PHNO HEADLINE NEWS TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2014

SIMBANG GABI: AN ENDURING FILIPINO CHRISTMAS TRADITION 

DEC 16 ---In the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V decreed that the dawn masses should also be held in the Philippines every 16th of December. It gave the farmers a chance to hear Mass before working in the fields. Also known as Misa de Aguinaldo (gift mass), churchgoers offer the gift of sacrifice in waking up before the break of dawn for nine consecutive days to attend the dawn masses for various intentions: in thanksgiving, as a form of worship, or for a petition. READ FULL REPORT...

(ALSO) Pope: Enough gloom, try joy ahead of Christmas

DEC 16 --ROME: Pope Francis is encouraging people to be joyful, saying, “We’ve never heard of a sad saint.” Some 50,000 people flocked to St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s traditional Sunday noontime window appearance. Among them were many children clutching figurines of baby Jesus for Francis to bless for Christmas crčche scenes at home or school. Francis said: “Man’s heart desires joy. Every family, every people, aspires to happiness.”  He said being “missionaries of joy” should be part of lifestyles to help people through difficulties. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Simple chairs for simple Pope

DEC 15 ---PHOTO: Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. Artisans tasked to craft the papal chairs during his visit to the Philippines in January are making sure the finished products will suit his taste for simplicity. AP Photo/Andrew Medichini  MANILA, –Knowing Pope Francis’ preference for simple things, artisans tasked to craft the papal chairs are making sure the finished products will suit his taste for simplicity.  READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Pope to get a glimpse of Cebu’s Sinulog 

DEC 12 ---CEBU CITY, Philippines—Pope Francis may not be able to attend the Sinulog festivities when he visits the Philippines next month, but he will see the famous dance with which the faithful venerate the Holy Child Jesus. A renowned dance troupe in Cebu City has been tapped to perform the Sinulog during the Mass that Pope Francis will celebrate in Luneta on Jan. 18. Sandiego Dance Company plans to showcase the Filipinos’ strong family tiesťduring its performance for the Pope. “The dance will have one message—the family. We want to show the Pope that the Filipinos have close family ties,” said Val Sandiego, choreographer and owner of the dance company.  READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO EARLIER REPORT: Pope Francis’ view of God 

Filipinos preparing to welcome Pope Francis to the Philippines on January 15, 2015 would do well to be familiar with the Pontiff’s recently enunciated views, which have drawn fire from religious conservatives. One may recall that soon after his election, Pope Francis was criticized for refusing to “judge” gays. “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby,” he said. “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem…they’re our brothers,” he added. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Pope Francis and social movements

Rome, under Pope Francis’ watch, never ceases to amaze the world. Coming on the heels of an extraordinary Synod on the family, a “World Meeting of Popular Movements” is being convened this week by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. This fascinating gathering aims to tackle the causes of worldwide inequality and social exclusion, to propose concrete solutions to the chronic problems of landlessness, homelessness, and joblessness, and to discuss what is to be done in the long term to create a more just world. READ FULL REPORT...

Misa de Gallo and the Tale of the Parol
Simbang Gabi, Filipino Christmas lanterns, and the stories behind them.

DEC 16 ---Today, the parol has become an iconic symbol of Filipino Christmas. It has likewise evolved from its design and make. Some are made of colorful capiz while some are made with colored handmade paper or plastic. It comes in different shapes and sizes. The city of San Fernando in Pampanga is known for its beautiful and elaborate parol designs, complete with dancing lights. Dec. 16 marks the beginning of the Simbang Gabi and will end with the Misa de Gallo or Christmas Eve mass on Dec. 25. Churches around the Philippines are adorned with different parols, not just to illuminate the people’s path but because they already are a part of the Filipino Christmas tradition.READ FULL REPORT...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

‘Simbang Gabi’ – an enduring Filipino Christmas tradition

MANILA, DECEMBER 16, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN)  by Christina I. Hermoso -  An enduring Christmas tradition, the nine-day pre-dawn “Simbang Gabi” novena masses will be held in Catholic Churches around country starting today as a prelude to the celebration of the Nativity of Christ.

Considered as one of the oldest Christmas traditions in the Philippines, Church bells will peal very early as the votive masses are held at 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. with the final mass, the Misa de Gallo, celebrated on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, shortly before midnight.

