Filipino priests, religious to confess sins against flock

Major religious superiors tell clergy to repent for living contrary to a life proper to a priest
Filipino priests, religious to confess sins against flock

The formation of priests and religious has been the top concern of the Catholic Church in the Philippines as it marks 2018 as the "Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons." (Photo by Angie de Silva)

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines is to hold a confessio peccati or "confession of sins" for priests and nuns who might have scandalized people "by living contrary to a life proper to a priest or religious."

The association of heads of religious congregations said the activity is part of the celebration of the local church's "Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons" that began in December last year.

"During these difficult times ... a spirit of dialogue and transformation can happen if consecrated persons and clergy acknowledge and own up to their faults and mistakes and resolve to walk their talk, live their faith," said an association statement.

A "penitential walk" called "Way of the Cross, Way of Healing" will also be held as a response to an exhortation from bishops for the clergy and consecrated persons to make a "sincere reflection and humble repentance and reparation."

The penitential rite is modeled on St. Pope John Paul II's act of repentance for what was supposed to be the sins committed by the Catholic Church against Jews, heretics, women, Gypsies and native peoples in 2000.

The penitential walk, in Quezon City on March 21, will be a re-enactment of the 14 stations of the suffering of Jesus and will mirror social realities affecting the country, including hunger, poverty, homelessness, human trafficking, drug addiction and killings.

"Let this penitential walk become a way of healing the church, people, and country," said Franciscan priest Dexter Toledo, executive secretary of the association of religious superiors.

Last week, a leading bishop called on the clergy to undergo a "lifestyle check" to see if they have remained faithful to their mission in their daily lives.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Seminaries, asked priests to examine their day-to-day activities and how much time and resources they devote to their priestly responsibilities.

The prelate even brought up finances, modern gadgets and other personal possessions of priests in a talk before a group of about 120 clergymen in a seminary in Manila.

"How much of the people's money do I spend for the education of my nephews, nieces? Are we satisfied with a workable phone or should I have the latest Blackberry or iPhone?" the prelate said.

"How many of our friends are among the rich, the middle class, the poor? How many houses of the poor have we visited? What socializing activities do I engage in? In what places and with whom?" Bishop Alminaza added.

He said a priest's monthly financial statement is a "spiritual document" that reveals his values and priorities.

The prelate said that for a priest to be "configured to Christ" means asking not what they stand to gain, but what they can give for the Lord and for others.

"A renewed clergy is needed for a renewed church and a renewed church is vital for a renewed country. Formation is so crucial," he said, adding that a priest is "a work in progress."

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During this year's annual meeting of the country's bishops, clergy formation topped the agenda following the release of new guidelines on the formation of priests by the Vatican.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy issued an updated instrument for the formation of priests titled Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis or "The Gift of Priestly Vocation."

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