University of the Philippines Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan postulated in an INQUIRER.net column that a majority of Filipinos believe in a somewhat distant but intervening God, literally a “tatay” [father] in the stereotyped sense. Filipinos tend to believe that natural disasters and personal misfortunes are punishment from God for our sins. But, Tan writes, “we also tend to see our relationships with that God as negotiable. We bargain all the time, vowing to do several novenas or have ourselves nailed to the cross in Lent, on condition that a certain favor is granted.”
It may even be more confusing than that. Filipino Catholics believe in a dysfunctional Holy Trinity, believing in an Authoritarian God the Father, in a Benevolent God the Son, and in a somewhat Critical or Distant God the Holy Spirit.
But there is another dynamic involved. More than any other Catholic country in the world, the Philippines has embraced the Blessed Virgin Mary. Unlike Catholic churches in the US, Philippine churches all exhibit iconic images of the Holy Mother.
This tradition goes all the way back to the origins of Christianity in the Philippines. The first church erected in Manila, the Nuestra Señora de Guia (the Ermita Church), prominently featured a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Over 100 Philippine parishes honor the Immaculate Conception, over 60 are dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, while others carry various titles like the Assumption, Our Lady of Carmel, Mother of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Lourdes.
Pope Francis shares a similar devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Filipinos do. Pope Francis has explained that the Virgin Mary is not worshiped as a God but is venerated as the highest of God’s creatures “owing to her personal holiness, her assent to become Christ’s earthly mother, and her faithfulness up to and beyond the Crucifixion.” She is considered the first and model Christian, and since Catholics believe she lives on in Heaven, they turn to her to pray for them and offer support in hard times.
The Pope’s devotion to Mary was evident during his visit to the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil during World Youth Day Rio in late July 2014. In his homily, Pope Francis said, “When the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks, ‘Show us Jesus.’ It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on missions in the footsteps of Mary.”
Mother Mary is the embodiment of mercy and compassion and in the belief in a benevolent and caring God.
The Philippine is the only country in the world that does not allow divorce (the Vatican is not a country) owing to the deep influence of the Catholic Church. Does this policy favor or oppress women? Does a merciful and compassionate God oppose divorce?
“Filipinos are in dire need of mercy and compassion.” This was the message of Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, to the attendees of the one-day spiritual gathering titled “A Nation of Mercy and Compassion” last week at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church in the University of Santo Tomas (UST).
Archbishop Villegas urged Catholics to look at Jesus to recognize that humanity is “poor and in need of God’s love. See the suffering of Jesus as your own sufferings and his pains as our own pains. Look at Jesus and see how he had suffered for his love for us,” he said
The best way to look at Jesus, the Archbishop said, is to look at Pope Francis, who is the “sweet scent and odor of Jesus.”
“There is no better place, but to look at the face of Pope Francis. Let us listen, watch, and stand by the Pope and you’ll see yourself looking and listening to Jesus,” he added.
The press release about the Archbishop’s UST address reported that “he reminded the attendees that mercy and compassion, which is the theme for the Pope’s apostolic visit, is a gift from God that needs to be shared.”
If what Archbishop Villegas declared is true, then Filipinos share Pope Francis’ view of a Benevolent God. This image of God, according to the Baylor report, is a “more powerful a predictor of social and political views than the usual markers of church attendance or belief in the Bible.”
Under Francis, a Bolder Vision of Vatican Diplomacy Re-emerges
By JIM YARDLEY
DEC. 18, 2014
ROME — Perhaps the timing was purely coincidental. But a day after he was credited with helping to broker the historic diplomatic breakthrough between Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis began his Thursday morning by greeting a new crop of envoys to the Vatican, and offering some advice.
“The work of an ambassador lies in small steps, small things, but they always end up making peace, bringing closer the hearts of people, sowing brotherhood among people,” he said. “This is your job, but with little things, tiny things.”
Yet if the Vatican has long practiced a methodical, discreet brand of diplomacy, what has changed under Francis — or has been restored — is a vision of diplomatic boldness, a willingness to take risks and insert the Vatican into diplomatic disputes, especially where it can act as an independent broker.
Even as the Vatican has spent decades building trust in Cuba, and working steadily to break down the impasse with the United States, it was Francis who took the fateful risks — writing secret letters to President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba, and then offering the Vatican for a secret and critical meeting between both sides in October.
The comparison now cited by many analysts is with Pope John Paul II. If the two popes are not always simpatico on ideology, both men have understood how to use the papacy in a global media age and use the power of personal biography to help position the Vatican as a neutral broker.
Just as John Paul, the first Polish pope, had a unique credibility as a voice against Communism in Eastern Europe, so, too, does Francis — the first Latin American pope — now benefit from a unique credibility in the developing world.
“There are elements to Francis that are John Paul-esque,” said Francis Campbell, a former British ambassador to the Holy See, adding that Francis had embraced the bully pulpit provided by the papacy. “The papacy is one of the world’s great opinion formers. Whether people agree with it or disagree with it, it has a huge voice.”
It is far too soon to know how much Francis can influence other contentious global issues. He hosted a June “prayer summit” with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents that provided a photo-op but seemingly brought few concrete results. Soon after, Israel ordered an assault in Gaza against Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.
