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Official News Service of the Media Office of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines
Updated: 5 min 25 sec ago

December 17, 2018

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:00
Monday of the Third Week in Advent

Reading 1 GN 49:2, 8-10

Jacob called his sons and said to them:
“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel, your father.

“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise
–your hand on the neck of your enemies;
the sons of your father shall bow down to you.
Judah, like a lion’s whelp,
you have grown up on prey, my son.
He crouches like a lion recumbent,
the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him?
The scepter shall never depart from Judah,
or the mace from between his legs,
While tribute is brought to him,
and he receives the people’s homage.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 72:1-2, 3-4AB, 7-8, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

The mountains shall yield peace for the people,
and the hills justice.
He shall defend the afflicted among the people,
save the children of the poor.

R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.

R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.

Today's Readings Homilies

Bulacan artist unveils ‘neo-realist San Lorenzo Ruiz’

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 17:27

Renowned Bulakeño artist Ernesto “Aris” Bagtas Jr. (left) unveils his neo-realism-inspired artwork created in honor of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, the first Filipino saint. On the right is Fr. Edgardo de Jesus, an ICMAS professor. ICMAS

By Sem. Kendrick Ivan B. Panganiban

Dec. 14, 2018

Guiguinto, Bulacan

This December, renowned Bulakeño artist Ernesto “Aris” Bagtas Jr. unveiled new neo-realism-inspired artwork created in honor of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, the first Filipino saint.

Installed at Bulwagang San Lorenzo Ruiz, at the Philosophy Department of the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary (ICMAS) in this town, the artwork features materials like old tape recorders and broken musical instrument and computer parts.

“I wanted to present in this work that each story in the life of a person is recorded, registered so to speak, and is a standard that leads people to the right path and to the spirit of the faith,” said Bagtas.

‘Charged by the Cross’

Donated to the institution by ICMAS professor Fr. Edgardo C. De Jesus, a known patron of Bagtas, the said mixed media artwork was welcomed by the seminary community led by ICMAS rector Fr. Emmanuel I. Cruz and Construction Committee Director Fr. Eugene C. Cruz.

Commenting on the cellphone that appears to be plugged into the cross, Bagtas said: “We see how cellphones are important among people and these devices need to get charged. Now I placed an old cellphone as is it were charged through the Cross of Christ. This is an important part of the artwork that shows us how despite our thinking that we are lacking when we do not get the attention we need, yet in believing God and hearing his Word, we become energized by him. It is a multimedia message relevant to our time.”

Bagtas also explained how the artwork wanted to show the saint’s personal journey of faith.

“San Lorenzo Ruiz, a young man and a family man reminds us that being poor is not a hindrance to be a good person or even a saint. In this artwork, I wanted to present how sacrifice and following God is truly a journey, as seen in the different events in his life in the sides of the painting,” he said.

Liturgical artist

The seminary community lauded the arrival of the said artwork, which not only made good use of old materials but also communicated a remarkable message through symbols and color. Originating from Obando, Bulacan, Bagtas has come to be known in many parts of the diocese for his contributions in the form of liturgical art in several churches, among them the Immaculate Conception Parish – Cathedral & Minor Basilica, Malolos City; National Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, Santissima Trinidad Parish, Malolos City; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Pulong Buhangin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan among others.

The Macuha Art Gallery describes Bagtas’ art as “neo-realism style (that) is reflected in the way he uses what he calls ‘traditional subjects’ while painting them using contemporary methods.”

Faithful reminded: ‘Mary is on God’s side’

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 16:40

ICMAS rector Fr. Emmanuel I. Cruz reflected on the Blessed Virgin’s role and why she is referred to as “woman” several times in the Bible, Dec. 8, 2018. SEM. HERCEL ARENO

By Sem. Kendrick Ivan B. Panganiban & Sem. Ariz V. De Castro

Dec. 16, 2018

Malolos City

In his homily on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, ICMAS rector Fr. Emmanuel I. Cruz reflected on how the Blessed Virgin will always be “on God’s side.”

