Monday, March 28, 2011

Rumor: Blessed Pedro Calungsod's canonization to get the green light from the Pope

Rumors are now swirling in Facebook and elsewhere that Blessed Pedro Calungsod's canonization has just been approved and that a date for the canonization is about to be set. (Perhaps what is meant is that a second miracle attributed to Blessed Calungsod, the one needed for canonization, has been accepted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.) Nothing yet on the Vatican website, though.

UPDATE (April 5, 2011): The Holy Father Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to formally recognize miracles attributed to five candidates for beatification on April 2, 2011. See this for the news report on the official blog of the Vatican Information Service. No miracles were approved for any of the beati, including Blessed Pedro Calungsod. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bishop of Paranaque grants faculty to absolve from the sin of abortion to priests in his diocese for the duration of Lent and the Easter Octave

Two weeks ago, the Bishop of Paranaque, Msgr. Jesse Mercado issued the following circular to the priests in his diocese. Unfortunately it has received very little publicity.


March 10, 2011


Dear Monsignori and Fathers: 


By virtue of universal law, the faculty to absolve a penitent from the sin of “effected” abortion is hereby granted to the following: a) all parish priests, diocesan or religious; b) parochial vicars; c) guest priests and priests-on-loan in the Diocese and d) other religious priests exercising their ministry within the Diocese, taking into consideration c. 969. 

This faculty is granted under the following conditions: the faculty can be exercised only a) within the territory of the diocese of Parañaque and b) during the season of Lent and within the Easter Octave.

You may post this circular inside the confessional boxes in order to remind the confessors.
With my paternal blessing and invoking the intercession of our Blessed Mother, I remain
                                                                        In Jesus and Mary,

                                                                                                Signed by
                                                                        †JESSE E. MERCADO, D.D.
                                                                               Bishop of Parañaque
Attested by:

Signed by

Theme Song of the CBCP Year of the Youth: Make a Stand!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fr. Catalino Arevalo: there is growing hunger in the Philippines for the thought of Pope Benedict XVI

The following article was written by Fr. Catalino Arevalo S.J., widely recognized as the Dean of Catholic theologians in the Philippines, and can be accessed via a small link at the upper right hand corner of the website of the Archdiocese of Manila. (LINK) Fr. Arevalo refers to himself in the third person throughout the article. Apologies for the late posting: although the "upcoming events" referred to in this article are now finished, it is still worthwhile to see the growing importance being (belatedly) attached in the Philippine Church to the thought of the current Supreme Pontiff. 

Much Demand for Pope Benedict XVI’s
Theology & Spirituality

Of late, there has been considerable demand for greater knowledge of Pope Benedict XVI’s theology and spirituality. [Note: JR: Joseph Ratzinger]. Fr. Catalino G. Arevalo, S.J., has been asked to give a number of talks on this topic. After finishing his part in a (recently completed) three-credit course at Don Bosco (DBCS) Center (held in Makati), he spoke on “Redemptoris Mater, 20 Years Later, As Seen by Benedict XVI” for the Mariological Society of the Philippines (PAMPMS), at the Capuchin center in Lipa, Batangas. He presented some of the Pope’s recent “more popular” publications at the Claretian book “big sale of Ignatius Press/ Benedict books” (where the just-imported stock went surprisingly fast).

San Carlos Seminary has asked for two sessions: an introduction to JR’s ecclesiology for the theological students and (March 5) a recollection day for all the major seminarians on Benedict’s “Holy Week spirituality”. The Malolos diocesan clergy ongoing formation program asked for a morning on Benedict’s “New Evangelization” initiative. (The Pope has created an entirely new Holy See dicastery for this under Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who has to develop its theological grounding and then the action-program based on it., mainly for western “formerly Catholic” countries.)

On Ash Wednesday, March 9, Imus Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle and Fr. Arevalo will present Pope Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth, Book Two: on Holy Week” at the Loyola School of Theology’s Theological Hour from 10 am to 12 noon. Lastly, TV Maria is running a TV broadcast series on the Holy Father’s “Paschal Mystery theology/spirituality” during the weeks of Lent and asked Fr. Arevalo to handle it.

