Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A guide to the most popular Marian icon in the Philippines

Ever since the Perpetual Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help began in Baclaran Church on June 23, 1948 (see the history of the Baclaran novena here), the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has become, without a doubt, the most common icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Philippines.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

For the record: Full text of Bishop Jesse Mercado's statement on the allegations published against him by the 'Rappler'

My initial commentary on the matter:

Even though the Philippine secular media has ignored the news of the selection of Cebu as the location of the International Eucharistic Congress in 2016, it has given full play to accusations of financial mismanagement against Bishop Jesse Mercado D.D., Ordinary of the Diocese of Paranaque. The accusations have been published on Rappler, an online news portal that is strongly believed in some Church circles to have an anti-Catholic bias, due in no little part to the negative news articles and scurrilous (if not idiotic) commentary against the Church that it has produced. From the Rappler the news has been spread with glee on the social networks especially by the new generation of Filipino atheists, agnostics and Church-haters. 

The original Rappler article: LINK
Follow-up Rappler article: LINK
Third Rappler article: LINK

I do not know if there is a truthful basis to these allegations and I hope that the Holy See will investigate the matter with firmness and promptness. I am all too aware that there are many situations within the Church in the Philippines that cry out for both earthly and heavenly justice. Nevertheless, the tone and language of the Rappler articles and their misuse by anti-Catholic elements in the Philippines cannot but raise the suspicion that there is more to this series of articles than the noble desire to expose wrongdoing and financial mismanagement for the sake of the common good.


Full text of Bishop Jesse Mercado's statement regarding the allegations published against him by the Rappler:

From the website of the Chancellery of the Diocese of Paranaque:

20 June 2012





Peace be with you!

In order to assure the People of God in the midst of this challenging time of purification, we issue this official statement. 

1.      All donations are properly receipted and promptly turned over to their intended beneficiaries. In urgent cases, e.g, Ondoy and Sendong, the Diocese even advanced the amounts even before the second collections were mandated. Some parishes remit too late, so these funds are added to the calamity fund. A detailed report is being prepared. All expenses are studied, reviewed and properly documented in the spirit of stewardship, transparency and accountability. The Diocese of Paranaque is audited annually by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila and receives a 100% rating. 

2.      The personal problems of priests are properly studied and treated by tempering justice with mercy. Priests who make mistakes but want to be helped are rehabilitated. Their reputation is protected. Nevertheless, this does not prevent some from undermining their own reputation by talking about their own situation as if they are being persecuted.

3.      The personal sharings of priests during meeting like the Ongoing Formation Seminar should be respected. To breach this confidentiality (usapang pari) is a betrayal of mutual respect and trust.

May the good Lord continue to guide and protect us in this trying moment of our journey.

Bishop of Paranaque
June 20, 2012

 Allegations and our Responses

1.      Donations not reaching intended beneficiaries. P3.2M diverted to diocesan fund and invested

Response:  Donations are regularly remitted to the intended beneficiaries. In urgent cases, e.g., Ondoy and Sendong, the Diocese even advanced the amounts even before the second collections were mandated. Some parishes remit too late, so these funds are added to the calamity fund.

The Muntinlupa fire victims were aided by the Vicariate. [When the Parish needs help, the Vicariate takes over. When the Vicariate needs help, the Diocese takes over.]

2.      Not funding social programs

Response:  Social programs are funded according to the budget policies of the diocese in order to avoid wastage of funds. Funds are thus usually released in tranches. Proper liquidation is required before new tranches are released precisely in order to ensure that the funds get to the intended beneficiaries.

3.      No money for programs

Response: There is money for programs. The funds are allocated only to projects that are worthwhile and only if they are positively recommended by their parish priests so that they are integrated into the parish program.

4.      P225,000 from PCSO stopped when Pres. Aquino came into power

Response: It was Bp. Jess who decided not to accept PCSO aid after the Senate probe on PCSO aid to Dioceses, so that government aid would not draw the Diocese into politics. It is the Diocese who now pays for the medicines for the poor formerly funded by the PCSO aid. The funds are taken from the Caritas Sunday collection.

5.      those who question financial management are either floated or replaced

a.      e.g. Muntinlupa parish priest who headed pastoral department removed as co-signatory of livelihood project for workers in Tunasan

Response: The Tunasan project was examined by the Parish Priest, who found irregularities. He therefore did not recommend it to the Bishop. However, who is the Muntinlupa parish priest mentioned by the author?

b.      five priests left the priesthood out of frustration and desperation

Response: Who are these priests? Those who left in the first 10 years of the Diocese left for personal reasons (e.g., sexual misconduct, fathering children).

c.      some have low morale and are thinking of leaving the priesthood

Response:  Why is their morale low? Bp. Jess and their fellow priests are always willing to help them.

d.      lay leaders who sought transparency are regarded as dissenters and are slowly being eased out of diocese' affairs.