“By being ishah, Mary is a woman on the side of a man, who is none other than Jesus. This means Mary is in the side of Christ. Mary is in the side of God,” explained the priest, noting how Mary has been referred to in Scripture as ishah, Hebrew for “woman.”

The Blessed Virgin, according to Cruz, has been referred to as ishah in the Gospel and in the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians.

“Why call Mary woman? It is because woman is meant to be a companion of man as Eve became the partner of Adam,” he said, reflecting on the creation story.

The Immaculate Conception Parish – Cathedral & Minor Basilica (ICP-CMB) and the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary (ICMAS) joined the Misa Mayor celebration of the feast of the mother church of the Diocese of Malolos and of the seminary community. Led by Malolos Vicar General Pablo S. Legaspi, Jr., the Eucharistic celebration was held at 6:00 a.m. on Dec. 8.

Mary’s example

He noted that, “Mary is venerated by us Catholics not because of any other reason than being the faithful daughter to the Father, a mother to Jesus our Lord, and an example for us. That is why we celebrate today.” Cruz added, “May we imitate Mary, whose guidance leads us her back to her Son. Mary is on God’s side. She is the constant companion and she knows that to be in God’s side is right choice. She is a reason for all of us to have hope.”

‘Whose side are you on?’

Challenging the faithful, he asked, “Whose side do you take? For whom do you clap?” He added, “Are you on God’s side or do you praise another?”

Cruz called on the faithful to examine the people they choose to emulate and look up to. “You might be idolizing the wrong persons. You might believe in people who give no respect to God or even to his Church. Those are the people who even mock and curse the Church and her leaders. If that is the kind of person you follow or believe in, then you are not on the side of God,” he stressed.

Message of Bishop Crispin Varquez, DD during the turnover ceremony of Balangiga Bells

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 01:15

Bishop Crispin Varquez, DD. Photo by Roy Lagarde

Turnover of Balangiga Bells
December 15, 2018
Balangiga, Eastern Samar

President RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE, President of the Republic of the Philippines;
Secretary DELFIN LORENZANA, National Defense of the Philippines;
Ambassador SUNG KIM, United States of America;
Acting Governor, Marcelo Ferdinand Picardo, Province of Eastern Samar;
Mayor RANDY GRAZA, Balangiga, Eastern Samar


To the Philippine government that have been working for the return of these Bells for several decades now, MARAMING SALAMAT.

To the American People, represented here by Ambassador Sung Kim, THANK YOU SO MUCH. May I offer a profound sentiment of gratitude to the US Veterans who stood gallantly, both in war and in peace, to uphold the heroism and courage of their comrades.

To the many individuals and groups who have persistently worked, lobbied and prayed for the eventual return of these bells, I bow to you in sincere appreciation and thankfulness.

Please be assured that we will return the bells to their original purpose—and care and cherish them as a precious legacy of the profound faith, heroism and courage of our forebears.

Rightly used, the bells call us to pray and worship our God. Prayer and worship express and deepen our faith, hope and charity. We ring the bells before and during our highest act of prayer and worship—the Holy Eucharist. We ring the bells to signal community acts and to alarm the same community of impending emergencies. In a word, the bells bridge us to God and to one another. The bells are an integral part and parcel of our daily life in the community.

These have symbolized your courage, heroism, love for freedom and democracy.

We owe it to our forebears that we must continue to work together more strongly and more committedly that these bells will help bolster our faith, our history, our dignity and our socio-economic development.

Today, we courageously express our commitment that we will do all we can, under the patronage and intercession of our Patron, St. Lawrence, the deacon and martyr, to protect and secure that these bells will never be separated from you again. They will remain in this Church.

BALANGIGA, never again will these bells be taken away from you!


