Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

News Items from Mindanao, the Philippines

Pax Christi org supports BBL

Attendance at Pope’s First Mass in Philippines Limited to 2,000
Tight Security Expected During Apostolic Visit in January
4 December 2014

By Staff Reporter – VATICAN CITY, December 04, 2014 ( – There will be space for only 2,000 attendees for the papal Mass in the Manila Cathedral, during Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the Philippines and Sri Lanka, Jan 13-19. On the grounds of security reasons, authorities have limited the number of people to be present for Pope Francis’ first Mass in the Asian country on Jan. 16, reported Rappler. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, confirmed that while Pope Francis is presiding over the Mass, only 2,000 bishops, priests, and religious will be in attendance. The Asian cardinal added this will be the Pope’s “first liturgical encounter” with Church leaders. Two other papal Masses, those in Luneta and Tacloban, will, however, be open to the public.

“The capacity of the cathedral is 2,000 for the Pope’s visit for safety considerations. We should leave aisles open in case of emergencies,” Manila Cathedral rector Monsignor Nestor Cerbo said in a media briefing on Tuesday. Only 500 of the 2,000 seating capacity will be allotted for lay people, including choir members, medical personnel, and members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), who are tasked with ensuring the Pope’s safety. In addition, the Filippino Bishops’ Conference decided that each diocese could send 10 priests and five religious laypeople, Msgr. Cerbo noted.

With the visit set to take place next month, the cathedral’s restoration work is underway. Its rector added they are now working to speed up the repair work and upgrade the air-conditioning system. After being closed for repairs in 2012, the cathedral was re-opened recently. This cathedral, Msgr. Cerbo explained, is historically significant because it is the only church in the Philippines that was declared a basilica by St. John Paul II. “We are happy that God is blessing the restoration work that we have been doing at the Cathedral with the visit of Pope Francis,” Cerbo said. He added that they are now working to speed up the repair work and upgrade the air-conditioning system.

For the Mass, he said, those attending will receive identification cards. There will be no replacements nor last-minute changes. “We will place security scanners at the Manila Cathedral as part of the strict security procedures for the papal visit,” he added, noting, “The PSG will be very strict.” Presidential Communications Undersecretary Jess Yu has stated the government is working closely with all relevant parties to ensure the “safe and orderly conduct” of the papal visit. Yu also said that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Philippine National Police will enforce crowd control outside the cathedral for those lay people visiting the area.

Shortly after the Mass, the Pope will meet with families at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.He is also expected to meet with survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Tacloban City.

The Silsilah movement: Advent of solidarity and friendship with Muslims
29 November 2014

Zamboanga (Agenzia Fides) – “Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus, the Emmanuel (God with us). Muslims and Christians in the ‘Silsilah’ movement for dialogue always highlights at the beginning of Advent, as well as at the beginning of the month of Ramadan for Muslims, a special message to share solidarity and friendship. This sign of friendship and joy helps to educate our people to appreciate what is dear to others”: this is what is said in a statement sent to Fides by the “Silsilah” movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue born in the southern Philippines thanks to the work of the PIME missionary Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra. “The coming of Pope Francis to the Philippines in 2015 – continues the text – is for us another event that brings joy in Christians and Muslims. Muslims respect and appreciate the Pope as one of the world leaders of peace. The preparation for Christmas but also the Pope’s visit is a sign of hope in the midst of the violence that also exists in the Philippines”.