It seems that universally, Pope Benedict’s thought is increasingly creating interest and even excitement. (Check all the “blogs” on him in the internet!) Fr Edward Oakes, S.J., of St. Mary of the Lake University, Chicago, a von Balthasar specialist, says that Ratzinger, now increasingly widely-studied, is emerging as “arguably the very best (barring none!, he says) of the post-Vatican II theologians in the Catholic Church.” The well-known Princeton academic (head of its Humanities Council for some 20 years now), Anthony Grafton (an American Mediaeval and Renaissance historian, Jewish), wrote recently in the New York Review of Books that Pope Benedict is the most scholarly, the deepest and most cultured mind in the Catholic Church’s papacy since Pope Innocent III. (13th century). Sandro Magister, well-known “Vaticanologist,” believes Pope Benedict’s masterly homilies will endure for ages in the Church, on a par with those of St. Leo the Great (of the 5th century). -- CGA

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fasting and Abstinence in the Philippines and for Filipinos: Part 1 - The Legislation Currently in Force

(Updated March 28, 2012 in preparation for Holy Week 2012. This is going to be the last revision of this article. I've added the actual 1985 papally-approved CBCP decision that laid down the laws of fasting and abstinence currently applicable in the Philippines.)

Those who have no time to read through this article, and who simply want to know what the law of the Church in the Philippines is regarding fasting and abstinence can scroll down to the section near the end of this post, entitled "IN SUMMARY". 


Lent is coming! I think it is important that we be reminded, on the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, about the fasting and abstinence regulations currently in force the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. 

In this article, I will simply present the current legislation for the Roman Catholic Church. This is not the time or place to debate the wisdom, or the historicity, or the fidelity to Catholic Tradition, of the current norms. I have my own opinions regarding these matters, but these are for a much later post or article elsewhere.

This article will focus on the obligations laid down by the Church regarding fasting and abstinence. At the very outset I would like to warn against two exaggerations so common to Filipino Catholics. The first exaggeration can be described as, "it is pharisaical to go beyond what the Church requires." Therefore, anyone who fasts or practices penance to an extent greater than what the Church herself requires, is immediately condemned as "pharisaical" or as "self-righteous". The second exaggeration can be summed up as: "it is not good to state what the law says, because that would be too legalistic; we should encourage people to do their best, and not bother with even discussing the minimum that is necessary." Both exaggerations have the same root error of not making a distinction between that which is required by the law of the Church and the spiritual ideal proposed by the Church. The law of the Roman Catholic Church lays down the minimum that she requires of her children, but does not prevent anyone from doing more than what the law requires. 

I am aware that there are some people (including some priests) who react negatively to any and all mention of the laws of fasting and abstinence. "This is legalistic! This is nonsensical! What is important is to love God!" This is not the time for me to debate with them; suffice it to recall that infidelity in small things only leads to infidelity in bigger things. If we can't even fast and abstain for a few days, then how can we be expected to put in the effort necessary to avoiding sin and exercising virtue? These reactions also make me wonder: what exactly is it that scares these people about the already very lenient laws of the Church on fasting and abstinence? 

This article will be divided into two sections:

I. Current law for penance, fasting and abstinence in the Roman Catholic Church today
II. Current law for penance, fasting and abstinence for Roman Catholics in the Philippines 

In a subsequent article I will write about the following:

-- The laws for penance, fasting and abstinence in the areas of the world with the largest expatriate Filipino populations
-- The laws for fasting and abstinence in the Philippines prior to February 23, 1966 (when the current legislation of the Roman Catholic Church took effect)
-- Some brief reflections on the state of fasting and abstinence in the Philippines

One last reminder: the laws of fasting and abstinence are for those who are healthy enough to observe these. Sick people or people who have might have health problems from observing the laws of fasting and abstinence should seek advice from a priest. They should at least do some other act of piety or penance if they really cannot fast or abstain. 

