A Pope Appeals

By Jose Ma. Montelibano
First Posted 02:32am (Mla time) 12/28/2007

MANILA, Philippines—Pope Benedict XVI gave his Christmas message -- which asked mankind in general and Catholics in particular to give more attention to God and the poor. In other words, the Pope appealed for compliance to the very foundation of the Christian faith -- to love God and to love neighbor.

The Pope's Christmas message was for everyone, but it seemed to have a special aim for Catholics in the Philippines -- long the historical pride of the Church as the only Christian country in Asia. What the Pope said seems to be a swipe at the failure of the Catholic Church in the Philippines to make Catholic teachings the anchor of religious belief and the criteria of Catholic behavior. After all, what Pope or Church hierarchy could miss the status of the Philippines as one of the most corrupt and impoverished?

Appealing for more attention to God and the poor cannot be a more pointed appeal to the Catholic Church in the Philippines and its converts. After all, the evil of corruption that dominates Philippine society reflects the absence of God, as evil is understood to be the absence of good. The massiveness of poverty among our people reflects as well the absence of love for neighbor. In Asia's original and primary Christian country, the absence of good and the absence of love for one's neighbor have become its greatest achievements. Truly, the Pope's appeal cannot be more meaningful and pointed than it is for Christianity in the Philippines.

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Carolling farmers ask SC to lift TRO in Luisita

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 10:39pm (Mla time) 12/27/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Militant farmers and farm workers’ groups on Thursday picketed the Supreme Court, singing Christmas carols as they campaigned for lifting of a temporary restraining order blocking the distribution of lands they had been tilling at the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

About 20 members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and farm workers from Hacienda Luisita joined the picket, which began at around 11:30 a.m.

Rene Galang, concurrent president of UMA and the United Luisita Workers’ Union, gave Chief Justice Reynato Puno a Christmas card “so that he will not forget our Christmas wish.”

“It has been 50 years since the farm workers started fighting for their rights to the land,” Galang said.

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Filipino Happiness

By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The other night, while walking around the acacia-lined oval of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, campus, I found myself trailing behind a group of young people lost in cheerful conversation. They moved unhurriedly and seemed completely oblivious of everything around them. Every stride they made was marked by laughter. I had seen this before in many places abroad where overseas Filipino workers congregate on their free days. It became clear to me suddenly what happiness means in our culture. Our happiness springs from good conversation, story-telling, and joking with relatives and friends.

Happiness, says the Greek philosopher Aristotle, occurs when our human capacities function well. For him, the most distinctive of these capacities is reason, and so happiness must be the contemplation of the results of reason. But he wavered between equating happiness with contemplation and seeing it as the outcome of other human functions. Had he been a Filipino, Aristotle would have concluded that the good life is one lived in conversation.

The eminent American guru of Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin E. Seligman, was the guest of Stephen Sackur on BBC’s “Hardtalk” this week. He talked of three forms of happiness: Positive Emotions, Total Engagement, and Meaning and Purpose. They are interrelated, he says, and indeed he talks of them as if they were stages. Of these, the easiest to achieve is the first -- cheerfulness and laughter. The most difficult is anchoring life’s meaning to a purpose that you believe to be larger than you. This concept of happiness is fascinating, but I think it is culture-bound. It is still resonant of the Western accent on the primacy of reason and the intellect.

Survey after survey has shown that Filipinos rank very high in the happiness index. But we are not really sure what happiness consists of for the average Filipino. The most recent survey by the poll group Social Weather Stations reports that 64 percent or more than two out of three Filipinos expect Christmas to be happy this year. This is, says SWS, comparable to the 62 percent of the previous two years, but much lower than the recorded 82 percent in 1982. I am certain that the Filipino’s capacity for happiness even in the most adverse circumstances would still be significantly higher than the scores for the bastions of Aristotelian contemplation, like Britain, France, or Germany.

What might this suggest about the Filipino’s notion of the good life? To me, it indicates a preference for sheer sociability -- being with others for its own sake -- over any form of intellectual or cognitive achievement. We often say that our notion of happiness is shallow (“mababaw ang kaligayahan natin”). So be it. I think theorists like Seligman or self-help gurus like Rick Warren will have to show how having a “higher” purpose in life deepens one’s happiness, or why this should be the norm for everyone.

