16 January 2015

President Aquino welcomes Pope Francis to Malacanang Palace
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday welcomed Pope Francis to Malacañang Palace.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, who is in the country for a five-day state and apostolic visit, arrived in Malacañang on board a Volkswagen Touran at about 9:21 a.m. and was met by the President. The pontiff was accorded full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, during a ceremony at the Kalayaan grounds.

After the ceremony, Cabinet officials kissed and shook the hand of the Pope. President Aquino, on the other hand, greeted the members of the papal delegation.

Pope Francis also kissed and blessed some children who approached him, as he and the President walked towards the Palace Main Lobby. He was also greeted by Palace officials, employees and guests waving Philippine and Vatican flags.

The pontiff later signed the Official Guestbook at the Reception Hall and proceeded to a tête-â-tête with President Aquino at the President’s Hall.

The Pope also had a general audience with senior government officials and members of the diplomatic corps at the Rizal Hall, following his meeting with the Chief Executive. PND (co)

Pope Francis conveys message of hope and solidarity in pastoral visit
On his first state and apostolic visit to the Philippines, His Holiness Pope Francis conveyed messages of hope and solidarity, especially for those devastated by calamities that have befallen the country.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church made his first public statement on Friday during a general audience with senior government officials and members of the diplomatic corps in Malacañang Palace’s Rizal Hall.

“This visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss, and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda,” Pope Francis said, referring to the super typhoon that barreled through the Visayas region in 2013.

Pope Francis echoed the general sentiment of other state guests who had visited the country in the aftermath of the tragedy, saying he “admired the heroic strength, faith, and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster and so many others.”

“Those virtues, rooted not least in the hope and solidarity instilled by the Christian faith, gave rise to an outpouring of goodness and generosity, especially on the part of so many of the young,” he said.

Before Typhoon Yolanda, the Philippines also had to deal with a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Bohol and Cebu, as well as an armed conflict in Zamboanga City that lasted for almost three weeks.

“In that moment of national crisis, countless people came to the aid of their neighbors in need. At great sacrifice, they gave of their time and resources, creating networks of mutual help and working for the common good,” Pope Francis said.

“This example of solidarity in the work of rebuilding teaches us an important lesson. Like a family, every society draws on its deepest resources in order to face new challenges,” he added.

On Saturday, January 17, Pope Francis is scheduled to visit some of the areas ruined by Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban and Palo, Leyte, where he will hold a concelebrated mass and meet with typhoon victims. PND (hdc)

Pope Francis leads mass for priests, encourages church leaders to protect Filipino values
Pope Francis, in the Philippines for a five-day visit, led the celebration of a mass for priests and the religious at the Manila Cathedral on Friday morning.

“Mercy and compassion,” the theme of his Philippine tour, was the leitmotif of the mass.

In his homily, Pope Francis said that the Church has an obligation to fight the ills of society.

“As the Bishops of the Philippines have rightly taught, the Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ,” he said.

The Gospel, he said, calls on individual Christians to live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good.

The pope also had a special message to young priests, the religious and seminarians.

“I ask you to share the joy and enthusiasm of your love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers,” Pope Francis said.

“Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent, yet continue to see the Church as their friend on the journey and a source of hope,” he added.

“Be present to those who, living in the midst of a society burdened by poverty and corruption, are broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets.”

Priests and the religious, he noted, must proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society that is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.

“These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture,” he told the priests and religious, who came from across the country and Asia.

The Filipinos’ great devotion to the Catholic faith and love of God are a great heritage that contains a powerful missionary potential, the pontiff said, encouraging church leaders to build on this foundation as they prepare the Church for its fifth centenary.

Religious leaders have hoped that the celebration of the mass would bring to the fore the distinctive role of priests as ministers of God’s mercy and compassion so they would be able to effectively fulfill their ministry and mission.

An addition to Friday’s mass was the Confessio Peccati, a rite that allows priests and religious persons to express their sorrow for the sins they have committed against the Lord.

Through the Confessio Peccati, priests are expected to remain faithful to the promises and vows they made during their ordination.

This rite aims to illuminate the general theme of the priest and the laity being ministers and witnesses of God’s mercy and compassion. PND (as)

Pope Francis urges Filipino families to instill ‘culture of integrity’ among the youth
His Holiness Pope Francis encouraged families and local communities to develop a “culture of integrity” among the nation’s youth, given its fundamental role in the renewal of society.

“Families have an indispensable mission in society. It is in the family that children are trained in sound values, high ideals, and genuine concern for others. But, like all God’s gifts, the family can also be disfigured and destroyed. It needs our support,” Pope Francis said in a speech delivered in Malacañang on Friday, ahead of his meetings with Filipino families and the youth in Manila, among the highlights of his five-day state and apostolic visit.

The Pope expressed concern over some of the issues confronting democratic societies, urging all families to uphold the basic principles espoused by the Catholic Church by passing them on to the youth.

“We know how difficult it is for our democracies today to preserve and defend such basic human values as respect for the inviolable dignity of each human person, respect for the rights of conscience and religious freedom, and respect for the inalienable right to life, beginning with that of the unborn and extending to that of the elderly and infirm,” Pope Francis said.

“For this reason, families and local communities must be encouraged and assisted in their efforts to transmit to our young the values and the vision, which can help bring about a culture of integrity—a culture which honors goodness, truthfulness, fidelity, and solidarity as the firm foundation and the moral glue which holds society together,” he added.

Pope Francis met with a number of Filipino families on Friday afternoon after his engagements at the Palace and a Holy Mass at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila.