I. Current law for penance, fasting and abstinence in the Roman Catholic Church today

The laws of fasting and abstinence for the universal Church are regulated by two documents: the Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini (Feb. 17, 1966) which came into force on February 23, 1966, and the Canons on the "Days of Penance" in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 (Canons 1249-1253.) The legislation in these two documents can be summarized as follows:

a) All Fridays of the year are days of penance. 

b) The season of Lent is a time of penance. (The General Directory for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar [Feb. 14, 1969] defines Lent as the period from Ash Wednesday until the evening Mass of Holy Thursday exclusive.) 

Although neither Paenitemini nor the Code of Canon Law specify any penance for the rest of Lent aside from Ash Wednesday and Lenten Fridays, the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1438 states that all Fridays of the year and all of Lent "are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).In short, the faithful are obligated to do penance on all Fridays and during Lent, but it is left to them what kind of penance to do except on the few days when fasting and / or abstinence from meat are still required. Nevertheless, the Church exhorts (without commanding) the faithful to be generous with their penances. In the words of Pope Paul VI in Paenitemini:"it is strongly desired that bishops and all pastors of souls, in addition to the more frequent use of the sacrament of penance, promote with zeal, particularly during the Lenten season, extraordinary practices of penitence aimed at expiation and impetration."

It is worth noting that, although neither Paenitemini nor the 1983 Code of Canon Law mention it, the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium (Dec. 4, 1963) decidedly encourages (but does not command) the practice of fasting on Holy Saturday as well (see Sac. Conc. # 110). The 1988 Circular Letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship "Concerning the the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts" (Protocol 120/88) repeats Sacrosanctum Concilium's encouragement of the Holy Saturday fast. The Easter fast is sacred on the first two days of the Triduum, in which according to ancient tradition the Church fasts "because the Spouse has been taken away". Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence; it is also recommended that holy Saturday be so observed, so that the Church, with uplifted and welcoming heart, be ready to celebrate the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection. (This can be found in # 39 of the aforementioned circular letter).

(It seems evident that the obligation to do penance for Lent is for the season of Lent as a whole, and not necessarily for each and every day of Lent.)

c) Abstinence from meat is required on all Fridays that are not solemnities. (Paenitemini exempted from Friday abstinence only the Fridays that were holy days of obligation. The 1983 Code of Canon Law extended this exemption to all solemnities, including those that are not holy days of obligation).

d) Fasting is obligatory on only two days of the year: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence from meat is also required on these two days.

e) The episcopal conferences may decide, for the faithful in their respective territories, to  substitute (in whole or in part) other forms of penance (such as works of charity or piety) in place of fasting and abstinence. (Armed with this authorization, numerous episcopal conferences or the local bishops have de facto abolished obligatory abstinence from meat on non-Lenten Fridays in almost all  -- if not all -- countries. Abstinence from meat on Lenten Fridays has been "optionalized' as well in a significant portion of the Church, including the world's three largest Catholic countries, namely, Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines. In these countries, abstinence is obligatory only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; on other Fridays of Lent it can be replaced by any of a wide array of pious or charitable acts. See this for Brazil and this for Mexico. In Brazil, even on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday other acts of piety, charity and penance -- such as attendance at the sacred liturgy in those days -- can substitute for abstinence. The law in the Philippines is explained further below in this post.)

f) The obligation of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The obligation to fast is binding on those who have completed their eighteenth year until they complete their sixtieth year. Prior to the coming into effect of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, fasting was obligatory for adults who had completed their 21st year until they completed their sixtieth year. So, on this one matter, Pope John Paul II actually tightened the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church. From time to time, though, I still find some confusion on this matter, with some people still mistakenly assuming that people between the ages of 18 and 21 are not yet required to fast on the days appointed. 

(In layman's terms, what this means is that the obligation of abstinence binds a Catholic from the day after his fourteenth birthday onwards, while he is bound to observe the fasts of the Church from the day after his eighteenth birthday until his sixtieth birthday.

For instance, if the fourteenth birthday itself falls on a Friday in Lent, the person celebrating the birthday is not yet required to abstain from forbidden food on that day. However, if the fourteenth birthday falls on a Thursday in Lent, the birthday celebrant would be required to abstain beginning on the following day, Friday. Likewise, a person celebrating his eighteenth birthday on Good Friday will be obliged to abstain from meat, but not yet to fast. In contrast, a person celebrating his sixtieth birthday on Good Friday is still required to abstain and to fast.

