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Filipinos' belief in the Eucharist not evident in their lives

While most Filipinos believe in Jesus' real presence at Mass, the Christian spirit remains elusive in the Catholic nation

Filipinos' belief in the Eucharist not evident in their lives

A Filipino girl weeps as she talks about the fate of her parents during a gathering of families of victims of drug-related killings in Manila in October 2017. (Photo: Vincent Go)

Filipino Catholics boast of being from the only Christian nation in Asia. A 2020 report revealed that 92 percent of the population are Christian and about 89 percent are Catholics.

Despite the figures, why does the Christian spirit remain elusive among the country’s 100 million people?

Religious belief does not necessarily translate to public life. It is mind-boggling how a Catholic country can commit nearly 30,000 extralegal, drug-related killings, according to statistics from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in 2020.

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Of this figure, only 23,000 were classified as “under investigation” because there were formal complaints filed by victims’ families.

Despite these killings, Catholic churches are full of people. There is clamor from both churchgoers and clergymen to open churches to accommodate more worshippers. There is even a joke that a killer of drug suspects goes to church to pray that he won’t miss his target for the day.

The country’s plunderers are also the Catholic Church’s most generous donors. Never mind how they got their millions. What’s important is their donation for church projects.

Filipinos have become poorer and hungrier because of corruption

It is often difficult to see the Christian faith in Philippine politics and society. The chasm between religion and public life has made the poor even poorer. Faith does not lead to good works, just as religion has nothing to do with personal decisions.

The country’s sociopolitical situation speaks for itself. Filipinos have become poorer and hungrier because of corruption.

“Poverty, hunger and joblessness all reached new levels not seen in 30 years of surveys, inducing the Social Weather Station Survey to adopt ‘catastrophic’ as a new adjective — a 50-plus percentage point excess of those that got worse off over those that got better off,” said Mahar Mangahas, president of survey firm Social Weather Station.

I can understand why many Filipinos choose to become “Sunday Catholics” rather than remain Catholics for the rest of the week.

Philippine Catholicism has been described as “disruptive public religion” by Roberto Rivera, a president of a Jesuit university in the Philippines.

According to Rivera, even the Philippine Catholic hierarchy has various understandings of the separation of church and state in tackling social issues like President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war and extrajudicial killings.

Rivera has described Catholicism’s slow transition from a highly conservative institution to a “public religion” — a religion that slowly sees the pastoral needs of its people.

The shift, according to the Jesuit priest, has helped Filipino Catholics confront an authoritarian and corrupt state.

Filipinos badly need the church hierarchy’s leadership, especially now that the national election is just behind the doorstep.

In October, candidates will once again file their certificates of candidacy for public office. And a Duterte-Duterte tandem is looming to occupy the top posts in government.

Where is Christian faith in survey results that say most Filipino people are convinced by the present administration’s war on drugs?

Extralegal killings are never consistent with Christian faith. The Christian god is a just and reasonable god that allows due process. He does not approve of taking a person’s life like an animal.

I hope that Filipinos’ belief in Christ’s presence at Mass translates to the country’s sociopolitical sphere.

On June 3, a survey revealed that most Filipinos think that Christ is “actually” present in the Eucharist. They “highly” believe that the host they receive is the actual body and blood of Christ.

“A majority of the respondents, at 97 percent, say that they do believe that the Holy Eucharist is indeed the real body and blood of Christ, and not just symbolical,” the study said.

Only 2 percent of respondents did not believe in the actual presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

I hope that Filipinos’ belief in Christ’s presence at Mass translates to the country’s sociopolitical sphere.

Christianity is a radical faith that challenges a nation’s social ills like corruption, including a lack of respect for human life. It is a faith that sees every man and woman — no matter how poor — as brothers and sisters of the Lord and thus deserving of every respect and dignity.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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