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Renewing the Church in Asia, New Pathways for Mission

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Understanding Synodality in the Context of Asia

by His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle,

Pro-Prefect for the Section of Evangelization of the Dicastery for Evangelization

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

Magandang hapon po, umaga, o gabi, kung nasaan man kayo! Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa Archdiocese of Manila, especially the Office for the Promotion of the New Evangelization (OPNE), pati po sa Pontifical Mission Societies, sa CBCP, and the Manila Cathedral for organizing this half day conference in preparation for the General Conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). Magdiriwang po ng 50th Anniversary ang FABC.

The task given to me, as encapsulated in the title of the talk is “Renewing the Church in Asia, New Pathways for Mission.” Since the conference will happen in October, I think that will be more authoritative, and Bishop Ambo will participate there. So, we will invite him again after the conference to share on this topic. So, what I would like to share with you are not prescriptions, not solutions, but siguro po, mga stimuli for reflection; and please bear with us if there are some repetitions in some areas.

I have three points, and the last point, the third point, has some subpoints. Para lang po medyo masundan natin ano ho.

Renewing the Church

The first point concerns the first part of the title of the talk: Renewing the Church. Renewal. When we look at the Scriptures, we realize that renewal is the action of God, the action of God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. In the Book of Revelations chapter 21 we hear these beautiful words, “The one seated at the throne says, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev. 21:5); and then there is a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and the vision of the new city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God (cf. Rev 21:10). It also contains the beautiful promise: God’s dwelling is now among the people. So, the renewal of all things is God’s initiative. It is God's action. The Creator sustains, renews, and fulfills all things including the Church. The renewal of humanity, of creation, of history, is in a way part of God’s mission. The mission of God as we see in the mission of Jesus Christ and the mission of the Holy Spirit to recreate the world, to recreate humanity, to recreate the human family, to recreate creation, and history. So, the mission of God is related to the renewal of all things, especially of the Church.

Kaya po ‘yung sinasabi nila na “Mission Dei”, the mission of God is already at work. The renewal of all things is already at work, and it is moving towards its fulfillment; and we, the Christian community we are privileged by our faith, and by our belonging to the Church, to already experience now the renewal of each one, of each human being, the renewal of humanity, the renewal of history, and of creation. Began in creation, sustained in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we are already experiencing that renewal through the Word of God. If we listen attentively to the Word of God every day, we keep it to heart and put it into practice, we will experience renewal, and we will be agents of renewal. Eh sineseryoso ba ang Salita ng Diyos? O baka kapag first reading na, pumipikit na? Sana meditation ano ho?

We experience that renewal which is the action of God in the Sacraments, specially in the Eucharist where water, simple water communicates the grace, the cleansing of someone from the corruption of sin in Baptism. With the fruits of the earth, the work of human hands are renewed to become the Bread of Life, the Cup of Salvation, and people who are gathered for the Sacraments, specially the Eucharist, who are not related to one another by blood, become one Body in Christ. By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we are already renewed, we are experiencing it. The renewal of creation, the renewal of humanity. We are already being renewed by the service of charity. Tayo ang unang nabago sa paglilingkod ni Jesus. Tayo ang unang nabago sa paghuhugas ng paa na ginawa ni Jesus. Tayo ang unang nabago bawat oras na si Jesus ay kumakatok sa atin bilang nagugutom, nauuhaw, naghahanap ng matutuluyan, naghahanp ng katotohanan. We are renewed.

So, the renewal that God has began and continues to do towards its fulfillment in the new heavens, the new earth, the new Jerusalem, is happening and our role is to accept, to receive again and again God’s renewing action. To believe that that renewal is true and to give a testimony to the world, of a renewed human being, of a renewed human family, of a renewed society, of a renewed creation, and renewed history. So, the renewal of the Church in Asia cannot be outside of that action of God. That wonderful dynamic and us journeying as witnesses and living now, ipakita na ngayon, in our own limited ways and within the confines of history. Ipakita na ngayon that vision of a new society, a new earth, a new heaven, a new city, the dwelling place of God here on earth. The future we hope we will already embody now, so that people will say, “Tunay ang renewal!” At ‘pag tinanong natin, “Papaano mo nalaman na tunay ‘yung renewal? Na may bago?” Sasabihin nila, “Eh tignan mo si sister, tignan mo si father, tignan mo ‘yung lola namin, tignan mo ‘yung catechist, hindi ba larawan sila ng bagong pagkatao.”