MB file photo MB file photo In keeping up with the times and to accommodate the needs of the faithful on different work schedules, anticipated “Simbang Gabi” masses were held last night at around 8 p.m. in many parishes as well as in chapels in shopping centers. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle discourages the holding of ‘Simbang Gabi’ in corridors and hallways of shopping centers and allows the masses to be held only in chapels with the approval of the archdiocese.

Also known as Misa de Aguinaldo (gift mass), churchgoers offer the gift of sacrifice in waking up before the break of dawn for nine consecutive days to attend the dawn masses for various intentions: in thanksgiving, as a form of worship, or for a petition. Others, in traditional Filipino belief, attend to obtain special graces upon completing the nine-day masses. Mass attendance is “a gift for the Child Jesus, a sacrifice, for it requires dedication and discipline,” a Church official said.

The ‘Simbang Gabi’ is an old tradition with deep roots in the country’s religious culture, dating back to 1565 when Spanish “conquistador” Miguel Lopez de Legazpi celebrated the first Feast of the Nativity. The practice originated in Mexico when in 1587, when Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the Convent of San Agustin Acolman, asked permission from the Holy Father to hold Christmas masses for the farmers who woke up very early to work.

In the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V decreed that the dawn masses should also be held in the Philippines every 16th of December. It gave the farmers a chance to hear Mass before working in the fields.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Pope: Enough gloom, try joy ahead of Christmas Associated Press 8:37 AM | Monday, December 15th, 2014


Pope Francis holds his pastoral staff during his visit at the St. Joseph parish church in Rome, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2014. Greeting him when he arrived at the church was a handmade sign proclaiming in Italian, “Happy Birthday, Holiness” in brightly colored letters. AP

ROME — Pope Francis is encouraging people to be joyful, saying, “We’ve never heard of a sad saint.”

Some 50,000 people flocked to St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s traditional Sunday noontime window appearance. Among them were many children clutching figurines of baby Jesus for Francis to bless for Christmas crčche scenes at home or school.

Francis said: “Man’s heart desires joy. Every family, every people, aspires to happiness.”

He said being “missionaries of joy” should be part of lifestyles to help people through difficulties. Holding up a pocket-sized prayer book, he urged the crowd to take free copies being distributed in the square

To symbolize joy in anticipation of Christmas, priests worldwide donned rose-colored vestments, just as the pope did Sunday evening for a Mass he celebrated at a parish in a working-class neighborhood on Rome’s outskirts.

During his homily, Francis said that this Sunday is known as the “Sunday of joy” in the Catholic church.

Many people in the rush toward Christmas fret about “all they still haven’t” done for holiday preparations, he said. But, Francis said: “Think of all the good things life has given you.”

“It hurts to see Christians with a bitter face, restless with bitterness because they are not at peace,” he said. “Saints have the face of joy.”

“Don’t forget: ‘joy,'” Francis said, just before leaving and gave a thumbs-up sign of appreciation to the parish musicians.

Greeting Francis when he arrived at church was a handmade sign proclaiming in Italian, “Happy Birthday, Holiness” in brightly colored letters. Francis turns 78 on Wednesday. The pope told the parents of 60 infants who were baptized in the parish during 2014 that his own baptism took place on Christmas Day in 1936.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Simple chairs for simple Pope Jocelyn R. Uy @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:36 AM | Tuesday, December 16th, 2014


Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. Artisans tasked to craft the papal chairs during his visit to the Philippines in January are making sure the finished products will suit his taste for simplicity. AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

MANILA, Philippines–Knowing Pope Francis’ preference for simple things, artisans tasked to craft the papal chairs are making sure the finished products will suit his taste for simplicity.

The Argentine Pontiff’s three papal chairs—one for each of the three big events scheduled in Manila—will be made of Philippine mahogany without many embellishments, according to Robert Cruz, owner of VitreArtus, a 20-year-old producer of liturgical arts and furniture.

“We know how simple Pope Francis is. So if we give him a grandiose chair, he might not use it. He might pull a monobloc chair instead,” Cruz told reporters.

For the papal chair that will be installed during the Eucharistic celebration to be led by Pope Francis at Quirino Grandstand in Manila on Jan. 18, the papal coat of arms will be prominent, flanked by wooden carvings shaped like anahaw leaves to give it a Filipino touch.