The Significance of the Bells

Sat, 12/15/2018 - 23:50

By Msgr. Lope C. Robredillo, SThD
Vicar General, Diocese of Borongan
December 15, 2018, Church of St. Lawrence



Allow me, at the outset, to use the words of the Psalmist (Ps 118:24): “This is the day the Lord has made!  Let us rejoice in it and be glad!”  This day is significant indeed, because it marks a historic event in the life of the people in the parish of St. Lawrence and in the Diocese of Borongan, and of the country as a whole.  At last, the three bells of Balangiga, taken 117 years ago, are back to their home!

For a man of faith, this is a work of God.  This is the reason why the Diocese of Borongan, together with many people who rejoice with us, come together to celebrate the Eucharist, as an act of thanksgiving for this great gift—an advance Christmas gift!

But God brought this about through the instrumentality of men and women who labored for decades to bring them home.   To the list of various individuals and groups mentioned in the media, which included US and Philippine Presidents, senators, cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, historians, philanthropists, and many others who, in the words of US Ambassador Sung Kim, “worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the history of the bells and to advocate for their dignified return,” we might also add Philippine and US Bishops, Bishops of the Diocese of Borongan, priests, and Estehanon groups and individuals.

Thank God for their efforts.



But we have to ask:  What is the significance of the these bells?  Why are they so important to us?

Two perspectives.  To date, there are two major views on the bells that one reads from books and from traditional and social media. For many Filipinos, the bells symbolize courage, struggle for independence and victory over foreign invaders.  For many, on the other hand, they are trophies of war and represent a lasting memorial of the more than 50 American soldiers killed in the Balangiga massacre.

Third point of view.  But we need to take these as the only valid alternatives.  After all, both perspectives focus on the political use made of the bells.  As Catholics, we have to look at them from the point of view of faith.  We have to see them from what bells are all about, in the first place.



What is the meaning of church bells in Catholicism?

[1] First: Bells Are a Symbol of God’s Voice.  In the rite of blessing used during the Spanish times, Psalm 28 (29):4 which says, “vox Domini in virtus, voc Domini in magnificencia”, is used, obviously to point out that church bells symbolize the voice of God.  For a man of faith, when a church bell rings, he takes it as a call from God himself.

So, when the bell rings for the Mass, it is God who calls us to congregate as a community, as his own people. He calls us to form one family before his presence, his family that prays, and become brothers and sisters in Christ.

When the bell rings for baptism, wedding and funeral, it is God who calls us to experience his presence in the decisive moments of our existence. When the bell rings for the angelus, the anima, it is God himself who call us to pray in his Spirit.

[2] Second:  Bells are Means to Holiness.  But aside from its symbolism, bells are also means to holiness.  There is only one call for everyone, and it is to be holy.  Church bells are a help to that end.  This means that if one hears and obeys the sound of the bell, he or she is in the right direction of life.

This is the reason why, it is used, a church bell has to be blessed.  In fact, in the old rite of blessing, sacred oils were used in the interior and exterior of the bell.  Clearly, it becomes a sacred object.  It is transformed into a sacramental.  It sanctifies events in moments of our lives, it makes us aware of God’s presence in our daily talk and walk.

[3] Third:  Bells Are Set Apart for Sacred Use.  Also of importance to stress, the blessing of the bells is done to set it aside for the use of the service of God.  It is thus understandable that there were legislations in many countries against their use for merely secular purposes, and the church made it a principle that the control of bells rests on the clergy.  In Catholic observance, the doorkeeper (ostiarius) was ordained for that purpose, though in practice, the sacristan has control of them.

In accord with this principle, it is obvious that they cannot be used to signal a rebellion, or be converted into a war trophy.

[4] Fourth:  Church Bells Create Pilgrims.  What, however, does the bell mean for a person of faith who hears?  The bell is not an end in itself.  It is useless unless it is rang and heard.

When one hears the tolling of the bell, he moves from where he is, and the moment he travels toward the place where the bells rings, he becomes a pilgrim.  He becomes like Abraham who left his homeland and went to the land God had promised him.  Thus, he moves to where God is, in the church, in the Blessed Sacrament, in the liturgical celebrations.

