Manila archbishop admits Philippine Church still wanting in being ‘Church of the poor’

“There is a dark and wide gap between the Church and the poor .... The Church does not know the poor, and the poor do not know the Church”

The archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jose Advincula, admitted that the local Church “is far from being with the Church of the poor that we aspire to be.”

Speaking before priests and seminarians at the Pontificio Collegio Filippino on August 28, the cardinal said the “disturbing realization” was reached during synodal consultations held in the past months.

In May last year, Pope Francis ordered that the 2023 Synod of Bishops begin with widespread consultation among laypeople.

The process aims to assess the challenges the Church faces today and to offer an analysis of the current situation.

The two-year process has three phases: diocesan, continental, and universal.

The theme chosen by the pope for the gatherings is: “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission.”

Cardinal Advincula said that during the synodal consultations in the Philippines, “one of the most disturbing realizations we had is that our local Church is far from being with the Church of the poor.”

“There is a dark and wide gap between the Church and the poor in our country,” he said, adding that, “The Church does not know the poor, and the poor do not know the Church.”

“Our poor and marginalized brethren feel that their views and values are disregarded in our Church communities and organizations,” said the cardinal.

Reflecting on the Gospel reading on Sunday, Cardinal Advincula said “humility is a Christian virtue” and it entails “solidarity with the lowly.”

He said country’s Church leaders “sense the greater clamor for becoming a Church that is in solidarity with the poor…. A Church that has immersed deep enough in the lives of the poor so that we smell like the poor.”

“It is not enough that was simply distribute dole outs or “ayuda,” rather, we must immerse ourselves in the life of the poor, be friends with them, journey with them, empower them for mission, include them in the life and activity of the Church, and advocate for their dignity,” said the cardinal.

Philippine Catholic bishops, priests, and lay people attend the National Synodal Consultation of the Church at the Carmelite Missionaries Center of Spirituality in Tagaytay City from July 4 to 7, 2022. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

In a statement following the National Synodal Consultation in July, the Catholic bishops of the Philippines admitted flaws in their work of evangelization, saying that the Church in the country is still “far from our dream of a Church of the poor.”

“We saw gaps and closed doors in our work of evangelization. We saw shadows,” read a statement released by the Church leaders.

The bishops admitted that they “do not have all the answers to the many questions of our time” even as they recognize “the goodness and giftedness of our people and those who do not share our faith.”

They vowed to “open doors for us all to go out and set forth once again for mission” and “to seek out those who are far, different, excluded.”

In what they described as a “synodal journey,” the bishops said they will work “to encounter, listen and dialogue with our brothers and sisters of different denominations and faith” and “explore possibilities for positive engagement in the areas of ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, politics and social media.”

They then called for unity, particularly with those in peripheries, as they embarked on a “new mission.”

“We hear Pope Francis constantly calling for a Church whose members strive to live in unity and harmony (communion), participate (participation) in the life of the Church, and do not tire of seeking out the least, the lost and the last (mission),” said the Church leaders.

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