Manila (Agenzia Fides) - A pastoral and missionary look at the future of the Church in the next five centuries: this is what the Bishops of the Philippines are proposing, starting with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Christian faith in the country (1521-2021). In the Pastoral Letter just published and disseminated in all Catholic communities, entitled "To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines", Archbishop Romulo G. Valles of Davao and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), affirmed that the Church must look to the future and to the mission for the next 500 years.
In the Second Plenary Council of Bishops of 1991, the text of the Letter recalls, the Bishops' Conferences decided to start a nine-year preparation for the Jubilee Year (2021) dedicating each year to a particular theme: Year of Faith in 2013; Year of the laity in 2014; Year of the poor in 2015; Year of the Eucharist and of the Family in 2016; Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities in 2017; Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons in 2018; Year of Youth in 2019; Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples in 2020; Year of the mission in 2021.
The Bishops, in this decade, have commissioned a research, in collaboration with the Historical Research Center of the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas in Manila - the first Catholic university in Asia - in order to understand the current state of Catholicism in the Philippines. "We hope to be able to discuss the result of this extensive research work in our next Plenary Assembly, hoping that it will serve as a basis for deciding whether it is appropriate to convene a Third Plenary Council in the Philippines: this will serve to consider the missionary life of the local Church in the next 500 years", said Msgr. Valles presenting the pastoral Letter.
"We hope that this year will be a year of rethinking history, in which to remember the past, so that we can better understand who we are in the present as a community of disciples, and represents an opportunity to look forward to the next 500 years with the same missionary zeal that made it possible for us to receive the Christian faith. What we have received for free is what we give for free, the charity of Christ", said the President of the CBCP, recalling the theme chosen for the Jubilee: “Gifted to Give”.
The Bishops write: "We ask all our faithful to actively participate in the commemoration of the First Mass celebrated in our country on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. May it also be the occasion for the opening of a Jubilee Door in every cathedral in the entire the country, as well as in selected churches. Regarding the commemoration of the First Baptism, in addition to the national celebration of April 14, 2021, in Cebu, we ask all the Bishops of the Philippines to prepare specific commemorations locally, celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism, on April 14 or on the third Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2021".
The inaugural celebration of the Jubilee will be on Easter Sunday, April 4, with the opening of the "Holy Doors" of more than one hundred churches across the country. In connection with the 500 years of faith, the bishops will hold the International Mission Congress (IMC) and the 2nd National Mission Congress in April 2022, when the Jubilee Year will close. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 31/3/2021)