Church bells, therefore, make a pilgrim out of the believer.  In effect, the life of a faithful pilgrim is linked to the pealing of the bells.  It reminds him to walk toward God, to walk in God and to walk with God.  I awakens in him sentiments of faith, hope and love.  It reminds him of his supernatural vocation—the kingdom of god is really his home.

[5] Fifth:  Bells Engender New Mary’s and Martha’s.  Because bells make the hearer a pilgrim to where God is, they make him a listener of God’s Word, and offeror of prayers, persevering in communion with others and exercising humble service of God in his fellow men.  It is not, therefore, without reason that in the old Ceremonial of Bishops, the blessing of bells concluded with the chanting from Luke 10:38-42 on the periscope on the hospitality of Mary and Martha.  Through the tolling of Church bells, new Mary’s and Martha’s are born.

Thus, it can be noticed that, in Catholic understanding, the bells are very rich in meaning.



But, how did this understanding of Church bells work in the context of a rural parish, like Balangiga?  To understand this, we have to go back to history.

Pre-Hispanic Village and the Reduccion Program. When the Spaniards came to the island of Samar, one of the major difficulties they encountered was the Samarenyo settlement pattern.  The natives were greatly dispersed.  Though pre-Hispanic natives speak of bungto, there were no towns yet, if by town we mean a concentration of houses with street divisions.  No, there was none.  The Samarenyos found it difficult to live afar from their fields.

One of the revolutionary steps the Spaniards embarked on was to engage in a program called reduccion.  Here, people were asked to adapt themselves to a town planning in which the church and the convent stand in front in front of the church plaza, and around the latter were the houses of the prominent men and other inhabitants.  A town must also have a tribunal and a cemetery.  It was always a source of pride and prestige for a village to have these basic structures and to have a resident priest.  No pueblo or municipality could be established without them.

In fact, during Spanish time, when there was a dearth of clocks and no sound system, it is not an exaggeration to say that the life of the village somehow revolves around the bell—it rang to tell them to gather for the Mass, to pray the Angelus, to succor the souls in purgatory during the anima, to tell the time, to announce big events, to signal emergencies, to wan of Moro raids or impending disaster.

Thus, the bell was an integral part of the Filipino village.  Its sound was the only one that could be heard by all.  Nobody could escape it, since people lived bajo las campanas.   No wonder, when the bells of a parish did not ring, it is as if the town were dead.  When I was young, my mother used to say, there is something missing when the church bell does not ring.  It is like Viernes Santo, when the death of our Lord is commemorated and bells are loudly silent.

Church Law on Bells.  Perhaps, one might wonder, how many bells should a parish have?  According to the law of the Church at that time, a parish should have at least two or three church bells.  It is not surprising, then, that Balangiga had three of them at the end of the Spanish regime.

Various Styles of Ringing the Bells.  But why three bells?  The reason is that, the differences in the manner of ringing them, and the number of bells employed indicate the nature of the celebrations and its rank in the hierarchy of celebrations. One can assume that during the Spanish period, the Balangiganons, just by listening to the pealing, knew and easily distinguished whether the bells were rang for mass, for angelus, for fiestas, for animas, for those in agony, for a dead man or dead women, or child, or for an impending disaster.

Knowing Church practice, one can assume that it was more likely that not just one but all the three bells were rang during the attack on the American camp in Balangiga on Sept. 28, 1901.

A Double-Dead Town.  When the Americans came back to Balangiga after the bloody affair, the town was dead. It was almost deserted. But not long after, the place became double-dead, because all its bells were transported elsewhere.  The town was deprived of an essential element of their bucolic life—the tolling of the three bells.  Understandably enough, the effort to bring back the bells did not simply reflect a longing for them a priceless heritage.   For a people of faith, it was an effort to reclaim an essential part of religious and cultural life.



