CBCP vows to uphold sacredness of life
MANILA, Philippines—As the country celebrates Easter Sunday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is exhorting Filipinos to renew their faith in the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and to be good stewards of health.
“As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, let us also renew our faith in the resurrection of the body. This body… is a gift from God.… Taking care of the body is a spiritual duty as good stewards of health,” the CBCP president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, said in a pastoral letter on stewardship of health.
Villegas said the Church teaches us that our bodies are not simply material vessels for our souls but are integral and essential aspects of who we are as persons created in the image and likeness of God.
According to him, due to the various challenges that contemporary times present to living a healthy life, including the passage of the Reproductive Health law, the CBCP decided to issue the pastoral letter as guidance to help the faithful become responsible stewards of bodily health.
“The passage of the RH law prompted us to lay down these teachings about the Christian understanding of health. While we respect and recognize the duty and right of the State to pass laws, we deem it our duty as pastors to teach you about the Christian understanding of health which the present RH law seems to misunderstand,” Villegas said in the pastoral letter, titled “Where O Death Is Your Victory? Where O Death Is Your Sting?”
The Church remains adamantly against the RH law.
“With or without the Supreme Court decision, it is the duty of the Church to be teaching life. Our duty does not depend on civil laws. Our duties come from God,” Villegas told reporters prior to the April 9 Supreme Court ruling that the RH law was constitutional.
But after the Supreme Court announced its decision, Villegas urged critics and supporters of the law to move on following the court’s decision.
“The Supreme Court has decided on the RH issue based on existing laws in the Philippines. The Church must continue to uphold the sacredness of human life, to teach always the dignity of the human person and to safeguard the life of every human person from conception to natural death,” he said in a previous statement.
“God has bestowed on us the great gift of life.… Human life ought to be promoted and defended from the moment of conception to natural death. Our life is in our hands as stewards of the gift of life. And our stewardship of life calls us to be responsible stewards of health. While health may not be the greatest value and good of the person, health is a gift and a task for all of us,” the pastoral letter said.
Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, in his Easter message, exhorted Filipinos to start a new life “with true peace coming from the Risen Christ.”
“We call on Jesus to breathe the Holy Spirit on the Filipino people so that we may experience a fresh start in our quest for peace especially in the Bangsamoro autonomous region, in communities ravaged by earthquakes, typhoons and armed conflicts, in our fight against corruption, unscrupulousness, human trafficking, new forms of slavery, abuse of children and women, dehumanizing destitution and the wastage of creation, to name a few,” Tagle said in a statement.
“Peace is a gift of the Risen Jesus to frail, weak and sinful disciples. Peace is an offer of mercy and reconciliation to those who have been unfaithful. It expresses the hope that the sinner may become whole again. It is a plea to start again. With true peace coming from the Risen Christ we can all start a new life,” he added.
Tagle said the faithful should also be ready to be sent on missions, the way Jesus was sent by the Father.
“Easter is indeed a missionary event, transforming timid and fearful disciples into bold and determined missioners,” he said.
“I call on all Christians, especially the lay faithful on this Year of the Laity to heed the Risen Lord who sends us to bring His word, peace and hope to all strata of human life and society. If peace and new life are illusive in our time, it is partly because we do not fulfill our mission,” Tagle said.
The CBCP pastoral letter also called on the faithful to lead a virtuous life and to take care of one’s health by having proper nutrition, adequate exercise and sufficient rest.
“The virtue of temperance can help us deal with our appetites for certain types of food and drink that can cause harm to our health. Temperance teaches us self-control and discipline with regard to our appetites in pursuit of the goal of good health. The virtue of prudence guides our practice of temperance by reminding us not to consume too much or too little; one needs to discern the right type and quantity of food and drink that is appropriate to maintain one’s health,” said the CBCP.
Pursuing what is good for one’s health also means avoiding what is harmful to our well-being such as the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine, the bishops stressed.
“Prudence would remind us that there are substances and activities that should be avoided if we desire to maintain our physical well-being for the present and the future,” it added.
While doing little to take care of our health is wrong, the pastoral letter said doing too much to achieve physical perfection could also be unhealthy and harmful.
“Vanity, idealized body images, and excessive competitiveness can lead people to manipulate their bodies in ways that do not respect the human body’s health, integrity, dignity, and intrinsic value. Examples of such harmful manipulation of bodies include excessive use of cosmetic surgery, unhealthy forms of dieting, and the use of banned substances in sports,” the letter said.
“Like the good steward in Scripture, may we also be responsible stewards of the gift of health that God has granted us as we make our earthly pilgrimage to our heavenly home, where the fullness of life awaits us,” it added.
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