Its base and sides will also be adorned with bamboo while a small relief sculpture of a shepherd with an inscription “Ang Mabuting Pastol” (the Good Shepherd) will be placed above the backrest, Cruz said.

“It is in Filipino, not in Latin, so that it will be more understandable and people can easily identify with it,” he explained.

At least 6 million Filipinos are expected to attend the Holy Mass at Luneta, which will formally conclude the Pope’s apostolic visit to the country before he heads back to the Vatican the following day.

For the Pontiff’s meeting with families at SM Mall of Asia Arena on Jan. 16, the papal chair will be more modern but still without adornments except for some gold-painted leaves that will provide the accent, he said.

Simple but beautiful

The papal chair for the event at the University of Santo Tomas will also exude the same quality: noble, simple, but still beautiful, he added.

For the Luneta event alone, Cruz’s Laguna-based firm will make more than 30 pieces of liturgical furniture, which include seven candelabras, a 5-foot lectern, 10 chairs for the bishops concelebrating with Pope Francis and 14 other chairs for the readers and other lay members.

VitreArtus has also been commissioned to fabricate the altar, which Cruz said would be painted pale yellow with a copper accent and green anahaw patterns. This will be double the size of a regular altar, he pointed out.

“We already stopped accepting new commissions and we might not have a Christmas break to finish these in time for the papal visit,” said Cruz, who has 70 workers to help him finish the job.

Fr. Alex Bautista, chair of the Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church in the Diocese of Tarlac, also helped with some of the designs of the furniture, which Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has delivered to the Vatican for approval.

“I think the designs were already approved last week,” Cruz said.

While everything would be simple, he said it was still important to put serious and careful work into the furniture as this would help people experience God through the liturgy.

“The liturgy is about the worship of God so everything in it has to be directed toward the glorification of God just like sacred music … so we also have to produce beautiful sacred furniture,” he explained.

Selfie with Pope

Cruz also added that producing new sacred furniture for the papal visit reflected the Filipino value of hospitality.

guyito-1216“When we have visitors in our houses, we provide them with the best. We prepare our house, we buy new curtains, for instance,” he said.

“How much more [with Pope Francis]? He is a very special person so we want to provide him with the best,” he added.

Cruz said the project would cost roughly half a million pesos. “But when we offered to do everything, we were not thinking of charging for it. It is more of giving back, to give our own share to the success of the papal visit,” he said.

He also said having been picked to provide services for the papal visit was already a blessing.

“I am not asking for anything in exchange but it will be a great honor to have a selfie with the Pope,” he said.

Cruz disclosed that he had offered VitreArtus’ services six months ago with Fr. Genaro Diwa, head of the office of liturgy of the Archdiocese of Manila.

“We don’t consider this a business but more of a ministry or apostolate … We are happy that by means of our sacred furniture we are able to provide the faithful with a glimpse of heavenly realities. They see the beauty of God in our work so it is not about us but about seeing God in our work,” he added.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Pope to get a glimpse of Cebu’s Sinulog Carmel Loise Matus @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Visayas 7:17 AM | Friday, December 12th, 2014

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Pope Francis may not be able to attend the Sinulog festivities when he visits the Philippines next month, but he will see the famous dance with which the faithful venerate the Holy Child Jesus.

A renowned dance troupe in Cebu City has been tapped to perform the Sinulog during the Mass that Pope Francis will celebrate in Luneta on Jan. 18.

Sandiego Dance Company plans to showcase the Filipinos’ strong family tiesťduring its performance for the Pope.

“The dance will have one message—the family. We want to show the Pope that the Filipinos have close family ties,” said Val Sandiego, choreographer and owner of the dance company.

To show that Filipino family ties are strong, Sandiego, his wife Ofelia, and their children Angelica Luz, 26, Andrea Lauren, 25, Andre Lester, 19, and Anna Louisa, 18, will dance for the Pope.

“I’m so happy my whole family will dance. My whole family will be complete. We will represent Cebu,” he told the Inquirer in an interview on Thursday.

Second time

This will be the second time for the dance company to dance the Sinulog for a Pope.

On Feb. 19, 1981, the troupe also performed at the old Lahug airport for St. John Paul II during his visit to Cebu City.

