I would like to give some space for a summary of the letter written by Most Rev. Romulo Valles, DD, the Archbishop of Davao and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on July 9. The letter, titled “CBCP Pastoral Exhortation: Rejoice and be glad!”, has been making the rounds of social- media spaces of late. This, I believe, was written in reaction to the President’s remark about God, as well as the uproar that it elicited from the faithful here and abroad.
In the first part of the letter, the Archbishop wrote that if we want to be called children of God, then we need to learn how to spread peace in the midst of the turbulent times we are experiencing right now. This means that we need to bring love to people, especially in situations where there is too much hatred, show forgiveness when there is hurt, faith in doubt, hope when there is hopelessness, light in times of darkness and happiness when there is sadness.
He also said that our fellow men are not the enemy, and we are not using guns and bullets in battle. We can’t wear bulletproof vests as protection from the enemy because the fight is spiritual in nature. The faithful is being called to make greater efforts at spreading peace during this time of hatred and violence, when we have gotten used to everyday
killings and the exchange of hostility on social media.
The peace of Jesus is not of compromise or defeat from evil. It is also not the kind of peace that does not involve struggle or dispute, because Jesus Himself was renounced by His people in Nazareth, labeled crazy by His own relatives, and branded as the prince of evil. He was even called a drunkard and protector of tax collectors and sinners. But He showed us the right way to face these things.
Sometimes, we are like His disciples who feared easily or became anxious. We sink or fail because of our little faith, the Archbishop said. But the truth is that there is no one else who can bring us peace in turbulent times except Him who promised that He would always be by our side.
This is not new, he said: killing priests who bear witness for Christ and stand by their faith. Murderers who silence prophets with the use of bullets is also nothing new to us. Leaders who perform their duties like Christ are being insulted, and we have also seen this before. The Archbishop asks: Have we forgotten that it was the blood of martyrs that has served as seed for Christianity and kept it alive for more than 2,000 years? There is nothing to fear, he said. Let us simply do what is being asked of us: Don’t fear those who kill only the flesh but cannot kill the spirit. We should be more afraid of that which can kill both body and soul.
To be continued