Francis has also inherited longstanding Vatican standoffs, including with Saudi Arabia, and especially China, where the Holy See and the Chinese government are engaged in a decades-old diplomatic impasse over which side will control bishops in China’s state-sanctioned Catholic churches.
The delicacy of the China issue was evident last week, when Francis refused to meet the Dalai Lama, apparently to avoid offending the Chinese, who regard the Tibetan spiritual leader as an enemy.
Yet, judging from his itinerary, Francis is pushing to establish the Vatican as a trusted diplomatic broker. In less than two years as pope, he has already traveled to the Middle East, Turkey, South Korea, Brazil, Albania, France and the Italian island of Lampedusa, where he called attention to the plight of migrants. Next month, he will travel to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and next fall he will make his first visit to the United States.
Francis inherited a Vatican bureaucracy in disarray and tainted with scandal after the unexpected resignation of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Benedict was seen as an inattentive administrator, and one of his senior aides, former Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, has been blamed for poor management and was later investigated for corruption.
Francis has revamped the bureaucracy, delegating financial tasks to a new economy ministry while appointing diplomats to key posts elsewhere, most notably his second-in-command, Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, an Italian cardinal who has led delicate Vatican negotiations with Vietnam and served as apostolic nuncio, or ambassador, in Venezuela.
Unlike during the Benedict era, Francis and Cardinal Parolin are seen as working in tandem — the charismatic pope and the methodical diplomat.
“This pope governs together with the secretary of state — he doesn’t let him act separately and independently like before,” said Paolo Rodari, a Vatican expert at La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper. He added that Francis had quickly built a rapport with world leaders. “He establishes relationships very easily,” he said.
In the past, the Vatican was often regarded by the non-Western world as aligned with Europe or the United States. An Argentine, Francis has regularly sought to place himself in a more neutral position, often in subtle ways.
Speaking to journalists on the papal airplane after his trip to Turkey, Francis did not hesitate to criticize the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, yet he also spoke empathetically about the negative perceptions, linked to terrorism, that are often endured by Muslims.
“So many Muslims feel offended; they say: ‘But that is not what we are. The Quran is a prophetic book of peace. This isn’t Islam,’ ” he said. “I can understand this.”
For his role in the Cuban diplomacy, Francis was following in the footsteps of John Paul, who visited the island in 1998 and called for the United States to lift the economic blockade. At the time, there had been speculation that John Paul’s trip might break the U.S.-Cuba stalemate, but it did not happen.
Even so, analysts said Catholic leaders had continued to nudge the Cuban government for change. During the 1990s, several American bishops made regular forays to Cuba, criticizing the blockade and placing attention on the difficulties faced by ordinary people.
Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archbishop of Havana, is credited with adroitly navigating the difficult role of defending the church against government persecution, even as he kept contacts alive with the Cuban authorities.
Cardinal Ortega also happened to be in Rome on Oct. 3 and met with Francis, according to Vatican records, raising the possibility that he, too, attended the secret October meeting that is credited with sealing the diplomatic deal.
“Ortega has always pushed for a gradual reform of the regime, for opening up, but at the same time he has been a trustworthy partner for the government — and with the full support of John Paul II, Benedict and Francis,” said Marco Politi, an author and veteran Vatican analyst.
In the end, though, it was Francis who helped engineer the final breakthrough. “Francis has brought back the Holy See on the international stage,” Mr. Politi said.
Associated Press 1:55 AM | Wednesday, December 24th, 2014
VATICAN CITY—To the Catholic Church’s “seven deadly sins,” Pope Francis has added the “15 ailments of the Curia.”
Francis issued a blistering indictment of the Vatican bureaucracy on Monday, accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who serve him of using their Vatican careers to grab power and wealth, of living “hypocritical” double lives and forgetting that they’re supposed to be joyful men of God.
Francis turned the traditional, genteel exchange of Christmas greetings into a public dressing down of the Curia, the central administration of the Holy See which governs the 1.2-billion-strong Catholic Church.
He made clear that his plans for a radical reform of the structures of Church power must be accompanied by an even more radical spiritual reform of the men involved.
Ticking off 15 “ailments of the Curia” one by one, Francis urged the prelates sitting stone-faced before him in the marbled Sala Clementina to use the Christmas season to repent and atone and make the Church a healthier, holier place in 2015.
Vatican watchers said they had never heard such a powerful, violent speech from a Pope and suggested that it was informed by the results of a secret investigation ordered up by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the aftermath of the 2012 leaks of his papers.
Benedict tasked three trusted cardinals to probe deep into the Vatican’s back-stabbing culture to root out what would have prompted a papal butler to steal incriminating documents and leak them to a journalist. Their report is known only to the two Popes.
Francis had some zingers:
How the “terrorism of gossip” can “kill the reputation of our colleagues and brothers in cold blood.”
How cliques can “enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body” and eventually kill it off by “friendly fire.”
How some suffer from “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” forgetting what drew them to the priesthood in the first place.
“The Curia is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fulfill its mission,” Francis said. “But even it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions, illnesses.”
Francis, who is the first Latin American Pope and has never worked in the Italian-dominated Curia before he was elected, has not shied from complaining about the gossiping, careerism and bureaucratic power intrigues that afflict the Holy See.
