For nine days until 25 December, the daily night Mass (Simbang Gabi) is celebrated before dawn. The tradition dates back to the 17th century. For the archbishop of Manila, those “who use power to humiliate others are the most afraid and insecure individuals.” For many, Tagle’s words refer to President Duterte. A presidential spokesman denies this view but fuels the controversy.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The Christmas novena began on Sunday with the first Simbang Gabi (night Mass), one of the most important and oldest Catholic traditions of the Philippines.
Card Luis Antonio Tagle (pictured), archbishop of Manila, led the solemn Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. In his homily, the prelate warned the faithful against anxiety, bullying and abuse of power, i.e. attitudes that prevent people from being happy.
“As Saint John the Baptist said, do not be a bully. Do not bully anyone. Do not use your power to become rude. Don't use your power to pressure or coerce others. Do not use your arms to make false accusations.”
Likewise, “Do not belittle others. Even if you have a position. Your position doesn't give you the right to destroy others. You will not be happy that way. In fact, bullies who use power to humiliate others are the most afraid and insecure individuals.”
For many the archbishop’s words are a reference to President Rodrigo Duterte, who has made repeated verbal attacks against Church leaders for criticising his administration. In his latest salvo, Duterte said that bishops are “useless” and called on the faithful to kill them.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo today denied that the cardinal was referring to Duterte. The president “doesn’t bully people”, he stressed.
“If the [cardinal’s] message is in the generic or general term, then I agree,” Panelo explained. “You cannot be using power to bully or to coerce people. The President is against that too,” he added.
The traditional novena allows Filipino Catholics to prepare for Christ’s Nativity and expresses the belief that God is incarnated in Jesus, died and rose again.
The Simbang Gabi, also known as Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) or Misa de Aguinaldo (Gift Mass), owes its name to the daily Mass that is celebrated before dawn for the nine days that precede Christmas.
The practice, which dates back to the 17th century, is also celebrated among Filipino communities abroad, who number more than 10 million.
It is a "sacrifice out of love" that requires getting up early during regular work days and provides a clear indication of the depth of Catholicism in the Filipino people.