1999-06-18 00:00:00

The new apostolic nuncio to the Philippines has called on the country´s Catholics to follow Christ´s example of "the healing and liberating power of forgiving love" during a welcome Mass in Manila.

"The celebration of the mystery of Christ´s love commissions us to be ambassadors of his love in our world today," Archbishop Antonio Franco told some 1,000 bishops, Religious, lay leaders and members of the country´s diplomatic corps during the Mass June 11.

Archbishop Franco, appointed as nuncio to the Philippines April 6, succeeded Archbishop Gian Vincenzo Moreni, who died in Italy in March.

On the morning of June 11, Archbishop Franco presented his credentials to President Joseph Estrada. Following his arrival June 9, he had visited Church offices and met clergy and Religious in the archdiocese.

The Italian archbishop said during the Mass that the celebration of Christ´s love "engages us into a dialogue with the world using the language of love which means the defense of life and respect for the fundamental rights and dignity, promotion of peace and the practice of forgiveness."

Being a Christian envoy "also means overpowering the debilitating grip of apathy, neglect and selfishness through genuine concern, caring and sharing," he said. The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinals Jaime Sin of Manila and Ricardo Vidal of Cebu.

"We ought to learn from (Jesus) how to love the poor, the outcasts, the deprived and the oppressed," the nuncio said.

Estrada´s government has vowed to eradicate the poverty that afflicts 32.4 percent of the country´s 73.5 million people, according to government statistics.

The president had said in his weekly radio show that the country needed to keep its "high population growth" rate in check in order to avert poverty. He expressed support for the government´s family planning program, including artificial birth control methods which the Church opposes.

"Even before being regarded as a personal representative of the Holy Father and the Holy See, I would like to be seen first and foremost as your brother," Archbishop Franco said at the Mass.

Born in 1937 in Puglianello, Benevento, Italy, he was ordained a priest in 1960 and consecrated archbishop in 1992.

He has held posts at the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York and the Section for Relations with States in the Vatican´s Secretariat of State.

His Philippine appointment concluded his service as apostolic nuncio to the Ukraine, where he said there are only four bishops.

The nuncio to the Philippines also holds the title of dean of the diplomatic corps, the most senior of diplomats in the country. The title gives the nuncio precedence during ceremonial functions of the state.


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