The rules regarding time are to be found in Canons 200-203 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. See also footnote 64 in p. 64, and pp. 236-238 of the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Paulist Press, Mahwah, 2000) edited by John P. Beal, James A. Coriden, and Thomas J. Green. ) 

g) In his Apostolic Letter given Motu Proprio entitled Stella Maris (Jan. 31, 1997), Pope Bl. John Paul II declared that seafarers are not bound by the Church's laws of fasting and abstinence. This document defines seafarers very broadly as follows: Seafarers are those actually on board merchant ships or fishing vessels, and all who for whatever reason have undertaken a voyage by ship. 

Stella Maris goes on to state that:
Seafarers are not bound by the laws of fast and abstinence prescribed in can. 1251; they are advised, however, when taking advantage of this dispensation, to undertake a comparable work of piety in place of abstinence, and, as far as possible, to observe both laws on Good Friday in memory of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ;

(A few websites claim that this declaration covers anyone who has ever traveled on a ship even just once. This is manifestly absurd. A plain reading of this declaration is that anyone who happens to be on a ship on the days of fasting and abstinence are not bound to observe the prescribed penance for these days, even as they are encouraged to underake some other works of piety and are especially encouraged -- but not required --to abstain and fast on Good Friday if they happen to be on a ship on that day.)

h) Fasting means eating only one full meal per day with two smaller meals, one in the morning, and one in the evening. In the exact words of Paenitemini: "The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom." Given that the "some food" in addition to the full meal is described as being taken in the morning and evening, the implication is that the one full meal is taken at mid-day -- lunchtime, in short. In practice, however, the one full meal is sometimes taken in the morning (breakfast) or in the evening (supper).

As can be seen, the current law of the Church appeals to “local custom” as the basis for calculating the amount of food that can be taken on fasting days. Needless to say, this rule is vague and allows for a lot of variation: what would pass for a full meal in some localities would be a mere snack in other places, and vice versa. One rule commonly used in the Philippines by those who still observe the law of fasting is that the two meals aside from the main meal should, when combined, not equal a full meal. This still leaves a lot of room for individual interpretation, and ultimately depends on what constitutes a “full meal” for each person. Prior to Vatican II, one widespread standard was for 8 ounces of food to be taken for dinner and only about 2-3 ounces for breakfast, while a big lunch was allowed. (This standard is rarely adverted to nowadays, but in my humble opinion it can still be useful.) No snacks are allowed in between meals on fasting days.

i) Abstinence means, in the exact words of Paenitemini: "The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat."

Abstinence is supposedly easier to understand: meat is not allowed, period. Unlike in earlier ages, the law of abstinence no longer forbids the consumption of eggs and dairy products. Furthermore, according to the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Paulist Press, Mahwah, 2000), in p. 1447, the current law of the Church forbids only the meat of warm-blooded animals  (thus, the meat of cold-blooded animals such as frogs, turtles, snakes, and various edible lizards can be eaten on days of abstinence) and also allows the consumption of sauces made from animal oil. 

However, despite the major relaxation of the Church's former discipline regarding abstinence, all sorts of rationalizations are still made by quite a number of Catholics. For instance, some say that abstinence only forbids the consumption of red meat but allows the eating of white meat. Sorry, but chicken meat is meat, and pork is definitely meat!

II. Current law for penance, fasting and abstinence for Roman Catholics in the Philippines 

As noted above, the canon law of the Church gives the episcopal conferences wide authority to modify the laws of the universal Church on fasting and abstinence. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has, indeed, greatly relaxed the laws on fasting and abstinence for the faithful in the Philippines.

