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Cebu Catholics urged to put poor first

Christian preference is for the needy not the well-off Church people reminded

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza speaks before a gathering of Church people in Cebu Bishop Gerardo Alminaza speaks before a gathering of Church people in Cebu
  • Karen Papellero, Cebu City
  • Philippines
  • February 8, 2011
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A senior Church official has reminded Catholics to defend the rights of the poor and the oppressed even if it means alienation or persecution by the rich and the powerful.

Catholics “must reclaim the teaching of the Church that labor has priority over capital,” Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of Jaro said

The bishop was addressing members of the clergy and lay people at a forum on workers’ rights in Cebu archdiocese.

Calling the social teachings of the Church as its “best-kept secret,” Bishop Alminaza said preference for the poor is a “Christian preference.”

He said bishops and priests have the responsibility to ensure the Church’s social doctrine are in solidarity with workers “even if it means fewer collections or donations” from the rich.

“Workers are not machines that can be readily disposed of when no longer productive,” said Bishop Alminaza, who is also convener of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group.

He reminded the audience of the “four pillars” of the Catholic social doctrine – human dignity, solidarity and equal sharing of goods, options for the poor and dignity of work and rights of workers - and the “realities of injustice” that he said were brought about by the “structures of sin” in the Philippines.

The bishop cited the experience of a local factory worker who was not granted leave by her employer even when she had to undergo a hospital surgery.

Casmero Mahilum, president of a workers’ union, also related to the audience how he lost his job after leading a protest in his place of work.

“God is no longer neutral. In the face of an oppressor, God is on [the workers] side. Like the Israelites in Egypt, God will take them away from oppression,” Bishop Alminaza said.

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