When the Filipino says he feels happiest when he is at home with family and friends, I think he is expressing a wisdom our ancestors have always known. We are indeed a culture of conviviality. All our basic values confirm this: “pakikisama,” “hiya,” “utang na loob,” etc. They all refer to standards prescribing smooth relations with others. They stand in contrast to Western values like virtue, wisdom, personal authenticity, freedom, etc.

Sociologists might explain this difference as an aspect of the contrast between pre-modernity and modernity. They would suggest that the direction of all societal evolution is toward the emergence of the individual from the control of his family, clan, community or nation. To a certain extent this is probably true. But how do we explain the fact that many overseas Filipino workers and immigrants who have managed to wrench themselves away from the womb of their society nevertheless continue to be emotionally engaged in the affairs of their primordial communities. Like turtles, they seem to have brought their homes on their backs.

The answer, perhaps, lies in the courage, faith, assurance and, yes, cheerfulness, that we Filipinos effortlessly draw from being in the company of other people we know. I am sure we will find this as well in other cultures in varying degrees, but not in the exceptional way in which Filipinos seek out each other’s company.

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A year-end reflection

By Mon Casiple

First of all, my best wishes to all Filipino patriots out there who do not want to lose hope with our nation and country. From where I sit, there is absolutely no basis for pessimism–as the saying goes, “a few good men…”

I think we stand now at a crossroad–not only with regards the fate of the nation’s current leaders in the light of the coming 2010 elections but also as a nation changing an entire generation of both Marcos and post-Marcos leaders. Relentlessly, the march of time creates the political vacuum that few in the young generations have the acumen, the skills, and the patience to fill up.

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Manifesto on Rural Life

Aloisius J. Muench
Bishop of Fargo

One need but take a cursory glance through American history to see that this nation has always had some kind of agrarian problem. Agrarianism has had a long and troublesome history. When our nation began, Daniel Shays led the farmer into rebellion. The farmer of revolutionary days was burdened with heavy debts; contracts were ruthlessly enforced against him; prices were low; the savings of hard labor expended in clearing land of timber, stumps, and rocks were being lost. Shays organized the first pressure group among the farmers. His rebellion was crushed by armed force. From the hard times of 1785-86 down to the hard times of our day is a far cry. But in the intervening 150 years the farmer often found himself face to face with serious problems. To cope with them, all sorts of panaceas were rushed upon the scene. Some were radical and revolutionary in character; others were legislative and monetary; still others were economic and political.

The fact is, of course, that the farmer's problem is so complicated by many factors that it cannot be solved by a simple formula. It is not the purpose of this MANIFESTO to offer such a formula. The MANIFESTO is not in the nature of a blueprint with detailed specifications to show how the new agrarianism is to be built and how the farmer's problems are to be solved. There is no such complete solution available.

The purpose of the MANIFESTO is to state certain fundamental principles and policies without which it would be folly to essay a solution. These principles and policies are chiefly derived from Catholic social philosophy as expressed in the social encyclicals of Leo XIII and Pius XI.

In propounding social philosophy, the Catholic Church does not leave out of view the spiritual nature of man and his ultimate spiritual destiny. She would not be true to her mission if she did so. Indeed, the salvation of souls must ever be her first concern. But so intimately are material things interwoven with man's daily conduct, its motives and its deeds, that the Church cannot be unconcerned about what goes on in the material order of things. In point of fact, a pure secularism which would divorce man's earthly life from spiritual concerns is not in accord with the realities of man's daily living. To ignore either the spiritual or the material in their manifold interrelations can only result in disaster.

The Church has ever shown a special solicitude for those whose living is derived from the land. "In the Twenty Centuries of Her Existence," writes Archbishop Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, "the Catholic Church has ever shown, emphasized even, her predilection for those who till the soil, on whose work and efforts depends so important a part of the well-being of all."[1] One need not search far or deeply for the reason of this solicitude for the tiller of the land. The occupation of agriculture offers the most favorable conditions, generally speaking, for the development of private property, the fostering of home life, the culture of initiative, prudence, thrift, courage and other priceless virtues, and for the promotion of simple but wholesome and rugged living.