So, it is not just the past, the action of Jesus and the Holy Spirit of God in the past that we make present now. We make present now that promise, that fulfillment, we make it happen now.

Okay po? ‘Yun po ‘yung first point. So, ‘yung “Renewing the Church”.

The Church in Asia

The second point po, I will now go to “In Asia”, Renewing the Church in Asia, “The Church in Asia”. Naku! Marami pong mapag-uusapan d’yan, lalo na sa tatlong linggo na pagtatalakayan, pagdarasal, at pagkilatis (discernment) ng atin pong mga representatives of the different Churches of Asia na gaganapin sa Thailand.

I just want to focus on a point. The FABC, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences is famous, is known worldwide for having proposed for the Church in Asia, a vision of Church, a Church in dialogue, and a Church that is dialogue, a Church that performs its mission of evangelization, a Church that participates in the renewing action of God in history, through dialogue. The mode of mission is dialogue, and the way of being Church is dialogical.

Specifically, through the history of the FABC, this dialogue has been spelled out as a triple dialogue. The dialogue with the cultures, the religions, and the poor of Asia. Dialogue. Now, there is a call to expand the dialogue partners of the Church in Asia. They are beginning to identify other partners in the dialogue; but at the same time, if you look closely, maybe it is not just identifying new partners in the dialogue, but also seeing how the different dialogue partners are interrelated. When you dialogue with cultures, you necessarily dialogue with religions in Asia. For many of the cultures of Asia had been shaped by the religions, and when you dialogue with cultures and religions of Asia, we cannot avoid dialoguing with the majority of peoples in Asia, namely the poor, namely the poor. So, as we identify specific dialogue partners mga bago na dialogue partners, baka hindi rin sila bago. Baka nakapaloob na rin dito sa iba at kailangan tingnan ang koneksyon. The FABC is known worldwide for its push for dialogue, and we have to affirm the validity, and then necessity of dialogue as a mode of existence and mission for the Church in Asia.

It is also contained in Vatican II, Pope Paul VI devoted his first encyclical as Pope during Vatican II to dialogue: Ecclesiam Suam, the Church in dialogue. Now, we see how in the history of mission in the Church, specially in Asia, the missionaries employed different methods or ways of dialoguing. Now this is not just a strategy. Hindi lamang po ito parang plan of action.

Our God is of God who speaks, and when God speaks, it is a creative word. A word that performs what it says. Our God is a God of dialogue, so to be people of God, means “to be like God” who speaks, who hears, who listens, specially to the cry of those who are not listened to. Our God’s identity as love chose that dialogue is really at the heart of God. For how could there be love without exchange? Taking its peak when the logos, the word of God became flesh. When the speaker as it were and the dialogue partner became one in Jesus. ‘Yung Diyos na nagsasalita, ‘yung tao na kinakausap at sumasagot sa Diyos, nagkaisa kay Jesus. The Eternal Word who became human in history, and in Him, all the Churches, especially the Church in Asia must learn how to dialogue. In a dialogue of life, in a dialogue of listening, and in a dialogue of entering the world of my dialogue partner.

Kaya po sabi ko kanina, hindi lang nga ito strategy. This is deeply, deeply incarnational. Ngayon nga po nauuso na, sinasabi, hindi lang dialogue, kung ’di multilogue. Kasi nga marami kang ka-dialogue partner. Kapag kausap mo ang mga bata, parang ibang logos, ibang word. Kapag kausap mo ‘yung mga ka-generation ko na hindi na masyadong bata, adjust ka rin ng iyong logos, ng word. But we are all rooted in the God who speaks, and who speaks in Jesus; and Jesus who continues to speak to us.