His 2013 Christmas address cast a spotlight on such sins.
But a year into his reform agenda, Francis seemed even more emboldened to make clear to the prelates themselves that superficial displays of change aren’t what he is looking for.
“This is a speech without historic precedent,” Church historian Alberto Melloni, a contributor to Italian daily Corriere della Sera, said in a telephone interview. “If the Pope uses this tone, it’s because he knows it’s necessary.”
Melloni noted that until Francis was elected, the Vatican bureaucracy largely answered to no one, saying “an entire generation of the Curia ran it as if they were the Pope.”
St. John Paul II was too busy traveling the world, and later too sick to pay attention to administrative details. For his part, Benedict left the minutiae of running a government to his deputy, later determined to have been part of the problem.
The Rev. Robert Wister, a Church historian at Seton Hall University, said Francis was essentially asking the Curia to undergo an examination of conscience, asking them to reflect on how they had sinned before God before going to confession.
“Perhaps he believes that only a severe rebuke can help turn things around,” he said.
The cardinals were not amused. Few smiled as Francis spoke, and at the end they offered only tepid applause to a speech that was so carefully prepared it had footnotes and Biblical references.
Francis greeted each cardinal, but there was little Christmas cheer in the room.
It is, to be fair, a difficult time for the Curia. Francis and his nine key cardinal advisers are drawing up plans to revamp the whole bureaucratic structure, merging offices to make them more efficient and responsive.
Francis has said though that while this structural reform is moving ahead, what is taking much longer is the “spiritual reform” of the people involved.
The Vatican’s finances are also in the midst of an overhaul, with Francis’ finance czar, Cardinal George Pell, imposing new accounting and budget measures on traditionally independent congregations not used to having their books inspected.
Francis started off his list with the “ailment of feeling immortal, immune or even indispensable.”
Then one by one he went on: Being rivals and boasting. Wanting to accumulate things. Having a “hardened heart.” Wooing superiors for personal gain. Having a “funereal face” and being too “rigid, tough and arrogant,” especially toward underlings—a possible reference to the recently relieved Swiss Guard commander said to have been too tough on his recruits for Francis’ tastes.
Some critiques could have been seen as worthy of praise: Working too hard and planning too much ahead. But even those traits came in for criticism as Francis noted that people who don’t take time off to be with family are overly stressed, and those who plan everything to a “T” don’t allow themselves to be surprised by the “freshness, fantasy and novelty” of the Holy Spirit.
At the end of the speech, Francis asked the prelates to pray that the “wounds of the sins that each one of us carries are healed” and that the Church and Curia itself are made healthy.
Originally posted at 8:49 am | Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Billions of pesos in Church funds locked in stocks
(UPDATED) The Church has investments in banking, oil, energy, information technology, food and beverages, construction, and mining
Published 7:30 AM, Jan 11, 2015
Updated 2:53 PM, Jan 11, 2015
Part 1: Can we know how rich the Catholic Church is?
AT A GLANCE:
One of the richest dioceses in the world, the Archdiocese of Manila leads the way, with its hospitals and other companies engaged in the stock market
As of December 29, 2014, the value of stocks of the archdiocese and its subsidiary companies parked in different companies listed in the PSE amounted to more than P30 billion
The Archdiocese of Manila decided to pull out investments in oil and mining to be consistent with its teachings
The Church now has a “negative list” where investments should not be placed because these “go against Church teachings.” These include firms that engage in mining, gambling, and child labor.
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In the repair and renovation of the Manila Cathedral, not a single centavo was spent by the Archdiocese of Manila.
Big-time philanthropists shouldered 90% of the entire cost, according to former chief justice Artemio Panganiban, who was tapped by the Church to spearhead the fund-raising. When Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle gave the go-signal for the project, there was no money to spare.
“The Church has money for operations but not for construction,” Panganiban told Rappler.
To be sure, on its own, the archdiocese can well afford to finance the undertaking.
In fact, whenever the financial board of the Archdiocese of Manila sits down, its main agenda “is what to do with the money,” a long-time Church adviser relates.
Like other organized religions, one would be hard pressed to assume that the dominant faith in the country is lacking in resources. The more difficult challenge is to determine the actual worth of the Catholic Church, considering its errant financial reporting to regulatory bodies.
One way of assessing the financial status of the Church is through its stock investments, where companies are required to disclose their biggest stockholders. Although it does not capture the entire picture, it provides a bird’s eye-view of how much and where Church funds are.
A check with the PSE showed that the Church is a major player in the stock market, with billions of pesos in funds locked in shares. It has investments in banking, oil, information technology, energy, food and beverages, construction, and mining.
Solidifying its reputation as still one of the richest dioceses in the world, the Archdiocese of Manila leads the way, with its hospitals and other companies engaged in the stock market. It can be argued that it is the most liquid among the dioceses in the Philippines.
As of December 29, 2014, the value of stocks of the archdiocese and its subsidiary companies parked in different companies listed in the PSE amounted to more than P30 billion.*
A money-oriented website, pinoymoneytalk.com, has compiled an initial list of Church stocks in several blue chips companies, including BPI and energy firm First Philippine Holdings Inc.
