Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, urged Catholics from all over Asia who were gathered in Manila today for a conference on "New Evangelization" to help "rebuild" the Catholic Church from "egoism and self interest." Speaking before some 6,000 delegates to the first Philippine Conference on New Evangelization in Asia, Tagle said he hopes the three-day meeting will rejuvenate the Christian faith in the region. Tagle cited the destruction brought about by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which destroyed centuries-old churches in the province of Bohol yesterday, as a metaphor for the need for the "rebuilding" of the Church in Asia. "It’s heartbreaking to see how these heritage churches, which became a foundation of faith for hundreds of years, have now turned into rubble," the Manila prelate said in his homily during the Mass that officially opened the conference at the 400-year old University of Santo Tomas in Manila. Tagle said he could almost hear the message of God to St Francis: “Build my Church, rebuild my Church.” "But how can we reconstruct the Church apart from Jesus the cornerstone? How can we construct the Church without His lifegiving word? How can we strengthen the Church without the Holy Spirit who will transform hearts of stones into living flesh and all of us into a living temple," the prelate said. "How can we construct the Church without love that enables us to break from egoism and self-interest in order to embrace God, neighbor, society, and all of creation?” Tagle said the "rebuilding" of the Church as a "people of God" is the point of the conference on the "New Evangelization." He said the event is the Philippines’ "humble contribution to the construction and strengthening of the Church rooted in Jesus, His words, in the Spirit, in the midst of ruins, faith in the midst of ruins." Tagle convened the conference as a highlight of the celebration of the Vatican-declared "Year of Faith" and as a response to the call of Pope Benedict XVI last year for "New Evangelization". Tagle said the conference provides a venue to rejuvenate the ideals of Catholicism in the midst of "secularist and modernist influences." Dubbed as the Asian gathering of faith, the event aims "to be instrumental in reigniting… the Church’s mission of serving poor members of the society." The three-day conference will focus on expounding the teachings and liturgy of the Church through a "tripartite objective" of "creating an experience of God in the context of the new millennium, strengthening bonds of communion in the Philippine church, and inspiring the faithful to live by the spirit of mission." The conference opened with an "inculturated Eucharistic celebration" that aimed to "communicate to the faithful the spiritual and doctrinal wealth" of the Mass with the use of language, gestures, and symbols through songs and dances performed by children. After the Mass, Tagle engaged the participants in a "heart-to-heart" talk where he listened to stories of representatives of various sectors.
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Pope Francis is set to address the conference via a video message on Friday.