Bago ko po iwanan itong second point, mahalaga naman to identify new spaces of dialogue for mission, and to identify emerging dialogue partners. But my question is this, especially as an Asian: Is being a Church of dialogue only a label, a label for us? Parang etiketa, naging trade mark. “Ah, you are from Asia.” So, Church of dialogue. Bakit ko tinatanong ‘yan? Kasi, we find in Asia also a breakdown in dialogue. The continent, especially the Church that says, “We are a people of dialogue. Promoting dialogue”, and the Church saying, “We are a Church of dialogue rooted in the very identity of the loving God”, we see in Asia a breakdown in dialogue, leading to violence, forced migration, poverty, and perpetrated injustice. So, I address myself to us in the Church:

  • Do we take dialogue seriously?

  • Is there a formation program to prepare people to be people of dialogue?

  • In our Catholic schools, is there a specific program training formation for dialogue, acquiring the spirituality, the attitudes, and of course the art, the skills of dialoguing?

  • in our seminaries, do we just read documents about dialogue? Or is there a formation program specifically aimed at developing the spirituality, the mindset, the art of dialogue?

  • In our religious communities, how seriously do we take dialogue?

Sad to say, even within the Church, that espouses that dialogue, dialogue is not easy to come by. So, we are thankful for this synodal process that was initiated by the Holy Father which involves a lot of, hopefully formation, experiential formation in dialogue.

Pathways for Mission

The third and final point is my attempt to reflect with you on the second part of the title of my talk: Renewing the Church in Asia, New Pathways for Mission. So, pathways for mission.

Let me start by saying the Church of dialogue which is being promoted by the Church in Asia is actually the same as the Vatican II’s vision of “The Church as Communion”. For there is no communion without dialogue, and there is dialogue at the service of communion, and dialogue is also an experience of communion. But Vatican II stresses that the Church is communion in mission. The identity of the Church as communion is missionary, So, it is not communion to be self focused, na parang “Basta maganda ‘yung Samahan natin sa isa’t-isa, e ‘di masaya tayo. Wala na tayong pakialam sa mundo.” Hindi. Our identity as communion is essentially missionary. So, it is missionary as communion and it is communion in mission.

In Asia, one potential for communion in mission is our diversity. Kapag sinabing communion, the presupposition is there are more than one, there is more than one existing party. So, laging may iba. In Asia, a great diversity which is the very potential, the material for communion, there are many worlds in Asia. Kahit sinasabi natin one continent, in this one continent of Asia, talagang iba-ibang mundo. The number of languages and the style of writing, iba-iba. Pagpunta mo sa isang Asian country, hindi mo na mabasa ang alphabet. Parang “Nasaan ba ako? Nasa Asia ba ako o nasaan na? Cultures, religions of course, cuisine. Naala-ala ko, in some of our meetings in the FABC, we identify ourselves not according to regions like Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, ang identification namin is chopsticks Asia, banana leaf Asia, or curry Asia, very Asian. Jesus ate a lot. Jesus was always in meals and he's very much Asian.

In our personal encounters, through rituals, through feasts, and as I said already, through meals, we enjoyed the diversity of Asia, the flavors, the ointments, iba-iba, the taste, the colors. We have the material for communion. Unfortunately, diversity which is our great opportunity for communion, if the different elements are made to dialogue with each other, you know unfortunately, recently diversity is being used as a reason for division. Diversity blocks dialogue, diversity occasions conflicts, even violence, and here the Church has a fertile ground to show how has the sacrament of communion, we perform our renewing mission in the world. Based on the Gospel, the Sacraments, and the service of charity. Being Sacrament of Communion is already our mission. To be a sacrament of visible sign and instrument of communion in the world, where the potential for communion is misused, wasted, and misinterpreted. Diversity is misinterpreted as the cause of division and conflict. When in fact for us in the Church of dialogue and communion, no. Diversity which comes from God is also our material for dialogue and communion.

