Bishop: Palm Sunday no April Fool’s joke

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02:01 AM April 1st, 2012

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April 1st, 2012 02:01 AM

STRICTLY SYMBOLIC. Palm fronds (“palaspas”) decorate Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City for blessing on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. The Church says Filipinos should give the palaspas no other meaning than a symbol of welcome at the triumphant entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. It’s plain superstitious to use a blessed palm to ward off evil spirits or as protection against lightning and other disasters. RAFFY LERMA

Roman Catholic Filipinos should mark Palm Sunday, with piety and contemplation on the Passion of Jesus Christ and not with superstitious beliefs, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Saturday.

Msgr. Pedro Quitorio III, CBCP media office director, said Palm Sunday, which coincides with the observance of April Fool’s Day, should not be marked with pranks and jokes.

“We should not deviate [from the message of Palm Sunday] and not focus on superstitious and pagan practices,” Quitorio said.

April Fool’s Day is said to have its origins in the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria and in the Festival of Fools in the Middle Ages, where people played pranks on others and indulged in foolishness.

Pranksters are also active on Holy Innocents’ Day in December.

For Quitorio, the belief that the palm fronds (palaspas) blessed on Palm Sunday can ward off evil spirits and lightning strikes are examples of Fool’s Day foolishness that should be discarded.

“A person becomes a fool if his being a Christian is reduced to becoming superstitious,” Quitorio said. “Our concentration should be on [the Palm Sunday] Mass, on the gospel about the Passion of Christ. We should not veer away from it.”

Quitorio said the palaspas has only one symbolic meaning: “To welcome Christ as He enters Jerusalem and into the will of God.”

The Church, Quitorio said, is partly to blame for the persistent superstitious beliefs about the palaspas.

“Maybe [the people] think that way because of the Church’s failure to catechize [them],” Quitorio said. “So I think there is really a need for parish priests to teach the people … to understand its real meaning.”

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, CBCP president, called on Catholics on Saturday to commemorate “the important mysteries of our faith” with the start of the Holy Week.

“Let us have time to participate, especially in the many important and significant activities of the Church like Palm Sunday, the Paschal Triduum, Chrism Mass, Last Supper Mass, the Seven Last Words and Easter,” Palma said in an interview over church-run Radio Veritas.

“If others are thinking about going on vacation—and it’s true that we need to have rest from work—I [hope] they can still participate in the celebrations of the Church [this Holy Week],” Palma said. “We should pray to have renewal in our country. Let us pray that we can improve.”

Jairahbelle Jamolin, 10, helps her mother weave coconut leaves ahead of Palm Sunday in front of the Sto. Domingo Church, in Quezon City. INQUIRER /RAFFY LERMA

Too much partying

Marinduque Bishop Rey Evangelista called on the youth not to forget the meaning of Holy Week as he discouraged them from too much partying.

“Our Holy Week gatherings should not be for fun but for prayer and contemplation,” Evangelista said.

Also on Saturday, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, called on the faithful to donate to Alay Kapwa Sunday, which also coincides with Palm Sunday.

The Alay Kapwa (offering to one’s neighbor) Sunday is the culmination of the Lenten evangelization program of the Church that aims to raise social consciousness about the plight of the poor. This year’s proceeds will be used as emergency fund for the poor who have been affected by natural and man-made calamities.

“They may donate their time or talent. There are a lot of people in need of help. That has been the call of Alay Kapwa, for [the faithful] to share their time, talent and treasure,” Pabillo also said.

No to crucifixions

Palma reiterated the Church’s opposition to crucifixions on Good Friday, which some Catholic devotees, particularly in Pampanga province, continue to practice.

“While we are trying to discourage these practices, we could also not judge the intention of some devotees,” Palma said. “They have different vows, which, if they cannot fulfill them, [make them] feel very guilty. But the challenge really is, you do not have to [be], if your participation [in Holy Week rites] is really solemn and wholehearted.”

Palma added: “It’s not so much the external manifestation of and identification with the Christ. It’s internal—the change of heart, the change of life. This, I wish, is the beautiful thing that we should do, not on the physical but more in the spirit. We do not judge and condemn, but we discourage it.”

Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of Pampanga and retired Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani have similar observations.

Aniceto said the body is a gift from God and should be taken care of, not tortured by crucifixion. He observed that the Good Friday crucifixions had become commercialized and turned into tourist attractions.

“The self-flagellations and crucifixions must be stopped,” Bacani said. “Caring for each other, doing good deeds is the best restitution [for sins],” Bacani said.

First posted 7:50 pm | Saturday, March 31st, 2012

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