Rappler scoured latest public disclosures and collated the following:
Table 1. Archdiocese of Manila’s stock investments
Company Shares Value
BPI 327,904,251 P30 billion
First Phil. Holdings 463,238 P41.64 million
Concrete Aggregates Corp. 102,609 P7.18 million
Central Azucarera de Tarlac 42,652 P3.97 million
Philex Petroleum 402,641 P2 million
ISM Communication Corp. 56,020 P84,030
Philodrill 25,357,500 P 456,435
Fifth biggest BPI owner
With BPI, the Archdiocese of Manila is the 5th largest stockholder, equivalent to 8.35% share.
The Archdiocese appears to have consolidated its share in BPI. Based on a December 31, 2010 disclosure, its percentage share was pegged at 6%, with 3 Church-run hospitals – Hospital de San Juan de Dios, Hospital de San Jose, and St Paul Hospital, owning less than 1% of the total share of stocks. Two other Church related entities – Real Casa Misericordia and Mayordomia deal Cathedral – also had substantial shares.
By September 30, 2014, these Church entities were no longer in the list of top 100 stockholders in the bank. Still, the Church investment is equivalent to one seat in the BPI board of directors. “The Church used to have 3 seats before but its shares have been diluted,” the Church financial adviser said.
With oil firm Philex Petroleum, the Archdiocese was number 14 in its list of 100 top stockholders as of April 2014. However, by September 2014, the Church had apparently divested its shares.
The archdiocese had earlier divested its share from Philex Petroleum’s sister company, Philex Mining Corporation, where it used to be number 16 in the top 100 stockholders. As of January 10, 2011, the archdiocese had more than 3 million shares in the mining firm. By June, 2011, the archdiocese was no longer on the list.
The Church financial adviser said that the archdiocese decided to divest from the oil and mining company to be consistent with its teachings. In 1998, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Phillippines issued a pastoral statement criticizing large-scale mining as destructive to the environment.
But some dioceses are not practicing what they’re preaching.
It's not only the Archdiocese of Manila that’s dabbling in stocks. The archdioceses of Zamboanga, Tuguegarao, Nueva Segovia de Vigan, Jaro, and the dioceses of Butuan and Sorsogon also have placements in the stock market.
Table 2. Stock investments per archdiocese/diocese
Archdiocese Company Shares Value
Zamboanga BPI 269,982 P25.378 million
Philex Mining 1,116,147 P8.426 million
Philex Petroleum 139,518 P703,170
Jaro BPI 491,385 P46.19 million
Tuguegarao San Miguel Corp. 856,639 P62.535 million
Ayala Corp. 28,281 P20 million
Nueva Segovia San Miguel Corp. 428,067 P31.248 million
Sorsogon Phinma 25,545 P255,450
Butuan Phinma 153,880 P1.539 million
While bishops and archbishops are only titular CEOs in their respective dioceses and ecclesiastical goods, in essence, are not their personal assets, retired Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan had stocks parked with Phinma under his name totalling 35,066 shares worth P350,660.
The reported Church shares listed above exclude investments that Catholic religious groups have placed in the stock market.
Based on the PSE disclosures, the Religious of the Virgin Mary rivals the Archdiocese of Manila in stock placements.
The Archdiocese of Manila’s financial empire was built by the late Cardinal Rufino Santos. Known as a financial genius, Santos spearheaded the Church’s diversification that included companies that, in hindsight, operate businesses that conflict with the Church teachings.
But things have changed since then.
The Church financial adviser said the Church has a “negative list” where investments should not be placed because these “go against Church teachings.” These include firms that engage in mining, gambling, and child labor.
The financial adviser admits that it took some time for the Church to be consciously selective about where to put its money, referring to its previous investments in Philex Mining. “It takes some time for consciousness to take root,” the adviser explained.
Consciously, the Archdiocese of Manila is trying to simplify its complex cash system, the Church financial adviser added.
The revamp could include divesting some of its investments in businesses that are not profitable or could invite controversy in the future. – with reports from Rey Santos Jr/Rappler.com
Behind the scenes: The Pope most Filipinos didn't see
'There is no difference between how he is in public and how he is in private,' the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines tells Rappler
Paterno Esmaquel II
Published 5:45 PM, Feb 01, 2015
Updated 10:07 AM, Feb 02, 2015
MANILA, Philippines – Days after Pope Francis left the Philippines, anecdotes from different people, who met him privately, revealed the person he is when the cameras stop rolling.
Who is Francis behind the scenes?
“There is no difference between how he is in public and how he is in private,” the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, said in an interview with Rappler on Friday, January 30.
To paint a picture of Francis as he is in private, Rappler compiled mostly unheard stories about the Pope in the Apostolic Nunciature or the Vatican embassy in Manila, aboard the papal plane, and in Leyte, the province worst hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013.
This is the Pope most Filipinos didn't see.
1. Pope to nuncio: 'Did you change anything?'
Before coming to the Philippines, the Pope ordered the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, “not to renovate the room where he will stay in the Apostolic Nunciature.” (READ: FAST FACTS: Apostolic Nunciature in PH)
After all, this is a simple Pope who chose to live in a guesthouse at the Vatican, not the Apostolic Palace.
“So when he came,” Villegas recalled, “the first question he asked was, 'Did you change anything here?' And of course, the Apostolic Nuncio said, 'Nothing, as you instructed us.'”