Diversity of Rites in the Church in Asia

Let me know and give you some examples. First, and this one I think is important for us in the Philippines: the diversity of rites in the Church in Asia, with their unique theological, spiritual, liturgical, and disciplinary, and missionary traditions. Kasi ho dito sa Pilipinas, ang kilala lang natin ay ang Roman Catholic Rite, but in Asia, we have the Alexandrian Tradition, the Coptic Rite, the Ethiopian Rite, Eritrean Church, and the Antiochian Tradition, we have the Syro-Malankara Church in Kerala (India), we have the Maronite Church in Lebanon, we have the Syrian Church, and then we have the Armenian Tradition, the Armenian Church, we have the Chaldean or Syro-Oriental Tradition, the Chaldean Church in Iraq, and the Syro-Malabar Church in India. Then we have the Vicentine Tradition, the Belarusian Church, the Byzantine Church of Croatia and Serbia, of Bulgeria, the Greek Melkite, the Byzantine Catholic in Italy, the Macedonian Church, the Ruthenian Church, the Slovakian Church, the Ukrainian Church, Hungarian Church, all of these are Catholic.

A diversity of rituals, a diversity of theology, sacramental and disciplinary. How can we enrich one another? You know, when we are in the Roman Catholic Church, when we end the Mass, what do you see the presider doing? We kiss the altar. The first time I participated in a Maronite liturgy, the presider talks to the altar, and says “Altar,” which is the symbol of Jesus Christ and of the community, “thank you for welcoming us. Thank you for hosting this Eucharist. I don’t know if this is my last Eucharist, but I’m already grateful for this, and I hope to see you again.” When I heard that I said, “Wow!” I take it for granted and sometimes, distracted ka na, kinakanta na ‘yung final hymn, may mga tao nang naghihintay d’yan, just quickly kiss the altar, tapos. What helped me see the meaning of that. A sister Church in Asia: the Maronite church. How can we draw from each other, you know, the wealth of this theological vision, the sacramental discipline, that will enrich all of us? I hope in our education and formation we get at least some introduction into the richness of the Catholic Tradition present in the different rites.

Different Tribes, From Different Ethnic Groups

The second area of possible mission is, we have to face in Asia the growing ethnic, tribal, and caste conflicts. The different ethnic groups, different tribal origins, and the different castes, have become more exclusive of each other, and now there is a lot of conflict, even violent conflicts. Unfortunately, these conflicts have entered the Church. In the same Christian community, in the same diocese, people find it difficult to accept one another, to sit beside each other, to accept a new parish priest, to accept a new Bishop, just because that person does not belong to my tribe, does not belong to my ethnic group. What has happened to the new humanity? What this happened to the renewal made by Jesus? In Jesus there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female all of you are Christ (cf. Gal. 3:28). Does that matter? In Asian countries where violence and conflicts are nurtured by ethnic and tribalist reasons, can the Church give a valid testimony of this renewed humanity, of this renewed human family, and creation in Christ? I think this is one urgent pathway for mission, and to start within, it pains me when priests file civil cases in civil courts against each other, against their Bishop, against a religious order, etc. and sometimes, not even taking the first step of talking to each other. Why? Ah! There's no use talking to a person from that ethnic group. Then, you hear Saint Paul again, “Why do you allow people who do not belong to your religious family to judge cases involving you? Can you not, as brothers and sisters settle this?” Where is the renewing power of the gospel? Here in the Philippines, maybe we can learn from the Saints, so that we could show the sanctity, the new humanity can come from different tribes, from different ethnic groups.

The Saints of Korea: Saint Andrew Kim Taegon. He even studied here in the Philippines, in Bulacan. Do we celebrate him? The holy men and women of India: St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, St. Mariam Baouardy, St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, St. Lazarus Pillai. In China, the 120 martyrs, with the first native priest, St. Augustine Zhao Rong, and the 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi. Japan: Ukon Takayama who died here in Manila, and our own San Lorenzo Ruiz who was martyred in Nagasaki. Different countries, different nations, different tribes, but showing a new humanity, a new family, because of the gospel.

