Church to bloom, grow, glow
The Catholic Church and its bishops may be under persecution by trolls on social media, and its values under attack by those who agree with extrajudicial killings, the death penalty, fake news and gay marriage, but “the Catholic faith will [continue to] bloom, grow and glow.”
This was the Easter message of Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Socrates Villegas who urged the faithful to “Stand up and take courage. Go to jail for the sake of the Gospel. Be ready to be killed for the sake of our faith.”
Titled “Die with me and live forever,” Villegas’ message read at St. John Cathedral in Dagupan City mourned “the fashion of rebuffing Church morals and doctrines,” and described bishops and priests as “martyrs in the prime of their lives.”
‘They will kill our name’
Said Villegas: “We do not kill bishops and priests in the Philippines. We bash bishops. We allow our idols to curse the Pope. We make fake news about one another. We remain safely anonymous in hidden Facebook and Twitter accounts. We earn our living by working as social media trolls.”
He added: “First, they will kill our name. Then they will destroy our beliefs. Then they will kill our body. But no one can stop our hearts from beating only for God.”
The prelate urged the faithful to take courage.
“Do not let evil intimidate you. Do not let their threats silence the priests and bishops. This is not the time for cowards. This is the ripe season for martyrs. This is a moment of glory,” he said.
“What we cannot do in life as Catholics, we will be able to do when they kill us and make us martyrs,” Villegas added.
For his part, Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said Catholics should look at Jesus Christ’s empty tomb as a space to spread God’s light and life.
The Resurrection, he said, was about the ‘spaces’ God offered to Christians to live their mission in ordinary daily life, such as in homes, alleys, barangays, schools, offices, social media, as well as one’s mind, emotions and conscience.
“Let the Risen Jesus empty them of death and fill them with light, love and mission. Only then can we be joyful bearers of hope rather than servants of gloom and despair,” Tagle said.
Easter, he added, brings a message that justice, mercy and love are stronger than evil and death.
The Manila archbishop said that after the Resurrection, soldiers guarding Jesus Christ’s tomb were paid off by his accusers so that they could spread the news that Jesus’ disciples had stolen his body.
“The truth of Jesus’ Resurrection was betrayed and denied in exchange for money. This mode of acting sadly continues in our world,” Tagle said, apparently referring to fake news and trolls on social media.
Particularly, greed, corruption, manipulation and despair victimizes and inflicts death on the marginalized, he lamented.
“This Easter we declare once again: no amount of money or power or honor could make us deny that Jesus is risen and that he is our hope!” Tagle said.
A new chapter
The Philippines, Villegas said, was entering a new chapter in its history as a Catholic nation, with the Church ridiculed, its churchmen rebuked, Jesus Christ’s teachings challenged and human life deemed “cheaper than a gun.”
He added: “It is so fashionable to make churchmen the punching bag of public officials to the glee of our own parishioners. We are humiliated and despised. We are calumniated as having many wives and the accuser is immune from legal suit. Bishops and priests are wronged and no one dares to set things right.”
Parishioners, he noted, “seek the security of silence with no one willing to defend Christ’s anointed ones.”
But this should not intimidate Catholics into doing the right thing and standing up against persecution, Villegas said.
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