At that time, the dance company was headed by Sandiego’s mother, Luz Mancao Sandiego, who founded the group in 1947 in her hometown of Carcar.

Former dancers who now live in other countries like Australia, Hong Kong and the United States will join the Sandiegos in their performance for the Pope.

“They have planned ahead of time to come [home] for the Sinulog [in] 2015. This will be like a reunion, too,” Sandiego said.

He said the group was told two months ago that it would be invited to perform during the papal visit. But it was only on Wednesday that Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma announced that the Sandiego Dance Company would perform for the Pope.

Palma told reporters that if the Pope could not come to Cebu as the people of the province were celebrating the Sinulog festival, the Archdiocese of Cebu would bring the celebration to him.

Held every third Sunday of January, Sinulog is one of the biggest festivals in the Philippines in honor of the Child Jesus. Next year, the Sinulog festivities would kick off on Jan. 9 and would end on Jan. 18, coinciding with Pope Francis’ visit to the country.

Leading Sinulog

The Sandiego Dance Company usually opens the Sinulog grand parade where different dancing groups, floats, higantes, among other participants, parade around the city. The parade ends the nine-day festivities.

Since they had to fly to Manila on Jan. 18, the Sandiego dancers would have to skip the Sinulog grand parade.

Instead, they would perform during the reenactment of the First Mass at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nińo on Jan. 17 before flying to Manila for their performance for Pope Francis.

Sandiego said he requested the archdiocese to bring a small replica of the Sto. Nińo to offer to the Pontiff.

He said the archdiocese would spend for the airfare of the group to and from Manila. But the dancers will spend for their costumes.

“We don’t ask for payment. This is our prayer dance,” he said.

The group will start rehearsing next week, as the members are still busy complying with the requirements for accreditation and passes.

Sandiego said, however, that the dance would not be difficult because it would be the basic Sinulog steps—one step forward and two steps backward.

“Planning stage is quite difficult. You have to give the best of Cebu. It will have worldwide media coverage. You have to give the best of the Philippines,” he said.

Spanish influence

Since the dance would touch on the Spanish influence on Cebu, Sandiego said, the dancers’ costumes would be designed like Spanish soldiers’ uniforms for the men and maria clara for the women.

“What people will see is the Philippines as the seat of Christianity in the Far East. You have to design the costumes, make the choreography and the dance steps something that really reflect the Filipino people’s culture and identity,” Sandiego said.–With a report from Carine Asutilla, Inquirer Visayas


FROM THE INQUIRER

Pope Francis’ view of God Rodel Rodis @inquirerdotnet 3:29 AM | Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Filipinos preparing to welcome Pope Francis to the Philippines on January 15, 2015 would do well to be familiar with the Pontiff’s recently enunciated views, which have drawn fire from religious conservatives.

One may recall that soon after his election, Pope Francis was criticized for refusing to “judge” gays.

“When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby,” he said. “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem…they’re our brothers,” he added.

He expressed the same mercy and compassion for the poor as he did for gays. Pope Francis declared two months ago in a speech in Rome at the World Meeting of Popular Movements that “caring for the poor does not make you a communist” expressing concern that “land, housing and work are increasingly unavailable to the majority of the world’s population.”

Pope Francis has voiced concern for the environment and climate change, as he did for the rights of farmers to have land and for young people to be employed.

Responding to his critics who accuse him of espousing Marxist views, he said, “They don’t understand that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel. Demanding this isn’t unusual, it’s the social doctrine of the Church.”

In recent weeks, Pope Francis has also been criticized for declaring that the Big Bang Theory and Evolution are not incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

“When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Pope Francis said in a speech before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences meeting in Rome.

“He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment,” he explained.

Pope Francis expressed his belief that the theory of evolution is not at odds with Catholic doctrine. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve,” he said.

Christian Creationist leader Ken Ham condemned Pope Francis for having “compromised biblical authority in favor of man’s ideas in the area of origins.” Ham claimed that the Pope’s comments show “a lack of understanding of who scripture claims God is — the all-powerful Creator, who is capable of doing what is impossible to man.”

The controversy over the views of Pope Francis recalls an article that appeared in USA Today (“View of God can predict values, politics,” Cathy Lynn Grossman, September 12, 2006), which reported that those who believe in one God “don’t all have the same image of the Almighty in mind.”

