MANILA, Nov. 7, 2013—Amid the increasing involvement of the Philippine Church to the political affairs of the state, the incoming president of the collegial body of Catholic bishops in the country reminded members of the ordained ministry not to directly involve themselves in partisan politics.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that instead of basking in the political limelight, deacons, priests, and bishops must instead focus on their role of bringing Christ closer to the people and fulfilling the church’s mission of becoming the “conscience of society.”
“The church should never be a kingmaker, a power broker in the world because if the church will marry a political party, the church will become a widow in the next generation,” Villegas said in the fourth episode of his “The Life of Faith” videos posted in video-sharing website YouTube.
“The church can never do that because it is the bride of Christ…(It) was founded by Jesus Christ, and it has a spiritual mission in the world. The church is in the world, but the church does not belong to this world for it belongs to the world of God,” he added.
He said that above all, the church must focus on fulfilling its mission of total evangelization and promoting goodwill among humanity, primarily through teaching them to become more sensitive to the plight of less fortunate individuals.
Villegas also noted that the church is responsible of urging the laity to engage in business, economics, politics, and all other straits of society in a manner that is “configured into Christ.”
“When you speak of society, you speak of the government, peace and order, and economics…The church composed of lay people should encourage the lay people to engage in economics, business, and politics the way Christ would do it,” he said.
“So that more and more, our society will be configured into Christ, so every human being will act, talk, and think like Jesus,” Villegas added.
The initial findings of the National Filipino Catholic Youth Survey (NFCYS) 2013 showed that the youth negatively perceives the involvement of the church in various political advocacies, especially concerning the Reproductive Health Law seeking to use taxpayers’ money to fund artificial forms of contraception.
Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon, outgoing chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Youth (CBCP-ECY), earlier expressed lament over the survey results and said that it is time to understand why the youth negatively perceives the involvement of the church to the political affairs of the state.
“There seems to be a negative attitude (among the young) when the Church goes along this line. We need to understand why. Is it because they feel that the Church is venturing into an area where She should not be?” Baylon said.
The survey involved a sample population of 2,016 young people with single civil status from 18 universities and schools, 34 archdioceses, dioceses and vicariates, and 192 parishes all over the country, according to an article posted in the CEAP website.
‘Conscience of society’
Expounding on the church as the “conscience of society”, Villegas said that is through the fulfillment of this role that the church influences society to shun materialism and be more concerned with the enrichment of humanity.
“What do we mean when we say we are the conscience of society? We say that we bring soul into society,” he said.
“The Lord said, ‘What will profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul?’ Put together all the money and property in the world, you could not bring that to your grave. We enter into this world naked, naked we will return,” he added.
He also emphasized the importance of pondering over the spiritual mission of the church manifested through the care and concern given to one’s neighbors.
“At the end of our lives, we will only be judged according to what we did to the body of each one—feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the lonely. These are the works that are truly spiritual because this is the work of Jesus,” he said.
“What is the mission of the church? To become Jesus for the world because the world is looking for meaning, the world is looking for God,” he said.
“We pray that everybody in this world looking for God will look at the church, the people of God, and will say, ‘See those believers, see those Christians, how they love one another’,” he said. (Jennifer Orillaza)