The health crisis and the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Philippine Church were at the centre of the 121st plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) held its 121st plenary session (pictured) online. The ongoing health crisis and the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Philippine Church were at the centre of the address by CBCP President Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao.
In his speech, the prelate said that the best way to celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines during the ongoing pandemic is to “make our faith shine in acts of charity and mercy” because “faith shines in the works of charity and mercy.”
More than 80 bishops participated in the two-day event, which ended on Wednesday, focussing on the ongoing health crisis and the Church's response.
The Apostolic Nuncio, Mgr Charles John Brown, delivered a message from Pope Francis. In it, the Holy Father calls on the bishops of the Philippines to continue to bear witness to “evangelical charity” amid the pandemic. He also invited them to come up with “more creative expressions” of charity in their pastoral work.
These efforts, said Pope Francis, would help the Philippine Church “to be recognised as ‘a home with open doors’, offering hope and strength to the suffering and to all who seek a more humane and dignified life.”
Archbishop Valles urged Filipinos to share the “gift of faith” with others. “Anyone of us can take up this challenge – to serve the least and lowest of our brothers and sisters,” he said.
The Archbishop admitted that 500th anniversary celebration plans have been thrown off course due to the pandemic, but said the faithful “cannot take this precious gift [of faith] for granted.”
“We might wake up one day,” he warned, “like other people have: no longer able to share this gift with others, for our hearts and souls have been hijacked by other beliefs, ephemeral if not empty.”
Quincentenary celebrations were set to wrap up in April 2021. But due to the difficulty in organising proper celebrations, the Bishops have extended the Great Jubilee for an extra year, to April 2022.
The first Mass in the Philippines was celebrated on 31 March 1521, on Limasawa Island. On 14 April, the Church celebrates the 500th anniversary of the first local Baptism, which took place in what is now the Archdiocese of Cebu.
During their plenary assembly, the Bishops also elevated the status of a popular pilgrimage site in Obando, a town in the Diocese of Malolos. The San Pascual Baylon Parish-Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepcion de Salambao will soon be known as a National Shrine.
The parish church was founded by Franciscan missionaries from Spain on 29 April 1754, as a small chapel dedicated to St Clare of Assisi.
A few years later, local fishermen discovered an image of the Immaculate Conception, which came to be known as Our Lady of Salambao.
In raising the church to the status of a national shrine, the Bishops have recognised the faith and devotion of the many pilgrims who visit the parish each year.