The article reflected on the findings of a study conducted by sociologists from Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, a Baptist school of higher learning in Waco, Texas, which reviewed and analyzed the results of a Gallup Poll survey of 1,721 Americans who were each asked 77 questions with 400 answer choices.

The Gallup survey results revealed four distinct views of God.

-About 31.4% believe in an Authoritarian God who is “angry at humanity’s sins and who is engaged in every person’s life and world affairs” and “ready to throw the thunderbolt of judgment down on the unfaithful or ungodly.” This view forms the core conviction of the American Religious Right.

According to Grossman’s report, believers in an Authoritarian God “want an active, Christian-values-based government with federal funding for faith-based social services and prayer in the schools. They’re also the most inclined to say God favors the USA in world affairs (32.1% vs. 18.6% overall).”

-About 23% believe in a Benevolent God, which is a forgiving God (“more like the father who embraces his repentant prodigal son in the Bible”) and believe that caring for the sick and needy ranks highest on the list of what it means to be a good person. “God is in control of everything. He’s grieved by the sin of the world, by any created person who doesn’t follow him. But I see (a) God … who loves us, who sees us for who we really are. We serve a God of the second, third, fourth and fifth chance,” says Rev. Jeremy Johnston of the 5,000-member Southern Baptist Congregation in Kansas.

-About 16% believe in a Critical God who has his “judgmental eye” on the world, but who will not intervene, either to punish or to comfort. According to Baylor’s Christopher Bader, “this group is more paradoxical. They hold very traditional beliefs, picturing God as the classic bearded old man on high. Yet they’re less inclined to go to church or affiliate seriously with religious groups. They are less inclined to see God as active in the world. Their politics are definitely not liberal, but they’re not quite conservative, either.”

Grossman writes that “those who picture a critical God are significantly less likely to draw absolute moral lines on hot-button issues such as abortion, gay marriage or embryonic stem cell research.”

-About 24.4% believe in a Distant God who is “no bearded old man in the sky raining down his opinions on us” (Bader). They see a cosmic force that launched the world, and then left it spinning on its own. Bader believes that this has strongest appeal for Catholics, mainline Protestants, Jews, among “moral relativists” — those least likely to say any moral choice is always wrong — and among those who don’t attend church.

From reading his pronouncements, Pope Francis clearly favors a benevolent view of God, the God of a merciful and compassionate Jesus as described in the New Testament.

But how do Filipinos view God?

University of the Philippines Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan postulated in an INQUIRER.net column that a majority of Filipinos believe in a somewhat distant but intervening God, literally a “tatay” [father] in the stereotyped sense. Filipinos tend to believe that natural disasters and personal misfortunes are punishment from God for our sins. But, Tan writes, “we also tend to see our relationships with that God as negotiable. We bargain all the time, vowing to do several novenas or have ourselves nailed to the cross in Lent, on condition that a certain favor is granted.”

It may even be more confusing than that. Filipino Catholics believe in a dysfunctional Holy Trinity, believing in an Authoritarian God the Father, in a Benevolent God the Son, and in a somewhat Critical or Distant God the Holy Spirit.

But there is another dynamic involved. More than any other Catholic country in the world, the Philippines has embraced the Blessed Virgin Mary. Unlike Catholic churches in the US, Philippine churches all exhibit iconic images of the Holy Mother.

This tradition goes all the way back to the origins of Christianity in the Philippines. The first church erected in Manila, the Nuestra Seńora de Guia (the Ermita Church), prominently featured a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Over 100 Philippine parishes honor the Immaculate Conception, over 60 are dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, while others carry various titles like the Assumption, Our Lady of Carmel, Mother of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Lourdes.

Pope Francis shares a similar devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Filipinos do. Pope Francis has explained that the Virgin Mary is not worshiped as a God but is venerated as the highest of God’s creatures “owing to her personal holiness, her assent to become Christ’s earthly mother, and her faithfulness up to and beyond the Crucifixion.” She is considered the first and model Christian, and since Catholics believe she lives on in Heaven, they turn to her to pray for them and offer support in hard times.