Response:  Who are these lay leaders? No one is  being “eased out”.

6.      Quick to pardon priests who misappropriated Church funds, e.g., Msgr. Valenzuela – uncovered by Msgr. Gabriel in 2004. Instead of punishing Valenzuela however, Mercado simply terminated him as school director and barred him from having any assignments within the diocese. P10M declared uncollectible in October 2011. Msgr. Valenzuela allowed to resume his priestly duties in NY.

Response: The Diocese adopted many financial controls precisely because of incidences of bad investment, misappropriation, misrepresentation, etc.

Does Msgr. Valenzuela's termination, floating status and exile not constitute punishment? He is no longer entitled to pension and hospitalization. Is this not punishment?

The declaration of P10M as uncollectible was recommended by the audit of St. Andrew's School. After demanding for closure of the issue, why are they complaining that this closure was achieved?

On the distorted reporting on OGF sharing.

Response: The personal sharings of priests during meetings like the Ongoing Formation Seminar should be respected. To breach this confidentiality (usapang pari) is a betrayal of mutual respect and trust.

The personal problems of priests are being dealt with by balancing justice and mercy. Priests who make mistakes but want to be helped are rehabilitated. Their reputation is protected. Nevertheless, this does not prevent some from undermining their own reputation by talking about their own situation as if they are being persecuted.


12% remitted by parishes, 1% for health insurance, 1% for retirement

10% estimated to be P15M

57 parishes

Response:  There are only 51 parishes, quasi-parish and national shrines in the Diocese. 10% of gross receipts of parishes are remitted to the Diocesan Fund of which majority is given to catechetical fund (c/o RCAM), investment for the retirement of priests, curia operations, clergy retreats, and clergy ongoing formation and outing. 2% of gross receipts go to the hospitalization and health services of priests.

Called mobile to no avail 

Response:  Aries Rufo contacted the Bishop's office in order to interview him about the Natural Family Planning program of the Diocese. He was of course referred to the Chairman of the Diocesan Commission on Family and Life. He never contacted the Chairman.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Snubbing a papal honor.

(Update: as of June 21, 2012, there is still little sign of this news on Philippine secular media outlets. Among major columnists for national dailies it seems to have been mentioned only by Valeriano "Bobit" Avila and Federico Pascual. Readers are free to tell me in the combox if I missed other columnists who have mentioned this as of today. Only a few newspapers have mentioned it in their news section, and then only in passing as part of a quote from Vice President Jejomar Binay regarding his upcoming visit to Rome. Even then, either these newspapers or the VP got the date wrong -- the event will be held in 2016, not 2015 -- an honest mistake, for sure.)

I find it interesting that, in the more than 24 hours after the news was announced in Dublin via a recorded papal message, the Philippine secular media has ignored the selection of Cebu as the site for the next International Eucharistic Congress, in 2016. (See my earlier blog post, Cebu to be the site of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in 2016!)

I've been monitoring the websites of Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, ABS-CBN News, GMA News, and there is.... still nothing as of this moment (2:45 AM). If they have anything about the announcement, then it is so tiny and insignificant as to be very difficult to see, and I'm not a novice in navigating news websites. Even Cebuano news outlets such as The Freeman and Cebu Daily News seem to have nothing about the event. Either the Philippine secular media is extremely tardy about picking up news about their own country, or it doesn't care that the Pope has decided to bestow a signal honor upon the 'Queen City of the South'. Neither explanation brings much credit to Philippine journalism. 

I still remember how the Philippine media professed great respect for Pope John Paul II (despite their increasing disrespect for his moral teachings in the last 10 years of his life), and enthusiastically reported whenever a Philippine city would be selected for an international ecclesiastical gathering during the reign of the late Polish pontiff. Those times are long past, and I have no illusions about the level of respect that the Philippine media currently has for the Catholic Church (very little). However, this near-total boycott of the news astounds me; it would be unthinkable even in the West, where only two weeks ago the U.S.  and international media quickly reported Pope Benedict XVI's June 3 announcement that Philadelphia will be the next site of the World Meeting of Families, in 2015. 

The irony is that this snub comes just as the Cebuano media talks about the need for the Philippines to attract more visitors from abroad by the year... 2016! (See this article.) Perhaps religious pilgrims don't count?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cebu to be the site of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in 2016!

