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Bishop instructs flock to shun GK projects

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:47:00 05/18/2009

Filed Under: Churches (organisations), House building, Family planning, Poverty

MANILA, Philippines?Archbishop Oscar Cruz has issued instructions to shun Gawad Kalinga (GK), a civic group whose initiatives to build shelter for the poor have come under fire for receiving donations from advocates of population control?a policy opposed by the Catholic Church.

The directive from the outspoken Lingayen-Dagupan prelate?the strongest on the issue from a ranking official of the Church hierarchy?was issued to parishes and chaplaincies in Pangasinan.

It came after the Couples for Christ International Council (CFC-IC) cut its ties with the GK recently.

Cruz said in his circular, which appeared on the Catholic Bishops? Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website, that the CFC-IC action would allow the GK to function as a nonreligious organization.

?In this particular regard, it would be right and prudent for you and me to have nothing to do with the Gawad Kalinga?directly or indirectly?in the event that such goes to your respective parishes or chaplaincies,? Cruz said.

?[This] in no way means that the said civic entity is altogether bad or something the like. Yet, pastoral prudence dictates the above advisory,? he said.

Gawad Kalinga is an advocacy group engaged in building decent housing for the impoverished, a program hailed here and abroad. Until recently, it was a part of the activities of the CFC.

Persons involved with CFC and the GK have had serious disagreements, including the housing advocacy being open to donations from groups promoting population management that the Catholic hierarchy opposes.

Interdependence remains

Antonio Meloto, GK executive director, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that there was no severing of ties with the CFC-IC. There may be an independence of governance, but there remains an ?interdependence of members? of the two groups, he said.

Meloto indicated that the Catholic hierarchy should continue to be part of his group?s activities.

?Gawad Kalinga is the pearl of the Catholic church. It is an expression of what has been preached,? he said in a telephone interview.

Meloto said CFC members continued to serve on the GK board despite what he described as a realignment in leadership.

Cruz told the Inquirer that he issued the circular to make it clear that the Catholic Church no longer had any connection with the GK following its disassociation from the CFC.

The prelate said the CFC had the ?pontifical imprimatur of Rome.? With no more connection to the CFC, Cruz said the GK also ceased to be a Church-based organization.

?It is already a civic group,? he said, comparing GK to the Rotary and Lions clubs.

?It?s good if Gawad Kalinga does well. But if it does something bad, the Church might get involved.?

But Cruz clarified: ?Individually, any one without reference to faith, without reference to creed, everyone [is] free to join Gawad Kalinga.?

In his text statement, Meloto said: ?There is greater solidarity between CFC and Gawad Kalinga in our work of bringing Filipinos out of poverty.

?This is the mission of every Catholic and every Filipino, and we will work with the government, the business community, the academe, civic organizations, Catholic groups like Bukas-loob sa Diyos, Focolare, Knights of Columbus, Cursillo, Magis Deo, Ligaya ng Panginoon, Bo Sanchez?s Light of Jesus, and Catholic schools and parishes here and abroad.

?There is a change in the board of Gawad Kalinga, but all of the members are CFC, except Ateneo president Fr. Ben Nebres. I am a devout Catholic and an active leader of the CFC.?

Earlier in Batangas, Lipa Archishop Ramon Arguelles expressed regret over the severed CFC-IC and GK ties.

Arguelles, the CBCP news website said, insisted that GK projects in his archdiocese continued to be administered by the CFC as a ?prime result of CFC?s pledge to renew families worldwide.?

?I am convinced that the GK should continue and become a more effective social arm of the CFC firmly rooted in and reflective of the Catholic faith and practices without prejudice, though, to the CFC-GK?s commendable work of sharing God?s blessings with non-Catholics and non-Christians,? he said.

Arguelles said GK activities outside CFC direction were neither allowed nor recognized by the Lipa Archdiocese.

?Evidently, the GKs in Batangas are prohibited to have anything to do with institutions whose policies contradict the Church?s teachings,? he said.

CBCP news said Arguelles was referring to institutions like the Habitat for Humanity, Pfizer, the Population Commission and others. The groups are known to promote population management that the Catholic leadership opposes.

Fundamental differences

The CFC-IC, a lay organization, early this month announced the breakaway to allow GK to expand its work as a nonreligious organization.

?While CFC is pursuing the fullness of the mission, GK is focused on nation-building and poverty alleviation, which necessitate that it mainstreams and partners with all sectors of society. It is even poised to enter non-Christian countries (such as India, Indonesia and the Middle East) as a nonreligious organization,? CFC executive director Joe Tale said on the CBCP website.

?[As such], there has been honest divergence of opinions [from] these fundamental differences. We have tried to resolve these ? However, despite our common best efforts and intentions, unity continues to be elusive under the present structure,? he added.

Tale said the CFC would continue with its pro-poor ministry even with the decision.



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