The Pope’s devotion to Mary was evident during his visit to the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil during World Youth Day Rio in late July 2014. In his homily, Pope Francis said, “When the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks, ‘Show us Jesus.’ It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on missions in the footsteps of Mary.”

Mother Mary is the embodiment of mercy and compassion and in the belief in a benevolent and caring God.

The Philippine is the only country in the world that does not allow divorce (the Vatican is not a country) owing to the deep influence of the Catholic Church. Does this policy favor or oppress women? Does a merciful and compassionate God oppose divorce?

“Filipinos are in dire need of mercy and compassion.” This was the message of Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, to the attendees of the one-day spiritual gathering titled “A Nation of Mercy and Compassion” last week at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church in the University of Santo Tomas (UST).

Archbishop Villegas urged Catholics to look at Jesus to recognize that humanity is “poor and in need of God’s love. See the suffering of Jesus as your own sufferings and his pains as our own pains. Look at Jesus and see how he had suffered for his love for us,” he said

The best way to look at Jesus, the Archbishop said, is to look at Pope Francis, who is the “sweet scent and odor of Jesus.”

“There is no better place, but to look at the face of Pope Francis. Let us listen, watch, and stand by the Pope and you’ll see yourself looking and listening to Jesus,” he added.

The press release about the Archbishop’s UST address reported that “he reminded the attendees that mercy and compassion, which is the theme for the Pope’s apostolic visit, is a gift from God that needs to be shared.”

If what Archbishop Villegas declared is true, then Filipinos share Pope Francis’ view of a Benevolent God. This image of God, according to the Baylor report, is a “more powerful a predictor of social and political views than the usual markers of church attendance or belief in the Bible.”


EARLIER NEWS FROM THE INQUIRER

Pope Francis and social movements Randy David @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:05 AM | Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Rome, under Pope Francis’ watch, never ceases to amaze the world. Coming on the heels of an extraordinary Synod on the family, a “World Meeting of Popular Movements” is being convened this week by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. This fascinating gathering aims to tackle the causes of worldwide inequality and social exclusion, to propose concrete solutions to the chronic problems of landlessness, homelessness, and joblessness, and to discuss what is to be done in the long term to create a more just world.

The meeting’s lead organizers are Cardinal Peter Turkson, Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, and Juan Grabois. Turkson is the president of the Justice and Peace Pontifical Council, Sorondo is the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, and Grabois, an Argentinean, is the founder of the Movement of Excluded Workers and is a close friend of Pope Francis. Turkson is a familiar name to Vatican watchers. If Rome had been ready for a black pope, Turkson might have become pope after Benedict XVI’s unprecedented resignation. John Paul II made him a cardinal in 2003. Benedict appointed him president of justice and peace in 2009, and a member of the formidable Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2010.

The subject of this world meeting, which brings together leaders of marginalized sectors and communities from the “peripheries” of five continents, is right up this 66-year-old Ghanaian cardinal’s alley. Turkson is a vocal critic of neoliberal thinking and of what he calls the “idolatry of the market.” Two years ago, he captured world attention by proposing the establishment of a “global public authority” that would tax and regulate global financial transactions. He and Francis are today restoring to public consciousness the core themes of structural injustice and emancipation that were at the top of the Church’s agenda in the Third World during the revolutionary decades of the 1970s and 1980s.

That period of radical political ferment made Christianity the epicenter of the explosive mixture of faith and politics—precisely where Islam finds itself today.

John Paul II had to grapple with the complex realities of a Church that, instead of just catalyzing the quest for justice, found itself leading social revolutions against imperialism and oppressive regimes throughout the underdeveloped world. While giving his blessings to Poland’s workers in their struggle against Soviet domination, he publicly chided the Nicaraguan priests who had joined the Sandinistas’ war against the Somoza dictatorship and its American sponsors. This seeming contradiction confused many.

It was a problem that very much haunted Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, when he was the young provincial superior of Argentina’s Jesuits (1973-1979). He was accused of complicity in the kidnapping and torture of two of his brother Jesuits who had been organizing in the slums. One of them, Orlando Yorio, accused Bergoglio of abandoning them by refusing to endorse their work with the poor. Refusing to defend himself at the time, Bergoglio instead quietly worked for the two priests’ release by pleading with the dictator, Jorge Rafael Videla. People who had known him said he was critical of the dictatorship but failed to speak out against it when it was important to do so.