Agrarianism has entered upon a new phase in the twentieth century, especially beginning with the period after the World War. Foreign markets have been greatly reduced, nations have embarked upon vast, even though costly, programs of economic self-sufficiency, domestic markets have shrunk owing to lessened purchasing power and a lower birth rate. Population shifts, because of the steady migration of farm youth from the populous areas of Rural America into the dying city centers of Urban America, have given origin to new and complex problems, and a dozen other factors, largely of an economic and social character, have given rise to great disparities between urban and rural living. The unbalance between the two has been aggravated by the Great Depression from both an economic and a social point of view. Archbishop Cicognani has summed up the whole problem in a few trenchant words: "In the present world-wide economic disorder, brought about by the abuses of capitalism, by technological changes, and by dislocated relationship between rural and urban life, dangerous inequalities and disproportions have developed to the detriment and, in some instances, to the degradation of the farm population. Those who live on the land form the larger portion of the human family and their labor is the most important and indispensable for the livelihood of all. The most elementary justice entitles them to standards of living no less abundant and complete than those enjoyed by the urban population. Briefly, justice should prevail between the farm and the city."[2]

It would be a mistake to think that the problems of agrarianism are entirely rural. What goes on back on the farm has its repercussions in the city, and what happens in the city has its reactions on the farm. Wheels of industry are quickly stopped if the farmer cannot buy industry's products because he does not obtain a just share of the nation's income. The immigration of farm youth to the cities often entails as consequences the reduction of wages, the lengthening of bread lines, and the swelling of city slums. A thousand different interrelations exist between city and farm. The sooner it is recognized that agriculture and industry form an economic whole with varied implications of a moral, social, and political character, the better it will be for the material well-being of the nation. To keep this thought to the fore has been among the prime objectives of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference from the day it was founded by the Most Rev. Edwin V. O'Hara, now Bishop of Kansas City. To give this thought more definite expression is one of the chief aims of this MANIFESTO. Hence, the economic, social, cultural, moral, and religious have all received consideration in this statement. It represents the thinking of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference over the years that have elapsed since it was founded. For a long time the great need of a concise statement on agricultural and rural problems has been felt by Catholic Agrarian leaders. The MANIFESTO is the joint product of thought of eminent leaders in the field of Catholic rural thought.

Lest the document be encumbered with factual, statistical, and illustrative material, and cluttered up with references of a varied sort, Annotations have been added in Part II. The reference to these is by paragraph number.

In a special Introduction to the Annotations we have given expression to our sentiments of appreciation and gratitude to those who, by advice, suggestion, and workmanship, were helpful in producing the document.

The MANIFESTO makes a venture on new ground, not that all fields have been covered and that nothing more remains to be said on rural life questions, but rather that for the first time, so far as we know, principles and policies have been stated in a succinct and orderly fashion with respect to Catholic Rural Life. We hope that the Rural Life Movement will march forward with new strength and courage under the stimulus that has been given it by this MANIFESTO.

Click here to read the complete Manifesto.


Filipino: A Damaged Culture?

Click here to read Manolo Quezon's blog entry entitled "Fallowship".


Church revives body to look into land reform cases

By Beverly T. Natividad
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Last updated 01:45am (Mla time) 12/20/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- WITH its successful intervention in the cause of the Sumilao farmers, the Church is now setting its sights on other land reform cases.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has reconvened its National Rural Congress (NRC) after 40 years to look closely into the government's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, particularly in the light of the Sumilao case and the expiration of the CARP in June 2008.

"This is the time to discuss closely what can be done," Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, chair of NRC II's executive committee, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Ledesma said NRC II was being convened to look into why rural poverty was still existing, and what the Church could do about it.

The last NRC was convened in 1967.

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Lack of "activism" of Catholic Church leaders?

By Francisco Alcuaz

We are seriously concerned with the lack of activism of Catholic Church leaders in relation to the moral bankruptcy -- corruption, cheating and lying -- of government officials. Priests do not remind the faithful that it is their duty to fight corruption and to demand good governance. The priests do not read in churches or distribute the pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, demanding truth and good governance.