But now that the bells are here, what does that mean for a people of faith?  Permit me to conclude this piece with two challenges, one at the level of action, the other at the level of faith.

A Museum for the Bells?  The bells considered in the light of their significance in Catholicism and their cultural context in the parish, the most logical thing to do is to put the bells in the right place—a bell tower, and use them in accord with the intention of the owner—the Catholic Church.  To place them in a museum, whether in Balangiga or elsewhere, is virtually to kill them.  To ring them again is to give them life, to be truthful and faithful to the purposes for which they were cast.

This, of course, is not to overlook the significance it has acquired for the nation after the Balangiga affair, but, for people of faith, there are values the bells represent that transcend political concerns.

Moreover, it would be more in accord with the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness between the United States and the Philippines to put them in the place where they were before the Philippine-American conflict—the parish church.  That would even strengthen the bond between the two countries forged after Independence to date, and bury hate and conflict that were kindled during that deplorable episode of history.

On the other hand, there is simply something not right and fair to removing the bells from American memorials to victory in Wyoming and South Korea if they would only wind up in a museum glorifying Filipino resistance.

Allowing God to Speak.  But an even greater challenge is something religious.  There are actually many in this regard, but one is enough for our purpose.  Once the bells are installed, can they serve as real reminder for us all to allow God to speak to us?  Shall we truly respond to God’s call through the clear voice of the bells and listen attentively to his words?  Will the return of these bells become a new launching pad for a new evangelization in the parish, in the diocese, and even in the Church in the Philippines?

That, perhaps, may appear like a tall order, but we can settle for what is more pragmatic.  At the minimum, can they become a motivation for people to gather for Sunday Mass in numbers larger than usual?   Will they make of us more prayerful than before?  Can they serve as reminder for us about God’s presence in our lives and in all that we do, and not to succumb to the two subtle enemies of holiness—new Gnosticism and new Pelagianism—that Pope Francis mentions in his apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate?

The answer to that, I submit, can probably make the return for the bells truly more meaningful to us as a people of faith.*

Today's Readings Homilies

December 16, 2018

Sat, 12/15/2018 - 23:28
Third Sunday of Advent

Reading 1 ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you
he has turned away your enemies;
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6.

R. (6) Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.

R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.

R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!

R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Reading 2 PHIL 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Alleluia IS 61:1 (Cited In Lk 4:18)

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

Today's Readings Homilies

Reports of Pell guilty verdict emerge, despite gag order

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 22:18

Cardinal George Pell speaks with CNA at the Vatican March 17 2016. Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA

by Ed Condon

December 14, 2018

Washington D.C.

Cardinal George Pell has been convicted by an Australian court on charges of sexual abuse of minors, according to media reports and CNA sources close to the cardinal.

A judicial gag order has restricted Australian media coverage of the trial since June.

Despite the gag order, a story published Dec. 11 on the Daily Beast website first reported that a unanimous verdict of guilty had been returned by a jury on charges that Pell sexually abused two altar servers in the late 1990s, while he was Archbishop of Melbourne.

The verdict reportedly followed three days of deliberations by the jury – the second to hear the case. An earlier hearing of the case is reported to have ended in early autumn with a mistrial, after jurors were unable to reach a verdict.

In October, two sources close to Cardinal Pell, members of neither his legal team nor the Catholic hierarchy in Australia, told CNA that the first hearing of the case had ended in a mistrial due to a jury stalemate. One source said that jury was deadlocked 10-2 in favor of Pell.

In remarks to CNA Dec. 12, the same sources independently confirmed this week’s report that a guilty verdict had been reached.

The conviction has not yet been confirmed by the Australian judiciary, and the gag order on Australian media could remain in place for several months.

Pell will reportedly be sentenced in early 2019. He will not be incarcerated prior to his sentencing.

Citing deference to the gag order, the Vatican has declined to comment on reports of the guilty verdict.

