Friday, March 4, 2011

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).

1 comment:

  1. i totally agree on the Filipino laity's need for doctrinal formation through adult catechism. there are potential volunteer catechists just waiting to be tapped, given proper training and support... they are a "sleeping giant" in the mission of the Catholic Church.