The trauma of those years anguished the future pope so much that he felt a need to make penance. In 2000, when he was already archbishop of Buenos Aires, he called on the Argentinean Catholic Church “to put on garments of public penance for the sins committed during the years of the dictatorship.” As head of the Argentinean Catholic Bishops Conference, he issued a “collective apology” for the Church’s failure to protect the people from the atrocities of the military junta during the years of the Dirty War. This distressing experience appears to have radicalized Bergoglio. He became critical of state power, and his relations with the post-dictatorship Argentinean government under the Kirchner presidential couple were strained.

The issue seems to me inescapable: So long as the Church actively bears witness to the oppression and marginalization of the poor, so long will it find itself playing a prophetic role in the public sphere. It is not easy to speak out against any form of social injustice and exclusion without, at some point, feeling compelled to lead the struggle of the oppressed. At the press conference on the eve of the world meeting of popular movements, Juan Grabois declared: “Francis summons us again today…; he calls to the poor, organized in thousands of popular movements, to fight, without arrogance but with courage, without violence but with tenacity, for this dignity that has been taken from us, and for social justice.” This is a political statement that draws heavily from the resources of religious faith.

One wonders how it would square with Benedict XVI’s May 13, 2007, message to the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean: “The political task is not the immediate competence of the Church. Respect for healthy secularity, including the pluralism of political opinions, is essential in the authentic Christian tradition.”

In careful language, Benedict defines the “fundamental vocation” of the Church in politics to be: “To form consciences, to be the advocate of justice and truth, to educate in individual and political virtues.” He places the onus of the actual day-to-day struggle against injustice on the lay faithful. Does Francis, who has been a pastor in the Third World, have a different view?


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Misa de Gallo and the Tale of the Parol
Simbang Gabi, Filipino Christmas lanterns, and the stories behind them.

December 14, 2014 Share this:

Did you know that there is a connection between two Filipino Christmas traditions—Simbang Gabi and the parol? Well, there is.

Filipinos have been celebrating the Simbang Gabi or dawn masses since the early years of Spanish rule. Back then, when life was still simple, part of the routine of Filipinos (who were mostly farmers) was to wake up before the sun rose to work the fields. People still do this to this day for a practical reason, to avoid the scorching heat of the noon day sun (this is why we also have siestas).

Parol has become an iconic symbol of Filipino Christmas. It has likewise evolved from its design and make. Some are made of colorful capiz while some are made with colored handmade paper or plastic. Parol has become an iconic symbol of Filipino Christmas. It has likewise evolved from its design and make. Some are made of colorful capiz while some are made with colored handmade paper or plastic. During the Christmas season, it was a custom to hold evening novenas, a tradition that is widely observed in the Hispanic culture. In the Philippines, however, the priests back then saw that the farmers still attended these masses despite a long and tiring day. As a compromise, priests instead began to celebrate evening novenas in the early mornings. From then on, early morning masses have become a Filipino tradition.

42During this time, electricity was unheard of, especially in the rural areas. Naturally, the surroundings were still dark and masses were held by candle light or oil lamps. The parol made early morning masses extra special.

The first parol was originally crafted by Filipino artisan Francisco Estanislao in 1908. The word “parol” was derived from the Spanish word, “farol” that directly translates to “lantern.” Historians believe that the parol was influenced by the Mexican pinata that was brought by the Spaniards. The original parol was made of bamboo sticks and papel de japon. The design was a simple five-pointed star and was illuminated by a candle or kalburo (carbide). The townspeople used the parol to illuminate their path to the church during Simbang Gabi.

Today, the parol has become an iconic symbol of Filipino Christmas. It has likewise evolved from its design and make. Some are made of colorful capiz while some are made with colored handmade paper or plastic. It comes in different shapes and sizes. The city of San Fernando in 46Pampanga is known for its beautiful and elaborate parol designs, complete with dancing lights. They also make giant, 20-foot parols during the lantern festival.

Dec. 16 marks the beginning of the Simbang Gabi and will end with the Misa de Gallo or Christmas Eve mass on Dec. 25. Churches around the Philippines are adorned with different parols, not just to illuminate the people’s path but because they already are a part of the Filipino Christmas tradition.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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