Residents wearing face masks pray at their relatives’ graves ahead of a week-long closure of cemeteries on the annual observance of All Saints’ Day in Manila on Oct. 28. (Photo: AFP)
Cardinal-elect Jose Advincula, one of the 13 new cardinals recently appointed by Pope Francis, believes human rights are central to the Church’s mission.
Archbishop Advincula said human rights were God-given rights that must be protected and respected by clergymen and churchgoers alike.
“Protecting human rights is never an option… They are at the heart of every church’s mission. The dignity of the human person is the key to social problems that beset a nation,” Archbishop Advincula said in a statement.
He said human rights were never an option for clergymen because some of them were at the “very heart” of the Church’s teachings.
“The Church cannot simply ignore human rights because there is a moral dimension to them. The right to life, for example, is consistent with the Church’s teaching that there is dignity in the human person,” he added.
The new cardinal said there was “constant calling” for the Church not only to see but to take proactive steps to protect human rights.
“The Church has to see that human dignity and human rights are respected,” said Archbishop Advincula.
On Oct. 13, 19-year-old Joshua Evangelista was gunned down by unidentified gunmen for alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva said Evangelista was shot six times with one bullet puncturing his palm, indicating he had begged for his life.
Archbishop Advincula said poverty is one of the social ills the Church must address because food is a basic human right.
“Poverty is one of the reasons why we have social problems … and education is the way to develop the people so that they can earn more in order to live a more decent life,” he added.
Churchgoers and rights groups were hopeful listening to the remarks of the new cardinal.
“It makes us hopeful that there is another person in the Catholic Church hierarchy who puts human rights, especially the right to life, among the primary missions of the Catholic Church in the Philippines,” said human rights group Karapatan.
The group also said clergymen must be reminded that while they were moral guardians of the people, they too must address structural sins.
“I think our bishops should be our moral force if there are human rights violations. If we have labor concerns, we always go back to the social teachings of the Catholic Church,” the group said.
“We are happy that Archbishop Advincula, even before his installation, had already spoken for the protection of human rights and its centrality in the Church’s mission. We know that Pope Francis made the right choice. That’s why he was made a cardinal.”