On September 27, 1985, Pope John Paul II approved and confirmed the "Norms approved by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines for the Local Implementation of Some Provisions of the New Code of Canon Law". These were published in the November - December 1985 issue of CBCP Monitor (Vol. VI, No. 6), pp. 32 - 43. The complementary norms for Canon 1253 (on penance) are as follows:

Can. 1253: Other Forms of Penance as Substitute for Abstinence 
Except on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday, abstinence may be substituted with exercise (sic) of piety, such as reading the Bible, going to Mass, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Holy Rosary, or with acts of charity, such as visiting the sick and prisoners, giving alms to the poor, teaching catechism. 

In an article published in 1997, and currently available as a pamphlet from Life Today Publications simply titled as “Canon Law”, Fr. Javier Gonzalez OP echoes the 1985 CBCP norms for fasting and abstinence in the Philippines as follows:

What are the norms for fast and abstinence? 
Fast and abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The general form for abstinence, which is binding on the faithful throughout the year, is abstinence from meat. It has been noted, however, that abstaining from meat cannot be considered a penance for a great part or number of Filipino people who can no longer afford to buy meat… The local norm is that, except on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday, abstinence may be substituted with exercises of piety, such as reading the Bible, going to Mass, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Holy Rosary, or with acts of charity, such as visiting the sick and prisoners, giving alms to the poor, or teaching catechism.

(Source: Fr. Javier Gonzalez OP. CBCP Norms and Authentic Interpretations. Boletin Eclesiastico de Filipinas. Vol. LXXIII No. 802. September – October 1997, pp. 543 – 584.)
Fr. Gonzalez, in turn, bases his article upon the Canon Law Digest of the Philippine Catholic Church. A Text and Commentary of Fr. Florentino Testera OP, published by UST Press in 1995.

In the passage quoted above, there is a puzzling sentence: “The general form for abstinence, which is binding on the faithful throughout the year, is abstinence from meat.” On face value, what this would mean is that the faithful are bound to abstain from meat all year round. However, it should be obvious that this is not what Fr. Gonzalez means, because the Church has never placed an absolute ban on the eating of meat by all the faithful. The only sensible meaning that can be attributed to this sentence is that abstinence from meat is the “abstinence” normally required on days of penance. This is precisely what the current legislation for the Roman Catholic Church says.


1) In the Philippines, fasting and abstinence remain obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. There can be no “substitution” of some other penance, or exercise of piety, or act of charity, for fasting and abstinence on these days.

(Yes, my friends: going on Visita Iglesia on Good Friday is no excuse for you to eat meat on that day!)

2) In the Philippines, on all Fridays of the year (including Lenten Fridays) except for Good Friday, the faithful can either abstain from meat or do some exercise of piety or act of charity.

3) Given the large number of Filipinos who regularly travel on ships or who work on fishing vessels and merchant ships, the dispensation of 'seafarers' from the observation of abstinence and fasting on the prescribed days (if they happen to be at sea on these days) ought to be noted. (See section I-g. above.)

These norms are echoed by the Philippine Jesuits in their website's page on fasting and abstinence (FAQs about Fasting and Abstinence) and in the following article from CBCP News: Canon lawyer says fast, abstinence on Good Friday is mandatory. 

It should be noted as well that the list of exercises of piety or acts of charity given by Fr. Gonzalez – reading the Bible, going to Mass, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Holy Rosary, visiting the sick and prisoners, teaching catechism – are, evidently, introduced merely as examples of what can be substituted for abstinence from meat; these do not form a strict and exclusive list of such substitutes.

Aside from the above-mentioned modifications, Catholics in the Philippines are still bound to observe the rest of the laws of fasting and abstinence legislated for the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan to take the lead in implementing the new English translation of the Roman Missal

I learned in a forum in UST last week that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has decided to begin the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal on the first Sunday of Advent 2012 (that would be December 2, 2012), thus putting the Philippines way behind the rest of the English-speaking world. (Most English-speaking areas will implement the new translation sometime this year). However, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan has decreed that, within his jurisdiction, some parts of the (English-language) Mass will be said or sung according to the new translation beginning Ash Wednesday (March 9), 2011, To read his decree, click this link: Liturgical Responses at Mass.

(Image of new English Missal from New Liturgical Movement.)

