Opus solidaritatis pax. Christmas is a time for solidarity and peacebuilding.
During this month of December, we first express our solidarity with the families affected by Typhoon Sendong last year and now Typhoon Pablo. While more than half of the Sendong evacuee families have received permanent housing units within the city, many others are still waiting to rebuild their lives and means of livelihood. For Typhoon Pablo families in southeastern Mindanao relief work is ongoing. Our parishes have sent a solidarity fund to the Diocese of Mati along with several volunteers from various organizations.
Another kind of contingency that has occurred recently is the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill by both houses of Congress. While we continue to say no! to the widespread promotion of contraceptives, we are all the more challenged to push forward our All-Natural Family Planning program. Even now, media surveys indicate that most couples prefer Natural Family Planning.
Our pastoral experience over the past six years shows that not only Catholic couples but also those from Muslim, indigenous people, and Iglesia Filipina Independiente communities appreciate and want to adopt our All-NFP program. Likewise, local government units and national government agencies like DOH, PopCom, and DSWD have indicated their readiness to promote NFP. The “enemy” is not so much the government, but the lack of information on all NFP methods, including the simplified ones, for the majority of couples today.
Looking at the brighter side, we are thankful to the Lord for the three priests and two deacons ordained last month for the archdiocese. The gift of vocation offered and answered during this Year of Faith is a special blessing for our local church.
On a larger scale, the signing of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro augurs well for peace in Mindanao. But the agreement requires our own proactive efforts to forge inter-religious harmony at the personal level.
Peace on earth was the message of the angelic choir to the shepherds in Bethlehem. May that same message resonate throughout the island of Mindanao and the rest of the country. Christmas and New Year’s blessings to all!
+Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ
Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro
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