Pope Francis in the Philippines

Ever since 1970, three of the five Popes that occupied the see of Peter have visited the Philippines. From a merely human point of view, it is difficult to explain how these islands are populated by a people that are predominantly Catholic in their faith, considering that elsewhere in Asia, Christianity is a minority religion. It is really the work of God’s grace. It might then seem reasonable that the Popes might have wanted to visit the Philippines. It seems clear to all that the people of the Philippines have an important role to play in the evangelization of Asia.

I was able to listen to Pope Francis when he addressed the families on January 16, 2014 at the Mall of Asia and during his homily at the Mass at the Quirino Grandstand on January 18. I will make brief comments on the address he made to the families.

He warned them about what he called “ideological colonization”. By colonization, he was referring to the Philippines being once under the rule of a foreign power, just like his own country Argentina. So we can understand that he meant the family being ruled by a foreign power. But these powers are ideas or ideologies and he mentioned them concretely: materialism, redefining marriage, relativism, culture of the ephemeral and the lack of openness to life.

Pope Francis encouraged the Filipino families to be “holy and loving families”. They must respect life “from conception to natural death”. They must train their children in the faith and sound values. The children must contribute to society and “be missionaries”.

He also took advantage of the occasion to exhort the political leaders to be committed to the common good. He pointed out the great social inequality that is affecting the country and he admonished leaders and all to reject corruption which deprives the poor of resources and to work for social justice, peace and solidarity.

In effect, Pope Francis was asking the Filipino families and people to put into practice what the Catholic Church has been teaching for more than a century now as its Social Teaching. All the points that he mentioned are very relevant to the Philippine situation. But what seems to me to be a battle that the Philippines still has to win is that its leaders be committed to the common good.

Ever since I was a young boy I have been reading about corruption in the headlines of the newspapers. I’m now in my fifties and the headlines still talk about corruption.  They say we have very good laws and systems to counter-act corruption. They say we are the only nation that has jailed two presidents and a number of senators and impeached a chief justice of the Supreme Court because of corruption. And yet there is still great social inequality and corruption.

The solution to this problem is not an easy and simple one. But it looks like Pope Francis is right in saying that the leaders and everyone must be committed to the common good, instead of just looking for one’s personal good or gain. For the nation to develop, there must be a sense of nation in each citizen and that each be committed to its development.

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