PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEKEND

YEARENDER: CATHOLIC CHURCH BUSY PREPARING FOR PAPAL VISIT 

JAN 3 ---The visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines in January 2015 kept the Catholic church on its toes during the last six months of 2014. After Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle announced on July 29 that the 78-year-old Argentine pope was coming to the country on Jan. 15-19, seemingly endless meetings and preparations for the papal visit started. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines secretary general Fr. Marvin Mejia could not say how far the CBCP has gone in the preparations, “but the essential elements are in place. The people have been assigned and committees have been made.” The CBCP is preoccupied with the liturgical preparations, the pope’s transportation, his meals and the place where he will stay. Malacañang, for its part, is ensuring the security of Pope Francis. Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said that 95 percent of the national government’s preparation is centered on security. Pope Francis will arrive on Jan. 15 at 5:45 p.m. at Villamor Air Base. He is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on President Aquino at Malacañang and make a day trip to Tacloban City and Palo town in Leyte, areas devastated by the Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. READ FULL STORY...

ALSO Cargo ship with all-Pinoy crew sinks off Vietnam 

JAN 3 ---A cargo ship bound for China from Malaysia sank off Vietnam with all but one of its 19 all-Filipino crew still unaccounted for, the vessel’s owner confirmed yesterday. In a statement posted on its website, Gearbulk Holding Limited said Bulk Jupiter “capsized and sank” some 150 nautical miles off the Vietnamese coast while en route to an undisclosed destination in China from Kuantan, Malaysia. Gearbulk did not mention the actual date or the circumstances behind the sinking of Bulk Jupiter, which was carrying bauxite. The ship was believed to have sunk Friday. Gearbulk said the Bahamas-flagged ship departed Kuantan, Malaysia on Dec. 30 at around 8 p.m. local time. “Repeated attempts to contact the vessel on all communication channels were unsuccessful,” Gearbulk said. It said the Japanese Coast Guard received distress alert from the ship and immediately initiated search and rescue operation. EAD FULL REPORT...

(ALSO) ‘Year of the Poor’ reminder: A simple lifestyle for priests

JAN 4 ---PHOTO: ARCHBISHOP SOCRATES VILLEGAS It is a scandal for a priest to die a rich man, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said yesterday, as a reminder that priests should lead a simple lifestyle especially in 2015, the “Year of the Poor.”  As a start, priests should avoid having expensive vehicles, the prelate, who is also the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said. High-end cars smack of vain glory and luxury, he said. “Especially in a province like ours where there are so many who are poor who cannot afford a tricycle ride, there is no excuse for any priest to have high-end vehicles. We need vehicles to reach the poor barangays and bring them the blessings of God. Expensive cars alienate the poor from the Church. We smell differently from the sheep,” Villegas said in a circular letter dated January 1. Avoid luxurious recreation Priests should also avoid, as much as they can, foreign travels and frequent recreation at expensive tourist destinations, even if such are paid for by friends and family, Villegas said. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO TIMES COLUMN: Dear Pope Francis, 

By KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO ---THE Philippines welcomes 2015 with you in mind, and rightfully so. You are coming to a country that does not lack in hope and faith, but ours is a people that could certainly use some compassion and kindness from our leaders.Your arrival is a promise that compassion and kindness are on the way, and we could not start 2015 any better, no matter our religious diversity, no matter our differences. Papal holiday ----But for the wealthy and powerful, including government, your arrival would be an occasion for the pageantry and festivity that Filipinos are famous for, especially when welcoming foreign guests. Government has declared your visit a 3-day national holiday, which might be premised on the notion that this is a predominantly Catholic country and the faithful would want to be a part of the Papal Itinerary. But in a country where too many are employed on a contractual basis, this will mean three days (excluding the weekend) of no work, no pay. And for sure this is an injustice that would be familiar to you, Pope Francis. But also it’s an injustice that has become normal in a country like the Philippines. READ FULL COLUMN...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

YEARENDER: Catholic church busy preparing for papal visit

MANILA, JANUARY 5, 2015 (PHILSTAR)  By Evelyn Macairan - The visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines in January 2015 kept the Catholic church on its toes during the last six months of 2014.

After Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle announced on July 29 that the 78-year-old Argentine pope was coming to the country on Jan. 15-19, seemingly endless meetings and preparations for the papal visit started.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines secretary general Fr. Marvin Mejia could not say how far the CBCP has gone in the preparations, “but the essential elements are in place. The people have been assigned and committees have been made.”

The CBCP is preoccupied with the liturgical preparations, the pope’s transportation, his meals and the place where he will stay.

Malacañang, for its part, is ensuring the security of Pope Francis. Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said that 95 percent of the national government’s preparation is centered on security.

Pope Francis will arrive on Jan. 15 at 5:45 p.m. at Villamor Air Base. He is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on President Aquino at Malacañang and make a day trip to Tacloban City and Palo town in Leyte, areas devastated by the Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.

Being one with victims of calamities is one of Pope Francis’ main reasons for visiting the country.

Pope Francis is also scheduled to hold two public masses, one near the Tacloban airport on Jan. 17 and another in Rizal Park on Jan. 18.

Authorities are expecting to have a hard time securing the pontiff. Pope Francis likes to get close to the people. In one instance, he made an unscheduled stop along the road to kiss a sick person and shake the hands of onlookers.

During his visit to the country, the holy father will be using an open and non-bulletproof popemobile to show to the people that the Catholic Church is open and accessible to all.

Authorities have likened the papal visit to the procession of the Black Nazarene, where people are expected to try to climb the barricades and scramble to get close to the pope.

The year 2014 was also a momentous year for the two dead popes who also visited the Philippines. Pope Francis canonized Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII last April 27 at Vatican City.

Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines twice – in February 1981 when he beatified the first Filipino saint Lorenzo Ruiz and in January 1995 for World Youth Day.

Pope Paul VI came to the country in November 1970. He was the target of an assassination attempt at the Manila International Airport by Bolivian painter Benjamin Mendoza, who dressed as a priest. But Mendoza was subdued by the pope’s personal secretary.

Another highlight of 2014 was the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) on the Reproductive Health (RH) Law.

Mejia said that while the ruling said the law was constitutional, there were controversial segments in the law that were said to be unconstitutional.

The SC struck down section 7 of the law, which provides power to the government to oblige private hospitals and those owned by religious groups to refer patients to other facilities that offer reproductive health services.

Another provision in the same section – allowing minors to avail of family planning services without parental consent if they have already given birth or suffered a miscarriage – was also declared unconstitutional.

“Some portray it as a defeat of the church and the victory of the RH. But during the retreat last July of the bishops, they prayed and invited experts. The experts said it was not a loss to the Catholic Church. Those provisions the anti-RH groups were fighting for were given,” Mejia said.


FROM PHILSTAR

Ship with all-Pinoy crew sinks off Vietnam By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 4, 2015 - 12:00am 0 4 googleplus0 1

MANILA, Philippines - A cargo ship bound for China from Malaysia sank off Vietnam with all but one of its 19 all-Filipino crew still unaccounted for, the vessel’s owner confirmed yesterday.

In a statement posted on its website, Gearbulk Holding Limited said Bulk Jupiter “capsized and sank” some 150 nautical miles off the Vietnamese coast while en route to an undisclosed destination in China from Kuantan, Malaysia.

Gearbulk did not mention the actual date or the circumstances behind the sinking of Bulk Jupiter, which was carrying bauxite. The ship was believed to have sunk Friday.

Gearbulk said the Bahamas-flagged ship departed Kuantan, Malaysia on Dec. 30 at around 8 p.m. local time.

“Repeated attempts to contact the vessel on all communication channels were unsuccessful,” Gearbulk said.

It said the Japanese Coast Guard received distress alert from the ship and immediately initiated search and rescue operation.

Tugboat M/V OLNG Muttrah rescued a survivor, reportedly the cook of the ill-fated vessel. The name of the rescued crew was not yet available as of press time.

Another ship, M/V Zim Asia, reported seeing an empty lifeboat and a life raft from Bulk Jupiter in the waters near Vietnam.

