Homily of His Eminence Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, D.D., Archbishop of Manila
on the 444th Anniversary of Manila as the First Diocese of the Country
and Rite of the Closing of the Jubilee Year in Local Churches | February 6, 2023
Your Excellency the Most Rev. Charles John Brown, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, my dear brother priests and deacons, men and women in consecrated life, seminarians, our esteemed lay faithful from the different parishes and communities in the Archdiocese of Manila, brothers and sisters in Christ:
As a church in the Archdiocese of Manila, we are gathered this evening to thank the Lord for the 444th Anniversary of the establishment of Manila, the first diocese in the Philippines. We celebrate this Mass in the presence of the relics of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Rose of Lima, and Saint Dominic de Guzman, who in the course of time were declared Secondary Patrons of Manila. We thank Pope Francis and his vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, for sending us these precious relics: from the walking stick of Saint Francis, the habit of Saint Rose, and a piece of Saint Dominic’s bone. Tonight, we also close our archdiocesan celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the arrival of Christianity to our lands, through the symbolic closing of our Cathedral’s Jubilee Door.
Imagine my dear brothers and sisters, Manila has been a diocese for 444 years of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. Compared to other local churches in the West, we are quiet a young Church; but compared to other dioceses in Southeast Asia, we are one of the oldest, if not the oldest.
While we are not a young Church in terms of years, we are definitely a young church in terms of spirit. In the course of our 444 years of history, we can see how God has been constantly renewing and reforming, creating and recreating Manila. God has gifted us with archbishops, bishops, clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful who have responded to the signs of the times, and the needs of society, with the Gospel values and Christian principles. This makes our Church young.
Renewal and Reform
It is providential that our First Reading today (Gn 1:1-19), brings us back to the first four days of creation. It is a story of a God who creates good and beautiful things, but even God's creation, especially human beings, need renewal and reform. This is the reason why Jesus became man; and in our Gospel (Mk 6:53-56) we see how healing has been part of the ministry and mission of Jesus. To heal is to recreate. Illness disfigures us; but the God who created us is also the one who in Jesus, recreates us, renews us, and creates us anew.
My dear brothers and sisters, there are many areas in our lives that need recreating: the love of husband and wife, the relationships within the family, and the connections at work, in society, or in school might need to be created anew. Our faith also needs to be renewed; and even the Church, and specially, the Church needs recreating.
Ang Simbahan na takot sa pagbabago. Ang Simbahan na ayaw nang magbago. Ang Simbahan na kung paano noon, ganoon pa rin hanggang ngayon. Ang Simbahang ganito ay mabilis tatanda. Magandang suriin natin ang ating mga parokya, pamayanan, at institusyon, baka naman tayo’y Simbahan na ang mga gawain at programa ay paulit-ulit na lamang. Pinamumunuan ng mga pare-parehong tao, sila-sila pa rin, at sila-sila nalang. Takot sa mga bagong pamamaraan, mga bagong ideya, mga bagong mamumuno na maaring magdala ng mga bagong ideya at pamamaraan. Kapag ganito ang Simbahan, ang Simbahang ito ay matanda na. Hindi ganito ang Simbahan ni Jesus.
A Church that is not open to renewal, easily grows old, insignificant, and obsolete; but a Church that is docile, responsive, and open to renewal, remains ever young and vibrant.
RCAM’s Response to the New Challenges
In my almost two years as archbishop of this great archdiocese, I have seen how we, as a Church respond to the new challenges and mission before us; and I thank the Lord for all of you, my dear priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, for your openness to this call to renewal and recreation.
One area of renewal and recreation in our archdiocese is the establishment of mission stations, which are meant to realize the vision of Pope Francis of a Church that is close to the people. Our mission stations are meant to make our faithful feel that they belong to the Church.
We have in our midst the relic of Saint Francis of Assisi, taken from the walking staff he used in his journeys. This is significant for us because one gift that Saint Francis gave to the Church is to bring the Church closer to the people, especially to the poor. In his poverty, Saint Francis showed the poor that the Church is poor like them. To Saint Francis of Assisi, we entrust our newly established mission stations.
Another area of renewal and recreation in our archdiocese is the area of charity. We have Caritas Manila, Pondo ng Pinoy, and other foundations, groups, and movements that over the years have effectively extended help in a systematic and organized way. But probably, we could also look into how we have been helping each other within the archdiocese. How do parishes with more resources assist parishes who cannot make both ends meet? How do our priests help each other? And as archdiocese, how do we show our concern for the other local churches in the country, which in many ways are connected to us?
May the charity and concern that Saint Rose of Lima showed to those in need be our inspiration. May Saint Rose set our hearts aflame with love, concern, and solidarity with others.
One final area of renewal and recreation in our archdiocese is the review and reform of our structures and systems, so that we may truly be a Synodal Church: a church that listens to each other, and journeys with one another.
In my homily during my installation, I told you that I decide to be a shepherd who is willing to listen. Audiam. For only a shepherd who listens can serve the flock well. I still hold on to this commitment; and I invite you to make our archdiocese a listening Church: Audiam sa RCAM. In this way, a Church journeys together. Let us look into our structures and systems in the curia, in our parishes and communities, and in our ministries and groups. Pinakikinggan ba natin ang isa’t-isa? Sino ang mga pinakikinggan? Sino ang mga hindi pinakikinggan? Sino ang ayaw pakinggan? Sino ang mga laging nagsasalita? Sino ang hindi nabibigyan ng pagkakataong magsalita? Kaninong boses ang palaging naririnig? Sa ating paglalakbay, sabay-sabay ba tayo bilang komunidad o nag-uunahan? Sino ang nauuna? Sino ang nahuhuli? Sino ang naiiwan?
Let us ask the intercession of Saint Dominic, who in his life has seen the value of contemplating, listening, and preaching, so that the Church may be renewed.
My dear brothers and sisters, we will close this evening the Jubilee Door of the Manila Cathedral, the first cathedral in the Philippines; but let us keep our heart open to God's recreating hand. And through the intercession of Mary, our Immaculate Mother, may we become the Church of Manila that God wants and envisions us to be. Amen.
Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo