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Papal envoy sees need for inter-religious talks

CEBU, Philippines - Papal Legate Charles  Cardinal Bo sees the need for an inter-religious dialogue to attain and promote camaraderie among different religions leading to the reception of migrants, especially Filipinos.

 Asked on how to address issues like ethnic problems and conflict considering the number of Overseas Filipino Workers, Cardinal Bo said inter-religious dialogue can bring good seeds which, in turn, can cause friendship and cooperation in many fields, and especially in service to the poor, the young, the elderly, in the reception of migrants, and attention to those who are excluded.

 The Philippine Statistics Authority reported last year that based on the 2014 survey, an estimated 2.3 million Filipinos are working abroad. Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs) or those with existing work contract comprised 96 percent (2.2 million) of the total OFWs. The rest (4 percent or 92 thousand) worked overseas without contract.

“Migration can be an opportunity of grace. It is opportunity. Eucharist and migrants are linked together in the sense that we as Catholics and Christians we go to other countries as missionaries,” he said.

Bo encouraged Filipinos to preach the good news to the other people in the world as migrants. Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said migration is a complex situation, but he hopes that the eyes of the world will be open to “solidarity among humanity.”

Strong faith and resilient Filipinos

 Asked what he will report to the Pope, Cardinal Bo said he will tell Pope Francis how Filipinos’ strong faith withstands natural calamities.

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“Despite the natural disasters, the only thing that remains mainly with the Filipinos is the faith of the people, the faith in the Church, faith in the Eucharist and the faith in the Lord. Everything has been stripped off except the faith,” he said.

 “This great faith is what cannot be stripped away from the Filipino amidst everything, in spite of everything,” he said, adding that he will also share to the Holy Father how the IEC reveals the “mission-oriented” Church that there is in the Philippines.

 Aside from faith and prayer, he also stressed the importance of resiliency.

He said he received the warmest welcome from the Filipinos. Says he enjoyed the Filipino food and the Filipino smiles.

He also brightened the mood during the press conference with his witty responses.

Parish encounter

Delegates to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress yesterday shared under one roof with the local parishioners in hearing God’s words through the Eucharistic celebration. The local parishioners were given the rare chance to interact with the IEC delegates during the “Parish Encounter” in 13 different parishes in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue.  

At the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral grounds, at least 450 delegates were welcomed in a festive mood despite the drizzles. Dancers dressed in Sinulog costumes performed the Sinulog dance to welcome the delegates.

The afternoon activity started with a concelebrated Mass led by Bishop Michael Robert Kennedy, of Armidale, Australia.

The prelate acknowledged two of the great attributes of the Filipinos: (1) the joyful expression of faith and love for God; and (2) for great love on neighbors both local and foreign, being shown on their virtue of hospitality.

At the National Shrine of Saint Joseph in Mandaue City, Bishop Joseph Arshad,  of  Faisalabad, Pakistan, said the Filipinos are lucky to have freely exercised their freedom of religion without fear of being accused of blasphemy.

Arshad said that in his country where only two percent of the 190 million population is Catholics, it is very difficult for them to practice their faith.

“Pakistan is an Islamic country, only two percent are Catholics. We live so much pressure. Christianity in Pakistan is not an easy task. We face our kind of terrorism,” the bishop said. — (FREEMAN)

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