Gearbulk said search and rescue operations, led by Singapore MRCC, were ongoing.

“We will use this opportunity to thank everyone involved for their help and support in this difficult situation. Our thoughts are with the crew and their families,” Gearbulk said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippine embassy in Hanoi is coordinating with Vietnamese authorities for the gathering of more information about the sinking of Bulk Jupiter.

“As always, we stand ready to extend all necessary and appropriate assistance to the ship’s Filipino crew members and their families,” Foreign Affairs spokesman, Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said in a text message to reporters.


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

‘Year of the Poor’ reminder: A simple lifestyle for priests by Leslie Ann Aquino January 4, 2015 Share this:


ARCHBISHOP SOCRATES VILLEGAS

It is a scandal for a priest to die a rich man, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said yesterday, as a reminder that priests should lead a simple lifestyle especially in 2015, the “Year of the Poor.”

As a start, priests should avoid having expensive vehicles, the prelate, who is also the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said. High-end cars smack of vain glory and luxury, he said.

“Especially in a province like ours where there are so many who are poor who cannot afford a tricycle ride, there is no excuse for any priest to have high-end vehicles. We need vehicles to reach the poor barangays and bring them the blessings of God. Expensive cars alienate the poor from the Church. We smell differently from the sheep,” Villegas said in a circular letter dated January 1.

Avoid luxurious recreation

Priests should also avoid, as much as they can, foreign travels and frequent recreation at expensive tourist destinations, even if such are paid for by friends and family, Villegas said.

“It is best to decline and choose austerity and simplicity. Rest is important but luxurious recreation is disrespectful for the poor who cannot even take a rest from their backbreaking jobs. Be more sensitive,” he said.

He also asked priests to reexamine what they keep in their bedrooms. A priest’s room and a bachelor’s pad are exact opposites, he said.

Clerical attire

Archbishop Villegas said it is also very important that priests use clerical attire in public places.

“Loud colored signature shirts and pants are fashionable but we cannot let Christ glow unless we let our glamour go. To be simple is to be great in the eyes of God. The poor priest does not need to dress sloppy. We must give dignity to our vocation,” he said.

It is a serious sin of omission, Villegas said, for a priest not to help regularly a poor person whether for education, health or livelihood.

“While it is morally acceptable to set aside some savings for future needs, it must be done with prudence. The money spent for the poor on earth are savings in the heavenly kingdom,” he said.

Priests should also be honest in reporting to the Curia the true financial condition of the parish or school, he said.

“There are no fixed rates of offerings for the celebration of Masses, for confirmations, for funerals, for weddings and other sacramentals in our archdiocese as we agreed on. What the archdiocese forbids, the parish priest must not circumvent. We are only temporary stewards not chief executive officers. Our goal is ministry not revenue upgrade,” said Villegas.

Too charitable

Lastly, he said, priests should always give alms to the poor.

“Do not be afraid to be fooled, nor turn them away empty. Do not be afraid to pamper the beggars. They have no one to help them. If you have to make a mistake, let it be on being too charitable, in being too kind. There is no excess in kindness. We cannot outdo Christ in kindness,” Villegas said.

He said there is much to be done in the Year of the Poor and the simplification of the priestly lifestyle should be first in the list.

After all, Villegas said, the renewal of the Church begins with the renewal of the priests.

“When we look back at the history of the Church, reform always started with clergy reform. As the shepherds go, so the sheep follow,” he said.

“The loss of humility and the sickness of accumulation in Church ministry can be very costly. With materialistic clericalism laid aside, and Gospel empowered humble shepherding taking its place, we might be able to see the rainbow of hope in the Year of the Poor,” added Villegas.

2015 is not only the Year of the Poor, it is also Year of Consecrated Life for the universal Church as willed by Pope Francis.


ALSO MANILA TIMES COLUMN

Dear Pope Francis, January 3, 2015 9:52 pm by KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO


KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO

THE Philippines welcomes 2015 with you in mind, and rightfully so. You are coming to a country that does not lack in hope and faith, but ours is a people that could certainly use some compassion and kindness from our leaders.

