Philippine Catholic parishes urged to undergo renewal
Bishops' conference believes strengthening national society needs to start in local churches
Filipino Catholics attend Mass in a church in Manila. Philippine church leaders are calling on Filipinos to help build a "just society" through parish renewal that is based on prayer and penance. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
Catholic parishes in the Philippines are being urged to undergo renewal amid challenges facing the country in recent months, especially drug-related killings.
Days after bishops issued a pastoral letter urging Catholics to help build a "just society," the head of the bishops' conference called on parishes to start the "healing process."
"If the nation needs healing, the healing will start in our parishes," said conference president Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan.
He said that if the country "needs to crush the forces of evil, it will start in our parishes."
"If the nation needs to strengthen the presence of God in society, the strengthening of the parishes is the only way," he said.
In a pastoral letter released on Nov. 22, Archbishop Villegas said the church is mandated to be "prophetic" in the midst of the country's socio-political landscape.
"We have a Gospel to preach. We have the person of Jesus to proclaim. We will do so, in season and out of season," he said in the letter titled "Our country and our faith."
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila urged Filipinos to work for national unity amid what he called the "wounds of today's world."
The prelate made the call in his homily during the launch of the "Year of the Basic Ecclesial Communities" in Manila Archdiocese.
Cardinal Tagle said people should strive to unite and heal as "there are many wounds in the world that remain open.”
The Manila prelate cited the "wounds of the victims of violence, including national disasters, and daily disasters brought upon by corruption."
Archbishop Villegas, who led the launching of the "Year of the Parishes" in the Philippines, said parishes should be "a community of communities."
"As a communion of communities we are challenged to more deeply discern not only the structures of governance of our dioceses and parishes but also of the quality of faith life in the parish, the fellowship, belongingness, and participation experienced by its members," he said.
Archbishop Villegas said the focus of this year's celebration "will be the building of a parish that is truly a faith community immersed in the lives of its people."
He said genuine parish renewal would only happen "through prayer and penance."
"Parishes and communities will be renewed only through personal and community prayer," Archbishop Villegas said, adding that the church's "first mission in the world is to be a leaven to teach our society how to pray."
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