Attention priests on Janet Napoles’ payroll
MANILA, Philippines—Last year, several Catholic priests and bishops were named beneficiaries of huge donations from alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, with some of them receiving a P150,000 monthly stipend. Other Church officials had also been identified in international news as trafficking in the illegal ivory trade, using the precious material for their collection of religious images.
Now comes a Pope named Francis.
“Live lives that reflect the poverty of Christ.”
Pope Francis issued this call to almost 2,000 members of the clergy and the religious who attended his first Mass in the Philippines held on Friday at Manila Cathedral in Intramuros.
“Only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters,” the Pope said in his homily during the Mass that was exclusive to members of the clergy and religious orders.
According to the Holy Father, as ambassadors of Christ, bishops, priests and members of religious orders should be the first to welcome God’s reconciling grace into their hearts.
“[Only then], will (we) see things in a new light and thus respond with honesty and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality,” Pope Francis said in his homily.
Being a member of the clergy “means rejecting worldly perspectives and seeing all things anew in the light of Christ,” the Pope said. “It means being the first to examine our consciences, to acknowledge our failings and sins, and to embrace the path of constant conversion,” he added.
“How can we proclaim the newness and liberating power of the Cross to others, if we ourselves refuse to allow the word of God to shake our complacency, our fear of change, our petty compromises with the ways of this world, our ‘spiritual worldliness,’” the Pope asked.
Deviating from his prepared homily, Pope Francis stressed, “if we take the poor away from the Gospel, we won’t be able to understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.”
The Pope showed his natural rapport with the crowd when he started his 15-minute homily with the words, “Do you love me?,” addressed softly to the Mass-goers and the crowd outside the cathedral, who immediately answered with a resounding “Yes.”
Smiling in response, the Pope said: “Then, thank you very much. I was referring to the words of Jesus.” This drew laughter from his audience who, just moments before, heard the Gospel about Jesus telling his apostle Peter, “Do you love me? … Tend my sheep.”
“These words remind us of something essential,” the Pope said. “All pastoral ministry is born of love. All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love. Like St. Therese, in the variety of our vocations, each of us is called, in some way, to be loved in the heart of the Church,” he added.
During his homily, Pope Francis also challenged Filipino bishops, priests and religious to carry on the legacy of their predecessors who had labored since the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines almost 450 years ago.
“As the Church in the Philippines looks to the fifth centenary of its evangelization, we feel gratitude for the legacy left by so many bishops, priests and religious of past generations. They labored not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Church in this country, but also to forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good,” the Pope said.
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