MANILA, Oct. 27, 2013—With threats of divorce buffeting the ideals of the Catholic Church in preserving familial ties, the top prelate of the Manila Archdiocese said that it is through open communication that the church may continuously promote Catholic teachings on family and life amid secular influences coming its way.
In an interview with the Vatican Radio, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said that the rising secularization of today’s world may be countered by letting the Catholic faithful know the high regard of the church to the human family.
“We should be able to communicate clearly and understandably to families, legislators, pastors, and all those people who shape culture some of the basic and beautiful teachings of the church regarding the family, the human person, and the charter of their rights,” Tagle, who participated in the Pontifical Council for the Family held at the Vatican from Oct. 23 to 25, said.
“These (teachings) have not reached the different straits of society. If people would see how the church loves the family, then we can even form some sort of a community that shares a common vision and mission regarding the family,” he said, noting that many teachings of the church are acceptable even to non-Christians.
In the Philippines, Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said she would file a revised version of the divorce bill in the 16th congress.
Despite the clamor of some advocacy groups to legalize divorce in the country, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said in earlier news reports that the bill will not be prioritized in the present congress because of its “divisive” nature.
The Philippines and the Vatican are the only states that prohibit divorce after Malta legalized the controversial measure in 2011.
‘Winds of change’
Noting the current challenges faced by the church, Tagle urged members of the clergy to “present the human face of Jesus” to counter the “winds of change” brought by the temptations of success and worldly riches presently buffeting the sanctity of the human family.
“The world is experiencing a lot of success in terms of technology and science—success unheard of before—yet I think humanity is also very much aware of the ambivalence of success and the wounds it has inflicted on individuals and families,” he said.
“So there is a hunger for love, true and sincere compassion, mercy, and hope. I believe that the church, by being the human face of love, mercy, and compassion the way Jesus was for God, I think this is a great contribution not only for Catholics and Christians but the whole of humanity,” he added.
Despite the threats looming against the ideals of the Catholic Church, Tagle remained positive that the faithful will remain steadfast amid modern challenges coming its way.
“Yes, we are already beginning to see the effects of secularization and the media on our Filipino families, but we also celebrate the fact that the traditional values that have kept families together and alive are still there,” he said. “And so we know we have enough resources to keep the family strong in the face of the winds of change.”
The prelate then urged the faithful not to be threatened by the secularist influences hounding the ideals of Catholicism.
Asked if the “winds of change” are becoming stronger as time passes by, Tagle said: “In a sense, yes. But in one sense, we can welcome some of these winds of change and not be threatened because we believe that the resources and imagination of the Filipino families to keep themselves intact are real.”
“If the winds of change are real, I want to say that the desire of the family to be a family is more real,” he added.
Future of the Catholic Church
Discussing the future he sees for the Catholic Church, Tagle noted that even if Catholics in the Philippines and other parts of Asia are “numerically growing”, they still remain as a tiny minority of the general population.
“When you take the ratio of the Catholic population vis-a-vis the general population, it is still not even four percent of the total population…and half of it is in the Philippines,” he said.
But the cardinal said that despite the low number comprised by Catholic individuals, it is still through the practical witnessing of Christ in their day-to-day living that makes the church alive.
“When you hear stories of the faithful, when you hear stories of men and women who are able to proclaim Jesus not so much through words but through the witness of a heroic life, people become curious,” he said.
“As long as there are individuals, families (who lead a heroic lifestyle), there may be 20 of them in a village of 2,000, then the church is alive,” the prelate said.
Tagle urged the members of the clergy to heed the Supreme Pontiff’s call of being a role model to their flock by shunning lavishness and living simple and humble lifestyles.
“In many parts of Asia, that is the way to evangelize, that is the way to proclaim the good news—by incarnating the values of the kingdom as the embodiment of the beatitudes. That is a powerful proclamation,” he added. (Jennifer Orillaza)