Area of Populism

The third: the area of populism. Populism in governments, how does that work? Many people, especially the poor, and those who have been ignored in society, they have legitimate concerns and legitimate complaints. Some populist leaders, political leaders, see who are angry, hungry. Those who are angry, and who are hungry, and they go to them, presenting themselves as “messiah figures”, and they make promises to adequately address the needs of the poor, and those who have been forgotten. Unfortunately, some of our people in Asia, and even here in the Philippines, they attach themselves to these strong messiah figures. Again unfortunately, some of these populist leaders use religion, they use religion to promote their agenda. They even use religion, one religion to destroy other religions. And so, what we are promoting? Interreligious dialogue is being destroyed by so-called populist regimes.

In the process, Christians are persecuted, or in some cases also, non-Christians, Muslims are persecuted, Buddhists are persecuted, by populist governments using religion, or misusing religion to disrupt dialogue and communion. So, let us attend to the poor, the hungry, the angry, so that they will not be manipulated by those who are just taking advantage of their neediness, for their political purposes. The presence of a genuine brotherhood, sisterhood, and compassion, hopefully will awaken people, and not allow themselves to be manipulated by some of these false messiah figures.

Propaganda Fide

The fourth area: in the past, in the 16th Century most specially, you know, the word “mission” was very loaded. There were some territories that were identified as “missionary sending territories” because they say they were already Christianized. Then, you have the so-called “mission receiving territories” because they have not been evangelized yet. Maybe that served a purpose in the past, and has been the experience in many parts of Asia, and here in the Philippines we are we are one living proof of this, the evangelization of some countries were very much tied to the period of colonization, and with the patronato real, the mission of the Church was tied also to the colonial power, especially Spain and Portugal. When you look at Asia, you have a Portuguese or Spanish evangelized areas. That's why 400 years ago, the Holy See decided, “No.” Mission will not be anymore entrusted to colonial powers but to the Church herself. That was the birth of the so-called “Propaganda Fide”. So that the Church will take charge of mission, and not be a tool of colonial activity.

Nowadays, the definition by territories seems to be fluid in the so-called Christianized world, the exercise of faith is going down, and in the so-called mission territories, the seminaries are full. You have many catechists, and even if the Christians are still a minority, they register an increase in the number of the baptized, especially in Asia. Kung titignan po natin ‘yung total population of Asia, which is two-third of the world, maliit pa rin ‘yung Christians, pero lumaki. Tumataas ang numero ng Christians. That's why now, when you go to other parts of the world, you see Filipino, Vietnamese, Indian, SriLankan, Bangladeshis, Myanmarese missionaries which is good. So now, we move from territories to context. Maybe this is one area of mission renewal. Hindi lang territories, kung ’di contexts, and when you talk of context, there will be a bit more of sharing of resources. With Vatican II reminding us that every baptized is a missionary, wherever you are, wherever you are, you are posed to mission. This leads me to my fifth point.

The World of Migrants and Refugees

Asian people have migrated everywhere in the world. I just came from Kazakhstan with the Holy Father. Sa isip-isip ko, siguro naman dito walang Pilipino. Kasi, kahit saan ka pumunta may nakikitang kang Pilipino. But lo and behold, as we were preparing for the Mass of the Holy Father, when I went to the temporary sacristy, there was a Filipina sister. Sabi niya, “Hay Cardinal, pwede akong mag-Tagalog. Kamusta?” I said, “What are you doing here? She replied, “Well, my religious order opened a house here. We are five Filipinas.” I said, “Where?” She replied, “Medyo malayo. Our convent is near the border of Kazakhstan with Russia.” Sabi ko, “How are you there?” “Oh, very few people, but we testified.” Sabi ko, “How?” “With our smile, the Filipino hospitality.” Sabi ko, “How do you survive?” She said, “We have learned the language and we are surviving, especially the weather. During winter, minus 40 degrees.” For a Filipino, 0 degrees is already freezing, then how much more is negative 40 degrees?