The Pope replied, “But what is the difference between now and when you were using it?”
“And the Nuncio said, 'It's cleaner,'” a laughing Villegas recalled. “So he understood that you just have to clean it for him. And that's him, that's him.”
2. Pope gets choice to say Mass in backstage
For around 10 minutes after the Pope reached the backstage, the thousands at the Tacloban Airport waited. Rob Roa, a Jesuit volunteer, described this as one of their “tensest moments,” after the Pope “was hurried into a private tent.”
In a blog for Rappler, Roa said the crowd “was advised that Pope Francis could either celebrate Mass on a smaller altar in the stage background away from the rain, or in the tent” while everyone else “watched on the many giant screens around.”
Villegas would never forget the scenes in that private tent, which served as a sacristy, where priests wear their robes and prepare for the liturgy.
“In Tacloban, he was given an option to celebrate the Mass in the sacristy, with the cameras, and to be projected on the LED screen,” Villegas said.
The CBCP president recounted the look on the Pope's face: “From his facial expression, he said, 'But why? The people are under the rain; I should be with them.'”
“It was a decision to celebrate the Mass in public where he could be seen, where he could feel what the people were feeling,” he added.
In a media briefing on January 17, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle also recalled that after the Mass in Tacloban, and before his trip to Palo, Leyte, some people suggested to “let the Holy Father take the closed car.”
Tagle quoted the Pope as saying: “Ah, no, no, no, no, no. This is the reason why I am here. I am here to show solidarity, so if people had waited and had sacrificed under the heat of the sun, the winds, and also the rain, then why should the pastor not be with them?”
3. Pope 'suffering' during lunch in Leyte
Still in the media briefing on January 17, Tagle's eyes welled up when he remembered “the face of the Holy Father” in a room at the Archbishop's Residence in Palo, Leyte.
There, the Pope had lunch with 30 survivors of Yolanda and the 2013 magnitude-7.2 earthquake in the Visayas. Organizers gave him only 15 to 20 minutes there, instead of the original one or two hours, as he had to leave Leyte earlier to escape the brunt of Tropical Storm Amang (Mekkhala).
Tagle said the Pope first went around the room and greeted the disaster survivors there.
When the Pope had taken his seat, Tagle requested each of the survivors “to say a few words, especially about... the loss that they had experienced.” Beginning to cry, Tagle said, “I'll never forget the face of the Holy Father, listening to each one.”
Tagle quoted one of the Filipinos saying: “I lost my parents and a brother. I lost everything.” “And then one woman said, 'I lost my husband, I lost my son, and I lost 5 daughters.' You could see the Holy Father just shaking his head, shaking his head.”
Putting his hands on his cheek, and imitating the Pope's anguished expression, Tagle recalled, “In some moments, he would say, 'Ohhh... Ohhh... Ohhh...' He was suffering. He was suffering.”
“And when I asked him, 'Do you want to say a few words, before we go?' he said, 'But what can we say? What can we say?' The silence of someone before this mystery of suffering,” the cardinal said.
In his interview with Rappler, Villegas added that the Pope “was not able to eat, because he chose to listen to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.”
Fr Chris Militante, the Palo Archdiocese spokesman, said the Pope's lunch in Palo was supposed to include seafood pasta with lapu-lapu fillet, salad with adobo dressing, malunggay soup, and Wagyu beef.
Villegas explained: “He chose to listen, because I think in his mind, partaking of the lunch would not give the victims full attention. So he wanted full attention because the moments, the minutes, that he was spending with them are very precious for the Pope. That is why he gave his 100% attention.”
On the plane back to Manila, the CBCP president said, the Pope “was very hungry.” The plane, however, “was not prepared for lunch” because they were supposed to leave for Manila by 4 pm. The plane “only had light snacks.”
“So for that day,” Villegas said, the Pope “only had potato chips for lunch. Without complaint. Mineral water, potato chips, a pack of peanuts, that was his lunch, because that was what was available.”
4. Pope stood while staff sat down
Aboard the papal plane, the Pope also surprised his fellow passengers.
Villegas said a high-ranking cardinal in the Vatican, if he needs to speak to one of his staff, “would most likely say to the flight attendant, 'Can you call Cardinal So-and-So? Or can you call Doctor So-and-So? I wish to speak with him.'”
“But Pope Francis, wanting to speak with some of the lay staff in the papal plane, stood from his seat, went to the row where the staff was seated, and talked to him while he was standing, like one of the flight attendants,” Villegas said.
The archbishop explained, “Siya 'yung lumapit, kasi siya 'yung may kailangan daw.” (It was he who came close, because it was he who needed something.)
5. What Pope did after his Leyte trip
The Pope's shortened trip to Leyte left Filipinos wondering: What did Francis do when he arrived in the Nunciature hours ahead of schedule?
A recent message by Pinto revealed what the Pope did.
The Apostolic Nuncio wrote this message for the funeral Mass of Kristel Mae Padasas, 27, the Catholic relief worker who died in an accident after the Pope's Mass in Tacloban.
Pinto said on January 27: “Upon his return from Tacloban in the afternoon of Saturday, January 17, Pope Francis spent a long time in prayer in the chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue.”