The text recalls the letter written to the Pope by a group of 138 Muslim scholars in 2007 that said: “Christians and Muslims together make up more than half the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world”. The text concludes: “Let us continue to respect and love each other, praying for those who, in the name of their faith kill others. The Pope’s visit to the Philippines makes our experience of dialogue an inspiration for many in the ongoing efforts to find solutions for peace in Mindanao and in many parts of the world”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 29 November 2014)

Justice for the massacre in Maguindanao: the relatives of the victims write to the Pope
27 November 2014

Manila (Agenzia Fides) – Relatives of the victims killed in the “Massacre in Maguindanao” – the kidnapping and barbaric execution of 46 people in Maguindanao province took place on November 23, 2009 – have appealed to Pope Francis so he can help end the culture of impunity. As Fides learns, the victims complain that, five years after the crime, justice has not been done yet. Several journalists were killed in the massacre while they were following the parade of a political candidate. Rowena C. Paraan, President of the National Union of Filipino Journalists hopes that the story comes to the attention of the Argentine Pope, expressing the hope that “the message is actually delivered to the Pope” who will visit the country from 15 to 19 January 2015. The relatives of the victims are asking the Pope to “comfort the afflicted”. Recently the NGO “Human Rights Watch” (HRW) called on the Philippine government to do more to stop extra-judicial killings which regularly remain unpunished. Some mayors and police officers of Philippine cities are also accused of “aiding and abetting the killings.” According to a report published by Human Rights Watch, in the period between 2008 and 2013, there were 298 extrajudicial executions in the Philippines, all unpunished. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 27 November 2014)

Pope Francis to Meet with Interreligious Leaders in the Philippines
Religious Groups Hope Visit Will Foster Peace Between Religious Groups
26 November 2014

ROME, November 26, 2014 ( – During his visit to the Philippines in January, Pope Francis is expected to meet with interreligious leaders in Manila.

According to GMA News, the Pope will meet with 10 leaders of non-Catholic denominations at the University of Santo Tomas. “We tried to seek peace and unity and the Pope is promoting the ecumenical movement and another thing, interreligious dialogue,” Fr. Carlos Reyes said, who serves as the executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue. Fr. Reyes also said that the religious have actively promoted the ecumenical movement and hope that the meeting will foster “more cooperation, mutual respect and trust among religious leaders.”

Muslim leaders have also expressed their joy at the Pope’s upcoming visit. Imam Ibrahim Moxir Alhaj, the chairman of the Imam Council of the Philippines, said that the visit will help improve ties between Christians and Muslims. “First, what I can tell the Pope is, I hope the mutual and symbiotic nature of the relationship between Christian and Islam religions continues. Let us Filipinos unite for peace in the Philippines,” Imam Moxir said in an interview with Radio Veritas. “I’m thankful that I will be able to see the highest leader of the Catholic religion. I’m hoping that it will also be the start for us Filipinos to actively join and participate in our programs,” he added.

30 years since its foundation, the commitment of “Silsilah” movement for dialogue reinforces
21 November 2014

Zamboanga City (Agenzia Fides) – After thirty years of work in Christian-Muslim dialogue, the “Silsilah” movement, which was launched in the Philippines in 1984 thanks to the work of the PIME missionary Sebastiano D’Ambra, collects and recognizes the benefits of the work carried out and renews its commitment. As reported to Fides in a note by “Silsilah”, spirituality “life-in-dialogue” has become widespread in the Philippines and abroad, and experience has received national and international awards.

For the occasion, “Silsilah” celebrated its National Assembly a few days ago, bringing together people of different religious traditions and cultures. At the conclusion of the meeting, the participants signed and issued a statement in which they commit themselves to nurturing the spirituality of life-in-dialogue through constant renewal and deepening of the relationship with God, with oneself, with others and with all creation; to respect religious and cultural pluralism through education and formation; to strengthen cooperation in “Forum Silsilah”, through communication and sharing of resources, experiences and reflections; to promote in every possible way the culture of dialogue as a path to peace for families, workplaces, schools, groups and other institutions; to responsibly use social media and other technologies to spread the spirit of dialogue, especially the “Chain of Harmony”; to expand the culture of life-in-dialogue beyond the Philippines.