Pope's marching orders to Filipino bishops: strengthen the doctrinal formation of the faithful, and don't be complacent

UPDATE: Rome Reports has posted a video on this talk:

In his 3rd speech in a little more than 3 months to different batches of Filipino bishops on their ad limina apostolorum visit to the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the need for deeper doctrinal and moral formation for Filipino Catholic faithful:
Regarding “those of the household of the faith” who require your apostolic care, the Church in your respective regions naturally shares many of the pastoral challenges confronting the rest of the country. Among them, one of the most important is the task of ongoing catechetical formation. The deep personal piety of your people needs to be nourished and supported by a profound understanding of and appreciation for the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Indeed, these elements are required in order for the human heart to give its full and proper response to God. As you continue to strengthen catechesis in your dioceses, do not fail to include in it an outreach to families, with particular care for parents in their role as the first educators of their children in the faith. This work is already evident in your support of the family in the face of influences which would diminish or destroy its rights and integrity. I appreciate that providing this kind of catechetical formation is no small task, and I take the opportunity to salute the many religious sisters and lay catechists who assist you in this important work.
While calling upon the bishops to strengthen the formation of the lay faithful, he also pointed out the need to strengthen priestly spirituality, singling out the "Second National Congress for the Clergy" for praise:

Many of your dioceses already have in place programs of continuing formation for young priests, assisting them in their transition from the structured schedule of the seminary to the more independent setting of parish life. Along these lines, it is also helpful for them to be assigned mentors from among those older priests who have proven themselves to be faithful servants of the Lord. These men can guide their younger confrères along the path toward a mature and well-balanced way of priestly living. 

Moreover, priests of all ages require ongoing care. Regular days of recollection, yearly retreats and convocations, as well as programs for continuing education and assistance for priests who may be facing difficulties, are to be promoted. I am confident that you will also find ways to support those priests whose assignments leave them isolated. It is gratifying to note how the Second National Congress for the Clergy, held during the Year for Priests, was just such an occasion for renewal and fraternal support. In order to build upon this momentum, I encourage you to profit from the yearly celebration of Holy Thursday, during which the Church commemorates the priesthood in a special way. In accordance with their solemn promises at ordination, remind your priests of their commitment to celibacy, obedience, and an ever greater dedication to pastoral service. In living out their promises, these men will become true spiritual fathers with a personal and psychological maturity that will grow to mirror the paternity of God.

The pope also praised the Filipino bishops' commitment to inter-religious dialogue while reminding them in passing that Christ is the sole path of salvation (a "hard truth" often forgotten by some proponents of inter-religious dialogue especially in Asia):

With respect to Saint Paul’s command to do good to those not of the household of the faith, dialogue with other religions remains a high priority, especially in the southern areas of your country. While the Church proclaims without fail that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (cf. Jn 14:6), nevertheless she respects all that is true and good in other religions, and she seeks, with prudence and charity, to enter into an honest and amicable dialogue with the followers of those religions whenever possible (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2). In doing so, the Church works toward mutual understanding and the advancement of the common good of humanity. I commend you for the work you have already done and I encourage you, by means of the dialogue that has been established, to continue to promote the path to true and lasting peace with all of your neighbors, never failing to treat each person, no matter his or her beliefs, as created in the image of God.

Last but not the least, a call to resist complacency was not lacking:

Finally, as we strive not to “grow weary of doing good,” we are reminded that the greatest good that we can offer those whom we serve is given to us in the Eucharist. In the Holy Mass, the faithful receive the grace needed to be transformed in Jesus Christ. It is heartening that many Filipinos attend Sunday Mass, but this does not leave room for complacency on your part as shepherds. It is your task, and that of your priests, never to grow weary in pursuing the lost sheep, making sure that all the faithful draw life from the great gift given to us in the Sacred Mysteries.

Benedict XVI had given two other speeches to other Filipino bishops since November 2010 when the first batch of Filipino bishops came to Rome for their ad limina visit. The first speech was on November 29, 2010 (on the prophetic role of the Church in society, with a heavy emphasis on social justice) and the second was delivered on February 18, 2011 (on evangelization).

(The photo of the magnificent altar of repose is from the blog of Fr. Louis Coronel OP).