“In the Eucharistic presence of Jesus, he remembered Kristel Mae Padasas, innocent victim of the collapse of a structure, toppled by the wind; he thought of her parents Paolino and Judy and he invoked the love of Christ crucified on a family left without its only child.”
For Villegas, the Francis he saw behind the scenes is a proof of “authenticity.”
When asked about the message this sends to Filipinos, he said: “I think we should be ourselves. We should not forget our roots. We should not forget our humble beginnings.”
“And we should always remember that before God, we have nothing to boast,” the CBCP president added. “Before God, we are all nothing. And all the glories, all the praises that we see or that we receive, are all passing. In the end, it is only what God says about us that should matter.” – Rappler.com
The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.
The New Atheists are not a comfortable group of people. They have scornful contempt for those with whom they differ — that includes religious believers, agnostics and other atheists who don’t share their vehement brand of nonbelief. They are self-confident to a degree that seems designed to irritate. And they have an ignorance of anything beyond their fields to an extent remarkable even in modern academia. They also have a moral passion unknown outside the pages of the Old Testament. For that, we can forgive much.
When asked in Ireland a few years ago about the abuse of children by priests, Richard Dawkins — who, along with Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens, is among the best known of the New Atheists — responded that he was more concerned about bringing a child up Catholic in the first place. You don’t say something like that seriously — and Dawkins is always serious — without a deep sense that something is dreadfully morally wrong. The whole system is rotten, this stance shouts, and corrupting to the core.
Now at one level you can understand the feelings. Religious belief and disputes have certainly propelled amoral behavior — in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, for example, or on 9/11, or more recently in the horrific murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris. It is hard not to see the hand of religion in things like this and to regret that people can be thus motivated to be so cruel to their fellow human beings. The sadism of shooting someone in the back so they will never walk again because they are a Catholic not a Protestant — or any such variation — is nauseating.
The New Atheists are not the first to feel this way. One can go back to the Greeks (and especially to the dialogues of Plato) to find those who argued in a similar fashion. And certainly in the thought and writings of others throughout history —Diderot in the 18th century, or Robert Ingersoll in the 19th, or Bertrand Russell in the 20th — we find the same sort of moral passion.
What is truly striking is that atheists of Dawkins’s stripe don’t just say that believing in God is an intellectual mistake. They also claim that it’s morally wrong to believe in the existence of God or gods.
You might think there is something a little funny here. The basic question is not about religion in all its diversity and complexity. It’s about whether God exists. Either God (let us stay for convenience with one God, the God of theism) exists or God does not exist. Belief in God, seen this way, is not a moral matter. Whether two plus two equals four is not a moral question: It does. You should believe it. End of argument. Same with God.
The trouble is that the God question is not so easily solved as the mathematical one — and this, as we’ll see, is what leads to moral issues. There are arguments going both ways. Take one positive case for a moment, the “argument from design.”
This is a pretty remarkable state of affairs that we have here — planets, suns, organisms, humans and so forth. Why is there any of it? Why is there something rather than nothing? This question is not about the Big Bang or if anything went before. It is about the very fact of existence. One doesn’t expect something like this, with its astounding interdependency and innumerable complex parts functioning in service of the whole, to just happen.
The existence of consciousness, or sentience, can be seen in the same way. Brain science has thrown a lot of light on the way we think, but the very fact of thinking is a puzzle. And the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of progress forward. We know a lot about how conscious states are correlated with brain states, but this tells us nothing about how consciousness as we experience it could be a brain state.
Can such a wonderful universe be entirely without point?
Is everything we humans do — heroic sacrifices like Sophie Scholl of the White Rose group going bravely to her death for distributing pamphlets against Hitler and the war or the marches on Selma — nothing but a cosmic game? But then you start to look at the other side.
According to many monotheistic religions, God is supposed to be both all loving and all powerful. If so, why does he/she allow human suffering? For war, starvation or painful diseases to exist? And more to the point, perhaps, why does he allow the abuse of children by members of the clergy of his/her own religion, whether they be Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis, Muslim clerics or Protestant pastors?
There are other modes of objection: If the Christian God is absolute how could such an astonishing variety of alternative beliefs flourish? Why does the Pope believe one thing and the Dalai Lama believe something completely different? Not just a bit different — like the variations in belief between Jews and Catholics — but completely different. Calvinists say that we have a “sensus divinitatis” — a kind of direct Skype to God — that needs no justification but that lets us know without argument that God exists and is good. But why then doesn’t the Dalai Lama know this? The Calvinist might answer that his sense is clouded by original sin. But does one really think that the Dalai Lama is befogged by original sin in a way that a televangelist in Florida is not? Surely no one could be quite this insensitive.
This is only a small sample of what is going on in the minds of atheists. Yes, there are good reasons to think that there is more than meets the eye. But no, the Christian and other theistic solutions are simply not adequate. So, if there are so many problems with theistic belief, why do people continue to take it seriously?
The truth is that many don’t. In parts of the world where people are allowed and encouraged to take these things seriously and to think them through, people increasingly find that they can do without the God factor. It is in places where one is being indoctrinated from childhood and bullied in adulthood that people continue with God belief.
