MANILA, Philippines – It broke his heart to see centuries-old churches, pillars of faith, collapsing after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocked the Visayas on Monday, October 14.
And that was not all.
Tagle on Wednesday, October 16, delivered a litany of problems that plagued the country recently – the conflict in Zamboanga City, the effects of the monsoon rain and typhoon Santi, and the pork barrel controversy. READ: Tagle on pork scam: ‘Yabang ‘yan!’
Tagle, however, urged Filipinos to keep “faith in the midst of ruin” as he opened the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE).
Held at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, the PCNE is an unprecedented 3-day event that aims to rekindle faith in the face of secularism.
“This is the whole point of the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization. It is a humble contribution to the construction and strengthening of the Church, rooted in Jesus, his Word, in the Spirit, in mission, in the midst of ruin. Faith in the midst of ruin,” Tagle said in his homily at the opening Mass.
He cited the example of Jesus, “whose daily life led to ruins, culminating on the Cross.”
“His love, which is greater than the sins of the world, prevented the total collapse and the ruin of humanity. Love brought a new hope, a new heaven, and a new earth,” Tagle said.
For the cardinal, the churches damaged by the earthquake stress this message. READ: Heartbreaking: 10 iconic churches in Bohol, Cebu damaged.
He explained that these churches evoke a religious image, referring to God’s message to St Francis of Assisi: “Francis, go rebuild my Church, which you see is falling into ruins.”
Tagle said, “Before the images of churches crumbling due to the earthquake, you could almost hear the message of God to St Francis: build my Church, rebuild my Church. (Watch Rappler’s video report below.)
“But how can we reconstruct the Church apart from Jesus, the cornerstone? How can we construct the Church without his life-giving word? How can we strengthen the Church without the Holy Spirit, who will transform hearts of stone into living flesh, and all of us into a living temple? How can we construct the Church without love that enables us to break the shells of egoism and self-interest, in order to embrace God, neighbor, society, and the whole of creation?”
“Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the builders labor,” Tagle said.
Pope’s message, too
Pope Francis, who named himself after the saint from Assisi, brought up the same anecdote during the World Youth Day in July. He encouraged the youth to help rebuild the Church, which he said, in previous speeches, suffers a self-centered mindset.
“In front of the crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him: ‘Francis, go, rebuild my house.’ The young Francis responded readily and generously to the Lord’s call to rebuild his house. But which house? Slowly but surely, Francis came to realize that it was not a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church. It was a matter of being at the service of the Church, loving her and working to make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly in her,” the Pope said.
He added, “Today too, as always, the Lord needs you, young people, for his Church.”
The Church, however, struggles with keeping the faith relevant for the youth.
Melvin Pedrosa, a campus minister from Cebu who attended the PCNE, cited the failure of some priests to appeal to young Catholics.
“I want more understanding, more visible, and more inspiring Church workers and priests for the young,” he told Rappler in an interview.
Tagle said the PCNE aims to do exactly this – to find better ways to share the faith, especially with young Catholics.
The cardinal’s call is consistent: Begin with humility. READ: New PH cardinal tells Church: Be humble. – Rappler.com