On Sunday, January 18, the Pope will have a meeting with the youth, to be hosted by the University of Santo Tomas, the Philippines’ largest and oldest Catholic educational institution that has long-standing ties with the Holy See. PND (hdc)

President Aquino says he draws inspiration from Pope Francis
A warm reception greeted Pope Francis in Malacañang on Friday, as he was met by President Benigno S. Aquino III, along with Cabinet members, Church leaders and Palace employees.

The 78-year-old Argentine pope was given the traditional arrival honors for a visiting head of state.

After signing the guest book, Pope Francis had a closed-door meeting with the President.

The two leaders then addressed their audience waiting at the Rizal Hall, composed of government officials, members of the Diplomatic Corps and invited guests from the private sector.

In his speech, President Aquino revealed how he draws inspiration from Pope Francis in his quest to reform the Philippines, a country marred by corruption, poverty and social injustices.

“In the fight to transform society, one cannot help but be heartened by the fact that we are not alone. When we tread this path with people such as yourself, along with the millions you have inspired, we gain the courage to do what needs doing, the optimism to dream about what we can achieve in unity with one another, and the opportunity to turn that dream into a shared reality, with the grace of Almighty God,” he said.

The Chief Executive noted that he has been plagued by criticisms and prejudices but he continues to speak the truth and face the challenges to effect real change.

He cited Pope Francis’ Christmas speech before the Roman Curia, warning of “illnesses” that people in power are prone to, such as becoming “sowers of discord” through gossip and grumbling.

He likened his situation to that of Pope Francis, who gets to be criticized occasionally for being open and radical.

“In your example, we see the wisdom of continuing to ask, ‘Why not?’ We see joy, a sense of authentic service, and an insistence on a true community of the faithful,” he said.

The President said he appreciates and respects the role of Pope Francis as a “unifying and revitalizing voice,” not just among Catholics, but also among all peoples of goodwill.

“Who can deny that Your Holiness is truly living the life of one who is dedicated to advocating for the oppressed and marginalized?” he added.

President Aquino, meanwhile, lamented how the Church tended to turn a deaf ear to the abuses of the previous administration, noting that it should have been “always at the forefront of championing the rights of all.”

However, he also recalled the role played by the Church during the EDSA People Power Revolution, wherein its faith, compassion and courage fostered the people’s fervor to topple an oppressive government. PND (jb)

Pope Francis echoes sentiment of Filipino public on politicians
His Holiness Pope Francis did not pass up the opportunity to issue some reminders to politicians, especially in a nation that is never bereft of public officials tagged in various allegations of corruption, which further broadens the gap between the rich and the poor.

Speaking before senior government officials and members of the Diplomatic Corps in Malacañang on Friday, the head of the Roman Catholic Church told political leaders, as well as those who are fortunate enough in life, that they should always heed the needs of the poor.

“The great biblical tradition enjoins on all peoples the duty to hear the voice of the poor. It bids us to break the bonds of injustice and oppression, which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities,” Pope Francis said in his speech.

The pontiff, whose state and apostolic visit carries the theme “Mercy and Compassion,” said reforming social structures, which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor, must first require a “conversion of mind and heart.”

“The Bishops of the Philippines have asked that this year be set aside as the ‘Year of the Poor.’ I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man, woman, and child in the life of the community,” he said.

The administration is continuously addressing the issues of poverty and corruption, considered as two of the biggest challenges it needs to hurdle to achieve its promise of inclusive growth.

The pope further noted that the Philippines, along with other countries in Asia, faces the challenge of building on solid foundations a modern society, one that is “respectful of authentic human values, protective of our God-given human dignity and rights, and ready to confront new and complex political and ethical questions.”

“As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” he said.

“In this way, they will help preserve the rich human and natural resources with which God has blessed this country. Thus will they be able to marshal the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity, and peace.”

Pope Francis said the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity is essential to the attainment of these national goals. PND (hdc)

Pope Francis thanks President Aquino for inviting him to the Philippines
His Holiness Pope Francis thanked President Benigno S. Aquino III for inviting him to the Philippines and for the warm welcome he and the entire Filipino nation has extended to him since he arrived on Thursday evening.

Pope Francis was given an official welcome ceremony before throngs of the Catholic faithful at the Malacañang Palace grounds on Friday morning, complete with full military honors that befit a head of state.

“I thank you, Mr. President, for your kind welcome and for your words of greeting in the name of the authorities and people of the Philippines, and the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps. I am most grateful for your invitation to visit the Philippines,” Pope Francis said in a statement delivered at the Palace’s Rizal Hall.

Recognizing the immense influence Christianity has on Filipino culture, the pope noted that his visit is more ‘pastoral’ in nature, as it coincides with the Church’s celebration of the fifth centenary of the “first proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on these shores.”

“It is my hope that this important anniversary will point to its continuing fruitfulness and its potential to inspire a society worthy of the goodness, dignity, and aspirations of the Filipino people,” he said.

The Philippines is considered as the third largest country with Roman Catholic followers, hence the great significance put on the papal visit.

“As I begin my visit to this country, I cannot fail to mention the Philippines’ important role in fostering understanding and cooperation among the countries of Asia. I would also mention the oft-neglected yet real contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live,” Pope Francis said.

He also took the opportunity to personally lend his support to the continuing efforts the Aquino administration is taking to achieve a just and lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.

“I am confident that the praiseworthy efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation between the followers of the different religions will prove fruitful in the pursuit of this noble goal,” the pontiff said.

“In a particular way, I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.”

Pope Francis said he hopes that the deepest spiritual values of the Filipino people continue to find expression in the efforts of government officials to provide their fellow citizens with an integral human development.

This way, he said, each person will be able to fulfill his or her potential, and thus contribute wisely and well to the future of this country.

“Upon all of you, and upon all the men, women and children of this beloved nation, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings. Thank you,” Pope Francis said before leaving the Palace to pursue his other engagements in Manila for the day. PND (hdc)