There is also a feeling that when people are given the chance to decide for themselves and still stay religious it is for the wrong reasons. The evidence is against it, so why do it? Because you are afraid of death or into wish fulfillment or some such thing. I suspect we can all speak to this to some extent.
When I was 13 and had just gone off to boarding school, my 33-year-old mother died suddenly. I have spent my whole life wanting just one last hour of conversation with her. But that is no good reason to believe in God and the afterlife. To behave this way is to be like someone who buys a lottery ticket with their last pennies and thinks they will win. This sort of irrational behavior is not worthy of a human being.
You might say that you still cannot deny that there might be something, of an order we cannot conceive. The biologist J. B. S. Haldane said: “My own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” Perhaps so and I would not be surprised if a lot of people go along with this. That, however, is no reason to believe in Christianity or Judaism or any of the other religions. Even more, it seems morally repugnant to accept — if not rejoice in — living in a world ruled by the God of religions.
This is what motivated nonbelievers down through the ages. It is what motivated John Stuart Mill to say, when he rejected the Christian doctrine of a good God: “I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a creature can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.”
The moral repugnance is only increased when we see the self-deception and indoctrination that leads people to accept such astounding claims on such paltry evidence. Here it is worth recalling the Victorian philosopher and mathematician W. K. Clifford’s admonition: “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” That universal claim may be too strong. But too often religious believers seem oblivious to Clifford’s admonition and accept things with way too little evidence.
That I much suspect is what motivates the New Atheists and in fact expresses the deepest and most powerful moral objection to theism.
Read Gary Gutting’s 2014 interview with Micheal Ruse for The Stone.
Michael Ruse is a professor of philosophy at Florida State University and the author “Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know.”
5 Insane Facts That Will Change How You View Christianity
By Nathan Williams | January 13, 2016 | 800,386 views
We feel like we know the general history of Christianity: Christ was born, he spouted some stuff about free love and messed with the man (the Ro-man), then bada-boom-bada-bing, his followers rule the world. But there are several chapters too awkward, terrifying, or just plain embarrassing for your average Sunday school teacher to handle. Come, let's dive neck deep into the truly weird antics of early Christians.
#5. Women Played A Huge Part In Church History (And Were Entirely Written Out)
Before Christians could freely practice their faith, the whole thing was more secretive than a My Little Pony forum. Perhaps that is why the movement largely coalesced around women instead of wild-eyed prophets screaming their faith to the skies 24/7. Phoebe was the trusted messenger of Apostle Paul, and she was partly responsible for helping establish a standardized dogma. Women like Paula, Marcella, and Fabiola were the driving force behind social services projects that organized religion would eventually become known for -- you know, little things such as monasteries and convents and hospitals for the underprivileged.
This was usually done at their own expense. In fact, without some very devout sugar mommas who financed and protected its followers, the Christian religion might have floundered in its infancy. Once it gained a powerful foothold in the first Christian emperor, Constantine, his mother, St. Helena, became a religious Johnny Appleseed, spreading the love by building great churches in Rome, France, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem.
Besides money and organizational talent, early female Christians were highly represented in ministerial roles and preaching. They're believed to have comprised a very large portion of the followers in the first scattered congregations. Many of the first deacons and serious scholars were women.
But do you recognize any of those influential names? No? Not a single one?
Of course not! At some point in history, as Christianity became more stable, it started to turn its gaze toward the less female-friendly bits of scripture, such as this gem from St. Paul in 1st Timothy 2:12:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.
Sentiments like this largely put the kibosh on female priests and religious scholars who, although they still carried on serving some functions as late as the 1300s, got retconned harder than a dead Marvel character. This even applied to the women who played the most vital parts in the Bible: It is believed Mary Magdalene was demoted to a common streetwalker to discount her role as an apostle. In the most notable case, Junia, an early female church figure praised as an apostle, was edited into a male in the Middle Ages to reflect a repressive social order. The Church's distrust of women fully extended to marriage. However, in this case, it wasn't solely the Church's fault. From the first pope to the Dark Ages, celibate priests were the exception rather than the norm. However, over time, more and more priests started viewing their preaching as a family business, and as the older members of the family rose in the ranks, they started giving preferential positions to their kids. This nepotism grew so pervasive that many positions were essentially inherited. Eventually, the Church had no choice but to enforce celibacy, lest their whole operation go full Clash Of Clans.
#4. They Spent An Unhealthy Amount Of Time Fighting About Dicks
Although these days the debate tends to be more about health, the circumcision debate has been raging hard on down through the millennia. In the earliest years of the Christian religion, the tension was between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians. The Jews insisted that a good Christian should come with 90 percent of a penis, while others felt like that 10 percent was kind of a sticking point.
Technically, cutting point.
The reason for the cocktroversy is simple: Christians initially relied heavily on the Old Testament and Jewish customs, but as time progressed, they started turning their backs on them. Unsurprisingly, the whole knife-dick thing was among the increasingly questioned practices. This was a problem, what with the circumcision being a hard-coded part of the Jewish religion, and Genesis itself specifically stating that God considers every penis with a leather jacket a damn fool.
To make things even more confusing, Jesus (who was most certainly circumcised himself) allegedly managed to both imply support of the Judean way of circumcision as a part of every Hebrew man's duty to maintain the covenant with God (Matthew 5:17) and oppose physical circumcision (The non-canonical Gospel Of Thomas, Saying 53) as a damn claptrap.
