A top Vatican official challenged Filipino Catholic educators and theologians to practice what they preach and become "credible witnesses" to church teachings. "We need witnesses," said Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi
, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education
, at the Ateneo de Manila University
on March 10. He said four Missionaries of Charity nuns who were shot dead by terrorists in Yemen last week were "witnesses ... who testified with their faith." Speaking before a gathering of Catholic educators, theologians, religious superiors, and seminarians, Cardinal Versaldi said "sanctity is the more convincing way" to attract people to the church. "You must be saints," the cardinal said when asked by a student how priests and the religious can put into practice what they learn from the university. Cardinal Versaldi was in Manila to deliver the keynote address of a two-day international theological symposium sponsored by the Jesuit-run Loyola School of Theology
. "To practice and testify with our faith is something very practical," he said, adding that it is important "to be able to give witness" to the Gospel. He told the audience to give a "testimony of openness to the reality and historical situation" of society without neglecting to understand the "spirituality of theology." "It is important to have the capacity to link the practical with the high ideals of charity and the search of God," he said. He assured priests and religious that the risk of the "ideologization of faith" through the use of Marxist paradigms in interpreting the Gospel and the teachings of the church already belongs to the past. "Nowadays it's possible to talk about the historical incarnation of the faith and the option for the poor without deviating to Marxist ideology," he said. He said Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed the "necessity of liberation ... that transcends the ideologies of this world." "For us ... it's salvation," said Cardinal Versaldi. He said even during the time of Jesus people were materially poor and "Jesus was very sensitive to their poverty beginning with their material needs." The cardinal urged Filipino theologians "to help people see the root of injustices and weaknesses in the heart of human beings to be able to elevate the concept of liberation to the concept of salvation."
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"We must be able to integrate these values [and] put the material level into historical salvation," Cardinal Versaldi said. He emphasized the need for people in the church to have "rational, moral, and conversions" to be able to guide the people "to discover God just as we accept what God reveals of himself."