The priests have not been brave enough to use the pulpit and other means at their disposal to instill in church members, especially those in the provinces, the need to be rational and to properly plan the family.

It appears that many priests are interested more in “lacing” their churches with gold, which does not benefit the faithful. This is a throwback to the past. They should take note that today, the luxurious European churches of the past serve more as tourist sites than as houses of prayer and worship.

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Concern for a just Agrarian System

The Church does not have the technical competence to propose concrete solutions regarding complex agrarian reform questions. But its mandate is to teach and promote those moral values that help define the purpose of economic enterprise like haciendas. Thus the Church judges the economy by what it does for and to people. Something is wrong in a system where large numbers of workers are caught in a vicious cycle of heavy debt and who are denied the possibility of owning land.

This concern for a just agrarian system is not a new emphasis for the CBCP. Back in 1968 it organized a National Rural Congress which "saw the roots of much of our social evils in the present pattern of land ownership in our country" which condemns the farmer-tenants to a miserable condition of economic dependence and strips him of his freedom and dignity.

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A Fire of Testing Has Come to the Catholics

In my last posting, I talked about El Shaddai’s brother Mike Velarde and his “seeming” contradiction to the official teaching of the Catholic church regarding statues and images of saints. In his previous message (12/08/2007) he admonished the Catholics of the nation to stop from kneeling and praying before the statues and images of saints because, according to his teaching, it is a cause of curse to our nation.

In his last message (12/15/2007) he continued to talk about statues and images of saints, but this time he was bold and he strongly urged the members of their group to surrender any form of idol they may have kept at their homes and destroy them all by burning them.

His last message was in continuation of his previous message which borders on the theme on generational curses of a nation and the ways of breaking free from them. Brother Mike Velarde believes that the primary reason why our nation is in a seemingly endless cycle of sufferings and hardships is because the nation is under many curses, and one of the major cause of these curses is idolatry that involves the statues and images of saints.

To the Catholics, the statue and image of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most sacred among the saints. They may give up devotion to the rest of the saints but never to Mary. She is so dear to them because she is the mother of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and hence has become their mother in Christianity. But in his last message, brother Mike Velarde had “found the strength” to dare challenge the rest of the Catholics of the nation and even the priests and bishops by implying that devotion to Mary is unnecessary for salvation, and therefore it needs to be abandoned. He said with a forceful voice of delivery, urging the nation once and for all, to do away with “rebulto at rosaryo” (statue and rosary).

He also mentioned again the name of their group’s spiritual director, Bishop Teodoro Bacani. He said that the bishop would not dare to talk about this matter to the group himself for fear of being rejected -- implying that he (Velarde) was made to do the “heavy lifting” for the bishop concerning this matter. Does this mean that a Catholic bishop is in approval of what brother Mike Velarde is teaching and urging Catholics to do? To say the least, this is shocking and confusing to the mainstream Catholics who are not members of brother Mike Velarde’s El Shaddai group.

Brother Mike Velarde’s word to the bishops: “As the priests and bishops go, so goes the nation.” Implying that maybe the priests and bishops are not doing their supposed job correctly concerning this matter.

In this serious controversy that is slowly starting to burn among the “Catholics” in the Philippines, the lay people deserve an official statement from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) regarding this matter so that they may be guided accordingly.

Brother Mike Velarde also told that some non-Catholic Christian charismatic groups were urging him to join their group since he no longer believes in the official teaching and tradition of the Catholic church concerning statues and images, but he refused to break away from being affiliated with the Catholic church because, according to him, “Light is needed most in places where darkness dwells, not in places where light already exists.”

If brother Mike Velarde is really true to his conviction on this issue, then at any time soon, his prayer mountain should be blazing with fire from burning of the idols that their members may have owned. Or better yet, fire from burning statues and images should be seen at the wide open grounds of AMVEL business park and fully covered by media for the whole world to see -- or any other action to this effect, otherwise, his talk is cheap.

