Published July 28, 2017
Thousands of Filipino Catholics braved Manila's flooded streets and stormy weather to attend the annual Philippine Conference on New Evangelization that opened on July 28. "Nothing can stop [us]," said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila as he recalled that during the first conference in 2013 a strong earthquake hit Bohol province. The weather bureau reported that a "severe tropical storm" intensified and enhanced monsoon rains that caused floods in the Philippine capital. The bad weather prompted classes and work to be suspended in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces. "There's always a tragedy yet the more we cling on to the words of God and stick to our mission to preach the Gospel," the Manila prelate said. Organizers of the event said participants at this year’s three-day activity — laypeople, students, catechists, priests, nuns, and religious — had already passed the 5,000 mark early on July 28. Cardinal Tagle started the conference in 2013 as a response to the Catholic Church's call for new evangelization. Thousands attend the opening ceremony of the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization in Manila on July 28. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
During his homily at this year’s gathering he reminded Filipinos of the virtue of humility to better serve a "wider community of creations." He urged participants to avoid "any illusions of grandeur … any lies of being superior" and instead nurture the "capacity to help." "When we see the hungry, those who are denied access to basic needs and services … we hope our hearts would be opened," Tagle said.
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He said he was saddened by the "situation of frailty and dependence" in society where the weak are abused, adding that society’s "understanding of greatness disrupts communion." "If we look at the divisions, hatred and wars in the world, one of the causes is the notion, the understanding of greatness," the cardinal said. This year's gathering in Manila carries the theme "Of One Heart and Soul" to celebrate the Philippine Catholic Church’s "Year of the Parish as a Communion of Communities." The first new evangelization conference in 2013 focused on "rekindling the ardor of evangelization" and the renewal of faith experiences in the Asian context. Last year’s meeting celebrated the Year of Mercy with the theme "Mercy, Understanding, Work: The Filipino Experience of Mercy." At least two Vatican officials are scheduled to address the conference, which is being held at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas. Archbishop Salvatore Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council on New Evangelization, will speak on "Being Christian in the age of indifference" on July 29. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, is set to talk on "The role of the Church among community of nations" on July 30. Aside from the plenary sessions, there will be ten tracks of concurrent sessions on issues about Catholic schools, catechists, family, youth, new media and evangelization, social justice, new movements, ecology, inter-religious dialogue and Basic Ecclesial Communities.