Cagayan de Oro City

CBCP chooses prayer over rhetoric amid West Philippine Sea tensions

Franck Dick Rosete

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CBCP chooses prayer over rhetoric amid West Philippine Sea tensions

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION: Bishops enter the Saint Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral for the Eucharistic celebration following the second day of the 128th plenary assembly held in Cagayan de Oro on Sunday, July 7.


'We do not want to add further fuel to the tension. Nobody wants a war,' says Bishop Virgilio David, CBCP president

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Amid the mounting geopolitical storm over the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has opted for silence over rhetoric, choosing prayer as their weapon of choice.

“We do not want to add further fuel to the tension. Nobody wants a war. Our parents… they were part of a generation that was traumatized by the Second World War,” said Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, CBCP president, as he called on everyone to pray for peace.

During a news conference in Cagayan de Oro on Monday, July 8, David said the bishops also agreed on an Oratio Imperata for peace amid the backdrop of increasing geopolitical tensions in various regions of the world. 

CBCP Cagayan de Oro
ANNOUNCE. CBCP President Bishop Pablo Virgilio David announces some resolutions from their 128th plenary assembly in Cagayan de Oro. Bishops Marcelino Antonio Maralit and Gerardo Alminaza look on. – Franck Dick Rosete/Rappler

Oratio Imperata, Latin for “obligatory prayer,” is prescribed by local bishops or religious authorities in the Catholic Church. It is used during times of calamity, conflict, or special community intentions to seek divine intervention or guidance for pressing concerns or crises.

Instead of taking a stand, the CBCP said it chose to offer prayers amid the tensions, emphasizing the bishops’ role as spiritual and moral leaders.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop-Emeritus Antonio Ledesma said on Wednesday, July 10, he and other priests in the city welcomed the decision of the CBCP not issue an official position pertaining to the tensions at the WPS.

The CBCP announced this shortly after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered the Armed Forces to calm tensions in the WPS after recent conflicts with China over missions to resupply Filipino troops on a disputed shoal. 

The Philippine military has formally asked China to return seized firearms and compensate for damage caused to vessels involved in the resupply mission.

Historic assembly

Meanwhile, priests in Cagayan de Oro are still riding high on the wave of excitement following the historic plenary assembly of the CBCP in the city. For the first time, the influential bishops’ group gathered in Mindanao, addressing and uniting on the pressing issues of the day.

Ledesma said it was a great honor for Cagayan de Oro to host the CBCP’s 128th plenary assembly from July 6 to 8, marking the organization’s inaugural gathering in Mindanao.

Even the city’s mayor, Rolando Uy, who hosted an event for about 80 bishops, expressed pride in Cagayan de Oro being chosen as the venue for the CBCP’s first high-level meeting in Mindanao.

The gathering gave bishops from Visayas and Luzon the opportunity to see the situation of the Catholic churches in this part of the country, according to Father Der John Faborada, social communications apostolate director of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

Faborada said the bishops wanted to do more than just visit; they sought to listen to the voices of the people of Mindanao, gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the churches in the city and Northern Mindanao.

Before the assembly in Cagayan de Oro, the bishops attended a four-day retreat at the Transfiguration Abbey in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, from July 1 to 4. 

A Eucharistic celebration took place at the Saint Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro on July 7, officiated by The Most Reverend Charles John Brown, Apostolic Nuncio in the Philippines. The bishops then visited the Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental, a site renowned for its religious significance and growing popularity among tourists.

“They were also able to see the different parts of Cagayan de Oro. So, for me, it was a good learning experience for the bishops as different dioceses have their own strengths and weaknesses,” Ledesma said.

Father Wilbert Laroga, parish priest of the Santuario Eucaristico-Sacred Heart Parish Church in Cagayan de Oro, said the CBCP assembly in the city resonated with the ongoing “Synodality of the Catholic Church,” which refers to the journey of the people of God together.

“That’s one way of expressing their seriousness about the synodality,” Laroga said.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, CBCP president, said the bishops agreed on 22 resolutions during the three-day assembly in Cagayan de Oro, but he only elaborated on four, explaining that the rest pertained to internal matters.

David said it was agreed by the bishops to formulate and issue a joint pastoral statement on the controversial bill that seeks to legalize absolute divorce in the country. He said the pastoral statement on absolute divorce would be released by the end of this week.

During the assembly, the CBCP passed a resolution endorsing the National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Lipa, Batangas, for international shrine status. The bishops also approved the upgrading of the Our Lady of the Assumption in Maasin City, Southern Leyte, and Our Lady of Mercy in Novaliches, Quezon City, to national shrine status. –

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