A fire of testing has come to the Catholic church – to the Philippines for now, to the rest of the world later; for these days is a season of testing.


“Catholic Idolatry”: A Curse to the Nation?

It is 1:00am of 12/10/2007, and I just finished watching the late night replay at channel 13 of El Shaddai’s (a locally founded Catholic group whose teaching authority is not officially recognized by the Catholic church) latest weekly religious activity at AMVEL business park.

In the Bible teaching portion of their activity, brother Mike Velarde (the group’s servant-leader and founder) talked about the various causes and reasons why a nation may be undergoing hardships and difficulties. He narrated verses from the Bible that speak about things that bring curses to a nation. Among the things he mentioned was idolatry, and bluntly but politely he emphasized (using his favorite line of caution, “Bato bato sa langit, ang tatamaan huwag magaglit.”) the Catholic tradition concerning statues and images of saints. He admonished the “nation” to do away with this tradition of kneeling and praying before the statues and images of the saints because it is one reason our nation is experiencing a seemingly endless cycle of sufferings and hardships.

December 8th in the Catholic tradition is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and this is one of the important celebration of the Catholic religion. But brother Mike Velarde didn’t specifically mentioned the “wrong way of veneration” that most Catholics render to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I observed in the video that many of the audience looked so perplexed with brother Mike Velarde’s admonition. Bishop Teodoro Bacani is the spiritual director of the group, but is this teaching of the El Shaddai servant-leader do not seriously confuse the lay Catholics who are members of this group? Because it seems that brother Mike Velarde is contradicting the official teaching of the Catholic church regarding this matter. Is this another manifestation of conflict among the Catholic church?

Below is a text from the Catholic catechesis concerning the First Commandment:

The First commandment: "I am the Lord your God, you shall not have other gods before me" (Basic Catholic Catechism)

The commandment most directly prohibits the worship of false gods, and, to follow up, prohibits images. The Jews were very prone to such idolatry before the great exile. Afterwards they seem to have been largely healed.

The prohibition of images does not apply now, since the danger of idolatry has gone. Our images of Our Lord, His Mother, and the Saints, are just helps to devotion. We do not adore them. We only venerate them, but even the veneration goes not to the image but to the holy one for which the image stands.

We need to avoid also superstition, which is offering worship in an improper manner, probably based on false revelations, e. g, prayers that if said for a set number of days will have an infallible result. Vain observance would be magic or satanism. Sadly, there is explicit worship of satan today. The Ouija board is dangerous, and we should avoid it, since part of its results come from automatic writing, but often enough satan intervenes.

We must also avoid sacrilege, which is scornful treatment of a person, place or thing dedicated to God. To receive Holy Communion in the state of sin is sacrilege. We avoid also simony, which takes its name from Simon Magus, who tried to buy with money the gift of working miracles . St. Peter rebuked him strongly (Acts 8:9-24). To give a stipend for a Mass etc. is not simony. It is not buying the Mass, it is an offering for the support of the priest, or a means of sharing specially in the Mass.

In a loose sense, not a strict sense, some people today "worship" the false gods of secularism, which says this world is the only one to be considered, or hedonism, which makes pleasure the goal of life, or Communism, which denies the existence of God, seeks happiness in a so-called classless society in Russia the very opposite has been true, great privilege and luxury for the ruling class.

On the positive side, we are to worship God, which means most essentially, adoration and obedience. Adoration means recognizing who He is, and who I am in comparison. This is due in justice, but also, more importantly, in love: we recognize that God is not only infinitely good to us, but also in Himself. As such we should respond by pleasing Him by making ourselves open to receive His gifts — for that pleases Him. that is what love for God means. In no other way to we really give Him anything. The central virtue that gave all its value to the sacrifice of Jesus was His obedience to the will of the Father. Without it, His death would have been a tragedy, not a redemption.

