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Celebrate Asia in Manila, a "Pagsalubong"


Director, Office for the Promotion of the New Evangelization

CELEBRATE ASIA IN MANILA [500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines and the 50th Anniversary of Federations of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC]

Good morning dear friends! Although we are celebrating here at the Manila Cathedral, we remember also in our prayers those who have been affected by the Typhoon Karding (Noru).

Let me add something to what Father Reggie said earlier. As our team, Celebrate Asia in Manila suggests, we are highlighting two grace filled events in this gathering. There is the recently concluded commemoration of the 500 Years of Christianity, a local celebration, and the 50th Anniversary of Establishment of the FABC (Federations of Asian Bishops’ Conferences), an Asian level celebration.

Again, let me add to what Father Reggie said. In history, the original destination of the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan was not really the Philippine islands, but this Spice Islands of Moluccas, somewhere in present day Indonesia. So, early on, the arrival of Christianity to our islands is already connected to our Southeast Asian context.

Furthermore, as Father Reggie said, the history of FABC began when Saint Pope Paul VI visited the Philippines in 1970. In that historic event, 180 bishops of Asia, in the presence of the Holy Father Pope Paul VI approved the creation of a permanent structure that we now know as FABC or the Federations of Asian Bishops’ Conferences. Thus, our theme for today: Celebrate Asia in Manila.

These two occasions: 500 YOC and FABC 50, are also happening in the time of the Synod on Synodality, a massive and universal call of Pope Francis for mutual listening and consultations in all levels of ecclesial life, in all the continents with the church may be found. From the eyes of faith, these events are unmistakable manifestations of the fidelity and mercy of our God, who walks with us, here in the Philippines and in Asia.

Let me give a little perspective to our gathering this morning. The best way to appreciate this half day gathering is to look at it from the perspective of Salubong. In a while, we shall witness a beautiful presentation of the Salubong Ritual, a unique Filipino way of welcoming the Easter Season. This image was chosen by the CBCP to synthesize its Philippine Catholic Church’s synodal report which was submitted to Rome and the FABC. The image of the Salubong is our humble contribution to the global journey of synodality. In the Salubong Ritual, our bishops proposed three elements that we can reflect on. These will be our perspectives for this gathering: pagsalubong, salubungan, and pasalubong. Pagsalubong = welcoming, salubungan = meeting of hearts and minds, and pasalubong = gift of mission.

Pagsalubong or welcoming invites us to encounter one another as the Risen Lord and the grieving Mama Mary encountered each other on that first Easter morning. Due to the pandemic, we have been forced to distance and isolate ourselves from each other. This day is one of the first opportunities that we are able to gather. Let us spend this half day in listening, and celebrating the gift of persons, families and communities, with our griefs and joys, our anxieties and hopes. We have our own individual journeys, but along the way we meet each. Our paths cross, our lives interconnected. Celebrating Asia in Manila means first of all, that we encounter one another as persons. To be in communion with one another, to listen to one another,

Salubungan or meeting of hearts and minds, calls us to open our doors to diversity and differences. No one has the monopoly of gifts. Everyone is gifted to give. Salubungan challenges us to actively participate in mutual listening and empathy, in solidarity and fraternity. So many things divide us nowadays: prejudices, biases, loyalties, identities. The call of Pope Francis for a synodal Church asks all of us to go beyond our differences, and more so, to acknowledge that our differences are also doors for collaboration and participation. Celebrating Asia in Manila means that all of us are stakeholders and co-workers in this project of a Synodal Church.

Pasalubong or the gift of mission compels us to continue to share the gift of faith and encounter with the Risen Lord. “Gifted to give,” our theme for the 500 Years of Christianity now becomes a way of life. We become constant heralds of the good news. In our Filipino culture, pasalubong or bringing gifts to our loved ones after a travel or a vacation is not an obligation or a burden. Pasalubong is our joy, our mission, and desire to share what we have witnessed and experienced. The Church in the Philippines, and in a wider sense, the Church in Asia, is in a permanent state of mission. To Celebrate Asia in Manila is to affirm the reality that mission is no longer “ad gentes.” It has become “inter gentes.” We are happy to give our pasalubong to our Asian brothers and sisters; and at the same time, we are deeply grateful to receive their pasalubong to us.

Today we Celebrate Asia in Manila, we celebrate the gift of Jesus that has been given to us, and the Sto. Niño, 500 years ago. We celebrate the gift of the Papal Visit of 1970, that gave birth to FABC. We look back in gratitude, we celebrate with great joy, we look forward to the mission that the Lord has instored for us today. In the Salubong Ritual, we see three elements: 1) salubungan, encounter of persons, 2) pasalubong, our gift of mission, and 3) pagsalubong, our welcome for one another.

So welcome to all of you! For all of you who are online, welcome to Celebrate Asia in Manila.

Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

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