Your arrival is a promise that compassion and kindness are on the way, and we could not start 2015 any better, no matter our religious diversity, no matter our differences.

Papal holiday

But for the wealthy and powerful, including government, your arrival would be an occasion for the pageantry and festivity that Filipinos are famous for, especially when welcoming foreign guests.
Government has declared your visit a 3-day national holiday, which might be premised on the notion that this is a predominantly Catholic country and the faithful would want to be a part of the Papal Itinerary.

But in a country where too many are employed on a contractual basis, this will mean three days (excluding the weekend) of no work, no pay. And for sure this is an injustice that would be familiar to you, Pope Francis. But also it’s an injustice that has become normal in a country like the Philippines.

In 2014 the public became privy to the massive contractualization of our media workers, some of whom have worked for a full decade as contractual workers with our larger profitable TV networks. Under the law, six months of contractual work makes one eligible for regularization and health and social security benefits. But many have no choice but to submit to having their employment renewed on a contractual basis.

Sadly, these contractual workers are not the concern of government. For if they were, then no holidays would be declared unthinkingly. I tend to think that declaring your Papal Visit as public holidays was really about nothing but logistics: they wanted to keep you from experiencing our daily heavy traffic and chaotic streets, dear Pope Francis.

It’s going to be a different city altogether when you get here.

Profit-making frenzy

And have you heard about the t-shirts that ABS-CBN, a local TV network, had started selling to commemorate your visit? The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has called the company out for misleading the public about your message of tolerance and diversity: Your statement “I embrace diversity” was falsely contextualized in the statement: “No race, no religion.”
Also offensive and misleading is a t-shirt that says: “Ganito ako, ganyan ka” (translation: “I am this, and you are that”) followed by a quote from you that asks: “Who am I to judge?”

The problem with the latter shirt of course is just as large as the “no race, no religion” shirt, where it is easy to fill in the blanks and come up with a message of tolerance for all things evil about being human: “I am a thief, and you are corrupt: Who am I to judge?”

This is symptomatic of the kind of profit-generating frenzy that your impending visit has created, dear Pope Francis, and I’m sure that it’s the same all over the world. But there is a difference between street vendors selling calendars with your face on it, or a local bakery naming a new kind of bread after you, and the largest media enterprise selling expensive limited edition commemorative t-shirts that misquote and decontextualize your words.

That the latter is done by a media corporation that is in the business of words, is telling of the kind of irresponsibility that a frenzy like this fosters.

One can but apologize in advance for everything else unthinking and insensitive that this frenzy will bring.

Beyond festivity

There has been an amount of control, of course, with the CBCP making sure that your itinerary remains devoid of pomp and pageantry, imploring those in charge – including those who are lucky enough to meet with you – to keep things simple.

But the simplicity of the décor, the refusal to do decadence in your presence, dear Pope Francis, does not mean that the preparations are simple at all. Because as with the decision to declare your visit a long national holiday – which ensures that you will not experience the horrendous traffic and congested unsafe roads we suffer daily – there are classic Filipino moves to make sure you only see what the powerful would like you to see of nation.

Say, streets cleared of vendors and vagrants during your visit. Part of your itinerary is a trip to Leyte, with activities in Tacloban and Palo. I wish you had more time to spend there, dear Pope Francis, because there is so much more to see than what your Leyte hosts will allow. Into the smaller streets of Tacloban and Palo are the smaller barangays that suffered Haiyan the most, that continue to suffer the inequities of no proper shelter, no food security, no employment a year since the strongest storm to make landfall.

In these barangays, across Leyte and Manila, there live Filipinos who suffer the lack of kindness and compassion, who receive the short end of the stick, who know only of the injustice that is hunger and need and want. In a country where the rich become richer, and the poor become poorer, your message of justice, dear Pope Francis, is one that can only be welcome.

One hopes it is a message that our leaders, the more powerful and wealthy among us, will know to act on. I hope it is a message that they might hear loud and clear from you.

PHNO: MORE HEADLINE NEWS LATER THIS WEEK...


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