Sacrifice for us (some pagan peoples had different ideas of sacrifice) has an external sign, which is there to express and perhaps even promote the essential, which is the interior dispositions. God complained through Isaiah (Is 29:13: "This people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." The ancient Israelites at that time seemed to think their participation in their liturgy meant merely making responses and singing — these things were good, but the obedience was lacking. We must join our obedience — carried out in the recent past, or to come in the near future — to the offering of Jesus, when, through the human priest, He puts Himself on the altar under the appearance of separation of body and blood, to express His continued attitude of obedience to the Father. So catechists say our role in the Mass is ACTS:

Thanksgiving, and

We should do these things, but we must not let them cause us to forget the real center is obedience (Cf. Romans 519 and LG #3).

Outside the time of the sacrifice of the Mass, we should of course pray. Regular times are called for to insure we do not forget prayer altogether.

To God we give adoration, it the sense just described; but to Our Lady and the Saints we give only veneration, honor, something less than adoration. The sacrifice of Jesus is infinite, and so in a way we should need to do nothing. Yet St. Paul insists that the whole Christian regime means we are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are not only members of Christ, but like Him. That includes being like Him in the work of reparation for sin (cf. Rom 8:17-18; Col 1. 24).


Bishop to Arroyo: Heed the signs

Tue, 12/04/2007 - 22:12 — CBCP News

MANILA, 4 December 2007— A Catholic bishop says President Gloria Arroyo should take a cue from the never-ending political saga and restore credibility to her administration.

Novaliches Bishop-Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said the standoff in Makati City recently only showed that the country is sinking to a deepening political crisis.

He said Mrs Arroyo is failing to read the signs that many people may have grown tired of her rule.

“I propose that the President and her administration take this most recent event as an opportunity to look into themselves,” said Bacani.

He said authorities might have foiled the supposed plan to overthrow the Arroyo administration, but warned that people's outcry is far from over until real issues are properly addressed.

“The victors of last Thursday’s affair may indeed be eating and drinking today, or going shopping or visiting other countries, not knowing what is in store for them,” he said. “Rather than gloat over their victory, those in power should examine their consciences."

The bishop also said he is hoping the government would be like that in Singapore where “center of truth” is present among their officials.

In Singapore, he also said, not one of the ministers has been charged or at least suspected of wrongdoing.

“This center of truth is so called because it is characterized by transparency, honesty and integrity,” he said.

Bishop Bacani, however, stressed that said facet of a better government is "precisely what we lack."

In the Philippines, he said, Mrs. Arroyo and her husband and other ranking government leaders have been accused, weighed and found wanting by the people, if not by the courts as yet.

“We, in fact, have a government we do not trust, because there is a lack of transparency, honesty, and adherence to the rule of law by those who are supposed to implement them,” he said.

The prelate cited the arrest and alleged harassments of journalists by the authorities at the Manila Peninsula siege last week as a case of breaking the law by the law enforcers themselves.

Contrary to what has been reported, Bishop Bacani also clarified that he was not at the Manila Peninsula during the standoff.

The bishop said he was in Batam, Indonesia attending the 3rd Asian Convention on the Divine Mercy when the foiled coup broke out.

Earlier reports revealed that Bacani also went to the hotel but reportedly left before the government assault.

Canon Law Prelate says involvement in social issues is part of mission

By Melo Acuña
Monday, 12/03/2007 - 19:17 — CBCP News

MANILA, 3 December 2007— Catholic priests and bishops may become unpopular should they talk about social issues but “that is part of our prophetic role, our responsibility to tell the people that what is morally wrong has to be rectified.”

CBCP Episcopal Commission on Canon Law Chairman and Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Y. Medroso said the bishops and priests may get into the picture if they see “there is something wrong with governance” and hastened to add “his conscience would tell him to get out and be heard, to speak out if there’s something wrong with the authorities.”

Bishop Medroso said limiting priests and bishops to spiritual matters is wrong. “It is a very, very wrong concept of the mission of priests, bishops and religious for we do not exist in this world as spirits, we are living in this world with body and soul and precisely because of that the involvement is so close and simply we cannot separate one from the other,” the prelate from Tagbilaran said.

Asked about various and at times conflicting opinions from bishops and priests, Bishop Medroso said his brother prelates and priests have different views and convictions on political issues.

“We have to consider the reality that even priests and bishops have different perceptions and appreciation of events,” the 69 year-old prelate concluded.

But read also, "Political Confusion at The Catholic Conference".