Here is another area of mission: the world of migrants and refugees. Yes, it is a big crisis, but for us, the Church in Asia, this is a potential, this is a resource for Church identity and mission. Asia provides migrant workers to many parts of the world, and they are not just workers, many of them have found a mission. I speak about the Filipinos. The more numerous Filipino missionaries are the lay Filipino workers, not the ordained, not the religious. When I went to Bahrain for the blessing of the new cathedral, they sent to me the liturgy, way in advance. I saw the opening song in the Mass. Sabi ko, “Ay! Sigurado ang choir ay Pilipino. Kasi yung opening song composed in the Philippines.” Totoo nga. Pagdating doon, mga Pilipino. In the churches that you see, they're all migrants. From Bangladesh, from Sri Lanka, from India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and other countries. How do we welcome migrants and refugees? And here in the Philippines, how do we welcome? Are we even aware of the presence of forced migrants, and people looking for safety and asylum here in our midst?

Is the Church of dialogue, a welcoming Church, a Church that values, that develops, and promotes the migrants and the refugees? For the moment they are developed and integrated into the receiving country, they become productive, they become an asset to the receiving country and to their home country, and they become human bridges between cultures, between peoples.

In the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, most of the volunteers are Muslim volunteers. I attended a lecture on the social teachings of the Church regarding migration and refugees in Bangladesh. I was surprised at the end of it, the speaker was a Muslim, who has learned the social teachings of the Church, and he told me afterwards “It's a beautiful teaching. I was attracted to it,” so now, he is a Caritas volunteer, serving the refugees. Yeah. So a Church that accompanies people on the move, a Church that accompanies people who are stateless, who are not welcomed by any government, but the Church is there.

The World is Interconnected

The sixth point: the pandemic has revealed that the world is interconnected. We are really interconnected. One virus from one place, can go around and affect all of us, and once you get it you can affect others. ‘Yung sinasabi natin na talagang magkaka-ugnay, alam naman natin ‘yan, pero ‘yung COVID ay nagpa-ano pa. But at the same time, as COVID has revealed our interconnectedness, the pandemic has also revealed the great disconnect existing in the world. Unfortunately, also in Asia. We say “Wash your hands often,” but do we realize that many people don't have water? They don't have drinking water, and then we tell them to wash their hands. Observe social distancing, but in the poor sectors of Asia, how can you tell them to observe distancing in one hut, you have eight persons living. Vaccines. Let us send vaccines, but for you to receive vaccines, you need freezers, which poor country can’t afford those types of freezers, and the big portion of their income goes to pay their national debt. On top of it, we are just getting over some relaxation with the pandemic. War. The war in Ukraine broke out, and we forget that there are already many wars even before, there have been many wars before Ukraine, but hindi na pinag-uusapan. Some of them are in Asia. The conflict in Myanmar, in Afghanistan, the crisis in Sri Lanka. The not so easy situation of religious liberty in Pakistan, and even in some parts of India. These have all been exposed, and so, our engagement, dialogue with the poor, our dialogue engagement, with governments, our engagement with the business world, our engagement with the military. How do we show them the vitality and the beauty of the gospel? How can we make them realize that it is absurd that food, medicine, vaccine, even masks could not reach poor countries; but weapons, arms, can cross all borders faster than the virus.

