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CEBU CITY, Philippines – On the Pontifical Mass of the Fiesta Señor (Feast of the Holy Child), Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma criticized those who exploit and destroy the environment.
“A true believer in Santo Niño loves the environment. We don’t haphazardly throw our trash anywhere,” Palma said during his homily on Sunday, January 19. “Bato bato sa langit (regardless of who this statement hits).”
The Fiesta Señor and Sinulog Festival, which brings out millions of people from all over the world also results in trash piilng up in areas across the city. (READ: FAST FACTS: Things to know about Sinulog)
Cebu has also been dealing with long-term environmental and development problems. Most recently, residents protested the cutting of trees in Cebu City and other parts of Metro Cebu for road widening projects. (READ: Cebuanos launch campaign to save centuries-old trees from gov’t project)
Although Palma stopped short of telling local government officials what to do, he reminded them that neglecting the environment would result in long-lasting, and possible irreversible damage.
“Taking all the fish and cutting down trees is stealing from the future generations,” he said.
This is the 455th celebration of the Fiesta Señor and a year before the quincentennial or 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.
Quincentennial Cebu will take center stage in the events as the location of where the first indigenous Filipinos were baptized as Christians by Spanish missionaries who ended up in the Philippines. (READ: Lapulapu gets spotlight in quincentennial celebrations)
“After 46 years, the Augustinian missionaries discovered that the Niño was still here,’ Palma said.
Palma said what makes the Santo Niño special is that it unites millions of Filipinos from different background to come together to honor the child Jesus.
“We are of different backgrounds, but are united in our faith,” he said.
Palma was appointed by Pope Francis to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Art and Culture. He said then that his appointment was a reflection of the influence of Filipinos in the Catholic Church.
Although Palma is originally from Jaro, Iloilo, he had been serving as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cebu after the late Ricardo Cardinal Vidal retired in 2010.
Reiterating his call to protect the environment, Palma said during his homily that “the wealth of the earth and seas aren’t just for us. They are for our children and their children.”
He said his prayer for the archdiocese is that leaders and civil society would be able to overcome political division to address longstanding issues.
“We have a prayer for one Cebu. In a sense that – hopefully, our 5 cities and over 40 municipalities – that our government, religious [sector] and civil society will be one,” he said. “That we will transcend our personal interests so that together, we can address traffic, water, environmental concerns, as well as peace and order.” – Rappler.com