“The Holy See has the utmost respect for the Australian courts. We are aware there is a suppression order in place and we respect that order,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told reporters Dec 12.

Pell has been accused of multiple instances of sexual abuse of minors. In May, lawyers for the cardinal petitioned the County Court of Victoria to split the allegations into two trials, one dealing with the accusations from Melbourne, and another dealing with accusations related to his time as a priest in Ballarat in the 1970s.

As the trial for the Melbourne allegations began in June, the judge imposed a sweeping injunction preventing media from reporting on the progress of the case. The gag order reportedly remains in force, over concerns that the verdict could influence the outcome of the second trial, which is expected to be heard early in 2019.

Pell has been on leave from his position as prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy since 2017. Pell asked Pope Francis to allow him to step back from his duties to travel home to Australia to defend himself against the charges, which he has consistently denied.

Prior to his appointment to the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, Pell served as the Archbishop of Sydney.

In October, Pope Francis removed Pell, along with Cardinal Javier Errazuriz and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, from the C9 Council of Cardinals charged with helping the pope draft a new constitution for the Holy See’s governing structure.

In April 2018, Robert Richter, the lead attorney on Pell’s legal team, refuted the allegations made against Pell.

“The allegations are a product of fantasy, the product of some mental problems that the complainant may or may not have, or just pure invention in order to punish the representative of the Catholic Church in this country,” Richter said.

Richter further said that the accusations were “not to be believed,” and were “improbable, if not impossible.”

Until the imposition of the gag order in June, Pell had been the subject of sustained media attention in Australia, prompting the order. The extent of hostile attention directed at Pell by several Australian outlets, even prior to the accusations being made, led to a public debate in some sections of the Australian media about whether it would be possible to find an impartial jury for the cardinal.

Although the gag order was issued, one source called the integrity of the proceeding into question. In remarks to CNA, he called the trial a “farce” and a “witch hunt.” He said that Australian prosecutors were determined to secure a conviction, despite the earlier mistrial.

“They kept going until they got the jury who’d give them what they want,” the source told CNA.

Last week, another Australian court overturned the recent conviction of the former Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, on charges he failed to report complaints of sexual abuse.

Newcastle District Court Judge Roy Ellis said Dec. 6 that the Crown had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Archbishop Wilson did not report abuse committed by Fr. James Fletcher, when Fletcher was charged in 2004 with child abuse which occurred between 1989 and 1991.

The judge also noted the possibility of undue media influence on the case.

“This is not a criticism of media, but intended or not, the mere presence of large amounts of media from all around Australia and the world carries with it a certain amount of pressure on the court,” Ellis stated.

The heavy media presence “may amount to perceived pressure for a court to reach a conclusion which seems to be consistent with the direction of public opinion, rather than being consistent with the rule of law that requires a court to hand down individual justice in its decision-making processes.”

“The potential for media pressure to impact judicial independence may be subtle or indeed subversive in the sense that it is the elephant in the room that no one sees or acknowledges or wants to see or acknowledge,” Ellis said.

He added that Wilson could not be convicted merely because the “Catholic Church has a lot to answer for in terms of its historical self-protective approach” to clerical sex abuse. “Philip Wilson when he appears before this court is simply an individual who has the same legal rights as every other person in our community.”

“It is not for me to punish the Catholic Church for its institutional moral deficits, or to punish Philip Wilson for the sins of the now deceased James Fletcher by finding Philip Wilson guilty, simply on the basis that he is a Catholic priest.”

If the decision is confirmed, Pell can appeal to the Supreme Court in Victoria, and from there to the Australian High Court.

Sainthood cause advances for Jesuit missionary in Mindanao

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 21:37

A copy of the Declaration of Validity of the Diocesan Process for the Cause of Martyrdom of the Servant of God Francesco Palliola, SJ from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints dated October 26, 2018.

By Roy Lagarde

December 14, 2018

Manila, Philippines

The inquiry into the sainthood cause for a 16th century Jesuit “martyr” has moved forward with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints issuing a declaration that the investigation is valid.

