Be open to change, CBCP leader urges bishops
The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged his fellow bishops not to let the Catholic Church become a “shell institution” with nothing inside.
Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Socrates Villegas stressed that “rapid changes” in society calls for Church people to have a deeper understanding to address fundamental human needs.
At the opening of the CBCP’s plenary assembly at the Pius XII Center in Manila, Villegas noted that the Church has its “liturgical pageantry,” but asked if its rituals are connected to people’s hopes and frustrations, joys and grief.
“We issue pastoral letters but are we still understood and relevant to the struggles and visions of our people? Can we listen to gutter language without judgment?” he asked.
Villegas added: “Are we not becoming shell institutions – lovely to see with nothing inside?”
The CBCP president made the statement as the plenary assembly began on Saturday, his second to the last plenary assembly as CBCP president.
He will relinquish his post by December after completing his second, two-year term, in office.
According to the CBCP News website, 82 out of the 91 active bishops and nine of the 41 honorary CBCP members are attending the three-day plenary assembly.
The possible agenda includes discussions on the current socio-political climate, the ethical use of social media, and the proposed change to a federal system of government.
In his opening speech, Villegas defined a shell institution, or one that has become inadequate to the tasks it should perform.
While the outer shell remains, the inside has radically changed, like what is happening even in families, religion and relationships.
“We still carry the shell but the shell can be deceptive, illusory and fictitious,” Villegas said.
The CBCP president added: “The transitions need our attention. The shifts in paradigms need shifts in our pastoral approaches.”
Villegas told his fellow bishops that “a defensive Church will not inspire and ignite souls.”
He acknowledged rapid changes happening in Philippine society, and that Church people should acknowledge these changes so that they may better answer the needs of Filipinos.
“We can be victims of change, but we can be its authors as well as its guardians. Pope Francis is providing us, pastors, with a sterling example of what it is to respond and at the same time to lead, to change boldly, but to hold to what is true faithfully as well,” he pointed out.
Villegas noted that there are no longer fixed spaces and time for different activities, and that younger Catholics look for Pokemon in parishes and accidentally find God while window-shopping.
He asked his fellow bishops if they are ready to ride on Facebook as a new pulpit to proclaim Christ, and if they should be more accommodating to celebrating Mass in commercial places.
“There has to be openness in the Philippine Church that is confident, at the same time, in its rootedness to the indefectible Spirit of the Lord,” he said.
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