Pope Benedict XVI during Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament at the end of the Corpus Christi procession in Rome, June 7, 2012. Photo from Daylife

My dear brothers and sisters, I pray that the Congress will be for each of you a spiritually fruitful experience of communion with Christ and his Church. At the same time, I would like to invite you to join me in praying for God’s blessing upon the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2016 in the city of Cebu! To the people of the Philippines I send warm greetings and an assurance of my closeness in prayer during the period of preparation for this great ecclesial gathering. I am confident that it will bring lasting spiritual renewal not only to them but to all the participants from across the globe. In the meantime, I commend everyone taking part in the present Congress to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of God, and to Saint Patrick, the great patron of Ireland; and, as a token of joy and peace in the Lord, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

There had been speculation since last year that the 51st IEC will be held in Cebu. See my blog post: Is the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod at hand? And will Cebu be the site of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Vatican Radio on Archbishop Tagle's June 16 speech at the Int'l Eucharistic Congress in Dublin

Update: the full text of Archbishop Tagle's June 16, 2012 talk in Dublin can be found here: IEC Day 7 – Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle: Communion in the Word through Mary

From the website of Vatican Radio:

In 2008 in Quebec, he had silenced a crowd of thousands with his words, in Dublin in 2012, he brought them to tears. On Saturday June 16th, the penultimate day of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress – Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Archbishop of Manila, Luis Tagle, led reflections on the theme, Communion in the Word through Mary.

And he began with the ordinary human experience of establishing communion, a connection with others. He said, “We see in our time so much exchange of words happening at high speed and across national boundaries. But unfortunately the world is as divided as ever. Why is communion not achieved in spite of the exchange of words? Because Jesus is not the word they share and receive.”

The Saturday morning catechesis was the second time the Filipino Church leader, who will turn 55 later this month, addressed pilgrims here in Dublin. From the platform of the central arena his usually warm and reassuring voice cracked as his spoke of the very real consequences of a break down in human communion:

“When financial wizards talk about ways of manipulating the economy for their own profit, you do not call that communion; that is corruption! When politicians talk to people about grand promises without intending to fulfil them, you do not call that communion; that is cheating! When the powerful 'negotiate' among themselves while neglecting the weak, you do not call that communion; that is oppression! When so-called enterprising persons deal with each other on how women and children could be profitable merchandise, you do not call that communion; that is slavery!”

He concluded, “When communion consists in Jesus who is the Word of Life then the common good becomes central. And that is pleasing to God’s eyes.”

The Philippines and its beautiful shrines: a poster

From 100% Katolikong Pinoy on Facebook:

Please share to help our country's tourism industry through the beauty of our Catholic churches. God bless the Philippines!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

God is not mocked: The 33rd International Eucharistic Congress of 1937 in Manila and the fire that destroyed Tondo

The 33rd International Eucharistic Congress in Luneta Park, Manila (Feb. 3-7, 1937)
From a private collection. 

The attention of the universal Church is currently turned towards the 50th International Eucharistic Congress now taking place in Dublin, Ireland. I would like, therefore, to take this opportunity to recount a mysterious event that took place in Manila in 1937, the year the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress took place in Manila.

The following account comes from an extraordinary newsletter written by Fr. Lawrence Bunzel SVD and now held in the SVD Central Province's archives in Catholic Trade Manila. The letter is dated October 28, 1937, and was sent from Christ the King Missionary Seminary and addressed to the Friends of the SVD Missions in the Philippines. Emphases mine.

“Communism is trying to spread itself here of late. There is great danger that it may succeed, unless the government and the Church help to check it. It seems Divine Providence is helping us. Let me tell you of an incident which occurred this year. The nest of communism is here in a suburb of Manila which is called Tondo. When the Eucharistic Congress was held here last February the communists of Tondo told the people to boycott the Congress by not decorating their houses. The communists threatened to burn all houses that would be decorated. The people were afraid to decorate, except one family in the heart of the suburb. A few weeks after the Congress Tondo was almost completely destroyed by fire. During the blaze much ammunition and many bombs exploded. The peculiar thing about the fire was that the one house which was decorated during the Congress was spared, although it was in the midst of the burned district. No one could explain how it escaped destruction.”

Today, Tondo is arguably Metro Manila's most Catholic district; shrines to the Hesus Nazareno are everywhere and the annual celebration of its patronal feast (the feast of the Santo Niño held every third Sunday of January) sees massive religious processions and the arrival of millions of pilgrims.

"To pretend that no problem exists does not help." Archbishop Tagle's speech in Ireland regarding clergy sex abuse

The following is the speech of Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland, on June 12, 2012. (See this article.) The file below is taken from the USCCB website (link).

Archbishop Tagle will be the main speaker today, 16 June, at this Congress, which ends tomorrow. 

Reflections From Asia Tagle