The declaration dated Oct. 26 came less than a year after the Diocese of Dipolog submitted the result of its inquiry into Fr. Francesco Palliola’s life to the Vatican in November 2017.

“This is good news for, in brief, the declaration of validity gives permission for the postulator of the said cause to start with the composition of the ‘positio,’” said diocese’s spokesman Fr. Patrick Dalangin.

The positio is a biography and official position documenting the Palliola’s life and works in order to prove his martyrdom.

The cause convenes theological, historical and professional consultants.

If majority of the theologians are in favor, the cause for martyrdom is passed on for examination to the cardinals and bishops members of the Congregation.

An affirmative vote is needed from the cardinals and bishops before they present the cause to the pope, who approves and authorizes the Congregation to draft a decree declaring the candidate a martyr.

For a martyr, no miracle is required. Thus when the pope approves the position declaring that the person was been martyred for the faith, the title “Blessed” is granted.

The cause of martyrdom of Palliola was opened in January 2016 and was formally closed in September 2017 by Bishop Severo Caermare at the Holy Rosary Cathedral in Dipolog City.

Palliola was born in May 1612, entered the Society in 1637, and arrived in Manila in 1643, then in Dapitan the following year.

He mastered Visayan and preached in it. But seeing how the Lumad community of the Subanen could hardly understand Visayan, he studied and learned the Subanen language. The missionary is credited as being the first European and Jesuit to do so.

While stationed at Dapitan, he went on missionary journeys to establish the settlements of Ilaya, Dipolog, Dicayo and Dohinob, Ponot and Quipit.

When Josef Zanzini (aka José Sanchez) was assigned as his assistant, he left Zanzini in charge of the Visayan communities while he devoted himself to the Lumads.

He also established visitas as far south as the boundaries between present-day Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur.

While visiting Ponot to reconcile a Subanon named Tampilo, who had turned away from the Christian faith, he was killed by Tampilo and his co-conspirators in the early morning of January 29, 1648.

“While dying, he forgave his enemies, commended himself to Jesus and Mary. He died clutching the rosary and a crucifix he brought from Europe,” said Dalangin.

Since his death 370 years ago, his memory lingers in Zamboanga del Norte. In fact, a street in the town of Manukan is named after him.

He also figures in the oral stories of the Subanen, remembered as “a loving and protective father”.

“The site of Fr. Palliola’s martyrdom has been a place of pilgrimage over the years,” Dalangin added.

Bishop Caermare implores everyone to pray for a prompt declaration of martyrdom of Fr. Palliola and his beatification, hoping that the country will have its third saint, and the first from Mindanao.

December 15, 2018

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 21:00
Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

Reading 1 SIR 48:1-4, 9-11

In those days,
like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah
whose words were as a flaming furnace.
Their staff of bread he shattered,
in his zeal he reduced them to straits;
By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens
and three times brought down fire.
How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses.
You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD,
To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons,
and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.
Blessed is he who shall have seen you
and who falls asleep in your friendship.

Responsorial Psalm PS 80:2AC AND 3B, 15-16, 18-19

R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power.

R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
Take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.

R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Alleluia LK 3:4, 6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths:
All flesh shall see the salvation of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 17:9A, 10-13

As they were coming down from the mountain,
the disciples asked Jesus,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things;
but I tell you that Elijah has already come,
and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.
So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood
that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Today's Readings Homilies

Balangiga bells land in Eastern Samar

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 15:38

By Roy Lagarde
December 14, 2018

Philippine Air Force personnel unload the Balangiga bells from the C-130 aircraft after it arrived from Manila at the Guiuan Airport in Eastern Samar on Friday, Dec. 14. The church bells will be formally turned over by the government to the parish of St. Lawrence the Martyr, Deacon and Martyr in a historic ceremony to be attended by President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday.

Father of Knights of Columbus in the Philippines


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