post.
During the Thanksgiving Mass at the Manila Cathedral, the cardinal knelt before the congregation as they raised their hands towards him while praying.
In December 2019, Pope Francis appointed Tagle as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, a powerful department at the Roman Curia.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has approved on Saturday the institutionalization of the “Red Wednesday” campaign in the country.
The bishops unanimously agreed to make the campaign an official Philippine Church celebration to raise awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.
Red Wednesday is an initiative of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a global Catholic pastoral aid organization.
“This formally makes the Red Wednesday an official day of observance in all churches and Catholic institutions in the Philippines,” said Jonathan Luciano, ACN Philippines national director.
The decision was made during the first day of their plenary assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.
More than 90 bishops are currently gathered for the biennial meeting, which will end on Jan. 27.
“The overwhelming support makes the Philippines the first country to do this. We will do this, and we will continue to do this for every Christian in need,”. Luciano said.
First organized in the United Kingdom in 2016, the Philippines started joining the campaign in 2017.
Red is the Christian color of martyrdom and studies have shown that Christians remain the most “persecuted” faith group in the world, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.
Luciano said the event will be held on a Wednesday every after the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Last November, more than 2,100 Church edifices across the Philippines were lit in red to mark Red Wednesday, the largest turnout of the global event.
“May this serve as an inspiration to other countries as well, especially to nations like ours, which are of major concern when it comes to persecution,” said Luciano.
Filipino Archbishop Bernardito Auza has formally assumed the Vatican’s top diplomatic post in Spain.
Archbishop Auza met with Filipe VI, King of Spain, to present his credentials at Royal Place in Madrid on Jan. 16.
Following the ceremony, the archbishop had a brief meeting with the Spanish monarch, who was dressed in royal military attire.
The ceremony dates back to the 18th century and maintains traditions that have remained the same to this day.
Credentials are documents that accredit a foreign ambassador as representative and maximum diplomatic authority of another country in Spain.
Born in Talibon, Bohol, Auza was ordained a priest for the Tagbilaran diocese in 1985. He was incardinated to the Diocese of Talibon in 1986.
In June 1990, he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See and served in the apostolic nunciatures of Madagascar, Bulgaria, Albania.
He also served as a member of the Permanent Mission of the See to the United Nations before assuming his post as Apostolic Nuncio in Haiti in 2008.
In 2014, he was named permanent observer of the Holy See before the UN and before the Organization of American States (OAS).
Last Oct. 1, Pope Francis appointed Auza, who is fluent in Spanish language, as the Apostolic Nuncio to Spain and Andorra.
Auza assumed his new post around a year before the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines through the Spanish missionaries.
In a divided and fragmented world, I want to invite all believers, and also all people of good will, to reconciliation and fraternity. Our faith leads us to spread the values of peace and mutual understanding, of the common good. We pray that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote together peace and justice in the world.