Social Communications and Artificial Intelligence

Finally, one big area is social communications and artificial intelligence. We saw during the pandemic how social media, social communications have been a big help, in somehow keeping people connected to one another, and even for Church services. Kasi nag-lockdown, two weeks after my arrival in Rome. Kararating ko pa lang sa Rome, nag-lockdown na. I could not move around, even within the office, you could not go from your office, your room to another room, and then nagka-COVID na rin ako. Thanks to social media, you have some type of interaction, but we should also be agents of the renewal. We have to ask, what is happening to the new humanity, the new human family, the new creation that God wants us to have. The use of social media also affects our being human, and that is very subtle. There was a time when I was a student, uh-huh, you have to learn spelling. Wrong spelling, wrong. Now who does the spelling for you? Speller check. When I was a student, we had to know multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, now who does it? The calculator. So, the human person is being changed. Instead of the human person doing the work, the human person waits for the work of artificial intelligence FOR his or her benefit. Questions of truth, legitimacy, truthfulness, sincerity, they are also changing. Reality. In philosophy, we were taught what reality is, but now, reality through social media is always mediated reality. How do you factor that in? In class, you are taught to argue a point, but now there is no difference between arguing and fighting. In class, you used to be taught to correct someone fraternally, fraternal correction, now it borders on calumny, and all in the way tolerated, and being spread, and it is changing the human person. You know, I read a study that young people who, this is about reading, because we are all also in in Catholic schools and education, reading is not natural to human beings. It is acquired. Like I told you, when I go for example to Thailand, I cannot read the Thai characters. It is not natural to read that. You have to be taught how to read, and the teaching is connected to the alphabet, or the characters of a particular language, and that process of teaching you how to read, also teaches you how to think critically, how to connect, and how to empathize. Now! When reading is gone, and you just watch, watch, watch, and you just look at short messages, and images, what disappears? Critical thinking, [and] empathy. So, it is not just a skill, something is lost. Then, especially among young people, they think they have many friends, but actually their friends in social media are a very select group of those whom you entertain, and those whom you allow to be your friends, because they think like you. Akala mo marami kang kaibigan, pero kung tutuusin, iilan lang pala iyan.

Now, why am I saying this? Some of the high-tech areas in the world are in Asia. Leading technological centers are in Asia, and we are setting the trend in the world; and in fact, I think the Philippines is the highest in terms of use of social media, and text, and everything. Let us take as a mission, how is it affecting the new humanity of the Filipino. I heard that many students from Grade 1 to Grade 3 have difficulties reading. I'm not surprised. If there are difficulties reading, there will be difficulties in critical thinking, and in empathy. Some people are suggesting that in the educational mission, we should insist on old-fashioned reading, up to the age of 10, and only afterwards could you use hybrid. Otherwise, you have lost the opportunity.


I don't expect you to remember everything and okay lang naman. Some of these things are not as important as I thought they are. Let us wait for the event in October for this. I just like want to end by saying, in the invitation it says there “Asia in Manila”, but may I invite you to do the reverse, “Manila in Asia”. Being a predominantly Christian country, we are often considered an exemption in Asia. They will say “Interreligious dialogue except in the Philippines.” “Dialogue with cultures except in the Philippines.” Well, we are part of Asia, and let us bring the Philippines into the heart of Asia. For those who are thinking of mission work, why not think of an Asian country? Why is Europe, North America, Australia, the places where Filipino missionaries go? How about Iraq? How about some of the Asian countries? “Asia in Manila” yeah. “Manila in Asia”. Thank you very much po, and thanks for your patience.

Final Prayer

Brothers and sisters, St. John Paul II in his pastoral visit to our country in January 1995 mentioned repeatedly the special missionary vocation of the Philippines: to proclaim the good news, and to bring the light of Christ. particularly to those who have not received him yet in Asia, and in other parts of the world. In the scriptures, we hear Jesus saying to his disciples “go into the world and preach the good news to all creatures.” Let us pray to God our Father that He may pour His blessings on the missionary work of the Church. May the Gospel be heard everywhere, and may all come to know You the One True God, may Jesus accompany us in this journey, and so we pray…

Lord Jesus Christ, help us to journey with You on the pathway of the Gospel, and to live out our vocation to mission in the Church and in today's world. Strengthen us in our discipleship, so that we can be faithful heralds of Your Good News, to our local Church and to the ends of the earth. Empower us to serve You as missionaries to the poor, the afflicted, the abandoned, the oppressed, the youth, and the children. May we draw those who doubt the living Christ into the fullness of life, through the witness of our faith. Enkindle in our hearts a burning love for Jesus Christ, so that we could be authentic agents of missionary renewal for our communities. May the Holy Spirit lead us into a new season of mission for the Church. This prayer we make to You who are living Lord, now and forever. Amen.

Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

Photo by Eric Paul Guanlao, Manila Cathedral Facebook Page

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