.MANILA, May 1, 2015 – For the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), welcoming non-Catholics is preferable to being just tolerant towards them, calling on the faithful to learn from Pope Francis who earns admiration by reaching out to people of various faith traditions, especially those who have less in life.
“Tolerance is not good enough, for toleration is ‘letting be’, and is perfectly consistent with being indifferent if not secretly spiteful of the other. It is not tolerating the other that is the Christian precept, but a welcome of the other, particularly those that the Scriptures call the ‘anawim’…the poor of the Lord, they who have none else to defend them,” said CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas in a talk during an interfaith dialogue held at the University of Santo Tomás (UST) on Thursday, April 30.
While the Holy Father’s efforts at inclusion and reconciliation are commendable in themselves, Villegas noted it will not do for Catholics to “merely to look up at him and applaud”, stressing all must join the pontiff, and take his cue in “bringing forth the fruits of faith.”
“He means to show the way, and to prove to all that with a heart that is full to the brim with invincible love made possible only by as invincible a faith in a God of love, then one can sit peaceably at table with men and women who invoke God by other names and to break bread with them as brothers and sisters. It is not enough to beam at news of Pope Francis breaking barriers. We must join him in bringing forth the fruits of faith!” he explained.
Opportunity to dialogue
According to Villegas, the Holy Father grabs every opportunity to pray with persons of other faiths, welcoming every chance to dialogue with them on issues that matter to the world.
“He is welcoming because he truly loves. And that is the key to it all. One of the ancient hymns of the Church captures it well: Ubi caritas et amor, ibi Deus est!…Where charity and love are, there God is!” he said.
Villegas shared it should not matter much if people address God using different names, or even if some hold other texts as sacred.
“We will respect these differences; we will rejoice in them and be enriched by them. But we must recognize that when we can live in love, dialogue in love, pray in love and make room for each other in love, there God’s face is resplendent!” he said.
Moreover, Villegas expressed disagreement with the secularist assertion that blames religion for all the miseries and sufferings that beset mankind.
“No, religion is not the cause of the misery the world suffers. It is rather because God’s face is eclipsed by political and economic agenda, ideologies and affiliations that we have been scourged by hardly atrocities without precedent. It is because the men and women who make decisions allow the arrogance of office and the intoxication of power to dull the mercy and compassion by which alone God is worshipped and glorified,” the prelate added. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)