Eventually, St. Paul stepped in to clear up the issue in his letter to Galatians. His approach was simple and Solomonian: Jewish Christians could keep circumcising all they like, because it was part of their history and tradition. However, they should stop force-feeding non-Hebrew Christians the practice, because the whole "God loves you so much Jesus died on the cross" bit becomes a little less appealing when followed up with "... so everyone cut bits of your dick off."
#3. The First Church Services Were More Like Lavish Parties
Early church services were called agape feasts ("love feasts") and were often indistinguishable from the taking of the holy sacrament of the Eucharist. The agape feasts were kind of like a weekly Thanksgiving, and in the earliest days the activities of entire congregations revolved around eating and drinking in the name of fellowship. Communion was not just some dinky wafer: Guests ate lying down on futons, shot the shit, and sometimes acted so repulsively that St. Paul was occasionally forced to yell at them like a cranky dad in a teen comedy.
There isn't even any evidence the guests at these agape feasts said fixed prayers or official songs or hymns. There is ample proof that they, the Corinthians especially, were terrible party guests who were known for going through all the food and wine before those less fortunate could arrive -- leading to the Passive-Aggressive Notes From Paul section of the Bible.
In North Africa, St. Augustine wrote of drunken religious agape celebrations in graveyards, and one particular Alexandrian sect used the communal smorgasbord as a pretext to engage in full-on orgies.
Agape feasts fell out of favor around the third century, giving way to a separate Eucharist and other less ... enthusiastic worship ceremonies. Luckily, the memory of these celebrations is still present, as swapping spit with anonymous strangers remains a central part of the sacrament.
Last edited by Sam Miguel; 01-15-2016 at 02:05 PM.
5 Insane Facts That Will Change How You View Christianity
By Nathan Williams | January 13, 2016 | 800,386 views
#2. The New Testament Was Conceived By A Heretic Who Thought God Was Also The Devil
Marcion of Sinope was a pseudo-Gnostic rabble-rouser and a general thorn in the mainstream Christian butt in the first century after Jesus' death. Even if you're unfamiliar with the guy, you might have heard about his most widely accepted claim to fame:
Dude invented the Bible as you know it.
Before Marcion, the Christian Bible as we know it did not exist. There was no known segregation between the "Old" (Jewish) and "New" (Christian) Testaments before him. It was just hundreds of different stories in free circulation: multiple books of revelation, too many gospels to count, and more coming in every week. So Marcion decided to go Brothers Grimm on that shit.
He wasn't in it just for the heavenly street cred, mind you: He had an ulterior motive for wanting to create two separate "volumes" of the Bible. Marcion was a member of a fringe sect and sought to channel his opinions into an official-looking book with two separate testaments. Why two? Because Marcion believed that the deity of what would eventually be Old Testament texts was a completely different and more malevolent creator-god than the savior-god the New Testament introduced us to -- in fact, according to him, the Old Testament god was basically the devil.
Dang, with a twist like that, somebody should call Shyamalan and -- no, no, let's let his career rest in peace.
Marcion's initial Bible was a premeditated attempt to eliminate all trace of pre-Jesus Jewish thought out of his new Bible. His creation was extremely minimalistic; all but 10 of the Letters are absent, as are the Acts and the Book of Revelation, and the only Gospel present is that of Luke. Even Marcion's detractors recognized that he was onto something with his neatly Testamented format. They set out to repurpose it to squash Marcion's influence, releasing a rival New Testament that intentionally countered Marcion's position (though retaining his general structure) in their own Bible, which gradually evolved to the one we thump today.
#1. Jesus Was A Shapeshifter?
When Constantine recognized Christianity as a bona fide religion, he failed to notice that in the three centuries after Jesus died, the religion had become a clusterfuck of competing sects and ideas. The true nature of Jesus was the source of some particularly heated debate, and because people are kinda jerks, things shifted to overdrive in a hurry. Invisibility, levitation, miracle healing, indestructibility, and various other X-Men superpowers were seen as necessary attributes to emphasize that Jesus could have escaped a date with a crucifix if he wanted to but was destined to die instead, redeem mankind, and be reborn. As such, tomes like Pseudo-Cyril Of Jerusalem On The Life And The Passion Of Christ implied Jesus was an actual shapeshifter who could change his appearance at will because he possessed a superpowered energy body that only looked like a human one.
To make things even more intriguing, one early Gnostic sect called the Carpocratians depicted Jesus Christ as not only a sexual being but a full-on libertine who indulged in flamboyantly gay and bisexual antics with his followers. That's right, the Gnostic JC was AC/DC.
Sadly, Jesus' experimental phase didn't last. Although the concept of the Holy Trinity was still a work in progress, and every region or local congregation put a colorful spin on the Jesus story, only a few powerful bishops held any real power. In 325 BC, they convened at Nicea at the behest of the emperor to determine the "official" doctrine Christianity would run with. The proto-versions of the views we know today were committee-punched into the Nicene Creed, and the Church happily started persecuting the hell out of anybody that disagreed with them. Luckily that was just a one-time thing, and they never, ever did it again.