MANILA, March 29, 2013—Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of San Fernando, Pampanga said the Filipinos’ deep sense of the sacred plays a big role in their practice of folk religiosity that on some occasions border at fanaticism.
He was referring to the practice of flagellation and crucifixion which penitents undergo on Good Friday in Barangay Cutud in San Fernando, Pampanga.
“We do understand that folk Catholicism goes with a native culture and spirituality that does not always blend with mainstream theology, faith and morals,” the 54-year-old prelate said.
The crucifixion event in Brgy. Cutud which started 28 years ago has since become an annual event that attracts thousands of foreign and local tourists.
Although the Catholic Church discourages the extreme practice some penitents persist in doing the penance as a way of atoning for personal sins.
Asked what could be done, David said he’d be inclined to follow Pope Francis’ advocacy for “a humble, less controlling, more respectful and compassionate Church that is present not just in the center but also in the periphery.”
Aware of the need for a deeper spiritual formation among Catholics, the Philippine hierarchy has embarked on a nine-year program of renewed evangelization, which is also in response to the Catholic Church’s universal celebration of the Year of Faith.
This year, the program emphasizes integral faith formation among the faithful with special concern “to those who have drifted away from the Christian faith.”
David noted that Filipinos have had a deep sense of the sacred long before the Spaniards brought Christianity to the country.
“Folk Catholicism in our country is built on such a culture and native faith,” he added.
He described such practices as a way of expressing “atonement by chanting the passion of Christ (Pasyon) like a dirge and through exaggerated forms of penance and vows, including the panata.”
David emphasized he does not think it is right to close “our doors to them just because they are more attracted to these folk practices than our Roman liturgy which they may find too foreign or cerebral.”
He added “we are in no position to suppress them because we can only listen and try to know where they are and what these practices are saying about themselves.”
Sounding optimistic, David concluded by saying “perhaps we will know what it takes to bring the Gospel to them.” (Melo M. Acuna/CBCPNews)