The “Chain of Harmony” is the spread of a special non-denominational “prayer for harmony”, which “is a sign of hope to sustain our commitment to dialogue and peace”. The prayer, which finds space in schools, mosques, churches, groups, parishes around the world, is recommended as a common prayer that Muslims and Christians can recite. It was approved by the “Bishops Ulama Conference”, the conference that unites Christian Bishops and Muslim leaders in the Philippines. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 21 November 2014)

Cardinal Tagle: “The Pope’s visit, a blessing that invokes responsibility”
15 November 2014

Manila (Agenzia Fides) – “The papal visit will surely bring much blessing to the Filipinos, especially to the poor, the survivors of recent natural and human-caused calamities, and the victims of injustices. The concern and solidarity of Jesus the Good Shepherd will be palpable in the person and in the presence of Pope Francis”: says the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides after the publication of the program of the papal visit, who will be in Sri Lanka from January 13 to 15 and then in the Philippines until 19 January 2015. Cardinal Tagle remarks: “The Pope’s visit draws all Christians to personal and social responsibility. As disciples of Jesus Christ driven by the Holy Spirit, we will be challenged to reach out with love to the neglected and abandoned, to help heal the wounds inflicted on children, women and families, to respect who differ from us, to form the youth in responsible freedom, to value life and creation, and to imbue our culture and society with mercy and compassion. With the Pope let us spread the Gospel of hope with joy”. Since the visit to the Philippines will be on the theme “mercy and compassion”, the Archbishop calls the faithful to live these values which need to be “purified and strengthened by constantly listening to the Word of God, by frequently participating in the Eucharist”, reconciling with God and with others, doing acts of justice and love. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 15 November 2014)

Vatican Releases Pope’s Program to Sri Lanka, Philippines
January Visit Marks Pope Francis’ 2nd Apostolic Trip to Asia
14 November 2014

By Staff Reporter – VATICAN CITY, November 14, 2014 ( – Pope Francis will make his second apostolic visit to Asia this January in his first voyage to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

This morning, the Vatican released the Pope’s itinerary for his trip, Jan 12-19, which will include speaking at the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as well as a meeting with youth and a lunch with survivors of calamities in the Philippines. Here below is the Vatican-provided program:

Program of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Voyage to Sri Lanka and the Philippines (12-19 January 2015):

Monday (Jan. 12): 19:00 Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport for Colombo

Tuesday (Jan. 13): 09:00 Arrival at the International Airport in Colombo; Welcoming Ceremony (Speech by Pope Francis)
13:15 SPEECH TO THE BISHOPS OF SRI LANKA At the Archdiocese of Colombo
18:15 INTERRELIGIOUS MEETING at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (Speech by Pope Francis)

Wednesday (Jan. 14): 08:30 Holy Mass and Canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz at Galle Face Green in Colombo (Homily by Pope Francis)
14:00 Transfer by helicopter to Madhu
15:30 MARIAN PRAYER at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary at Madhu (Speech by Pope Francis)
16:45 Transfer by Helicopter to Colombo

Thursday (Jan. 15): 08:15 Visit to the Chapel “Our Lady of Lanka” at Bolawalana
08:45 Departure Ceremony from the International Airport of Colombo
09:00 Departure by plane from Colombo to Manila
17:45 Arrival from Sri Lanka – Villamor Air Base, Manila
Motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature – Taft Avenue, Manila

Friday (Jan. 16): 9:15 Welcome Ceremony – Malacañan Palace, Manila
10:15 Meeting with Civil Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps (Speech by Pope Francis)
Motorcade to the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral)
11:15 Mass with Bishops, Priests, and Religious – Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Manila (Homily by Pope Francis)
Motorcade to the Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay
17:30 Encounter with Families – Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay (Speech by Pope Francis)

Saturday (Jan. 17): 08:15 Departure for Archdiocese of Palo – Villamor Air Base
09:30 Arrival at Tacloban Airport
10:00 Holy Mass – Tacloban Airport (Homily by Pope Francis)
12:45 Lunch with the Poor and Survivors of Calamities at Gonzagahaus (Residence of the Archbishop of Palo) – Palo, Leyte
15:00 Blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor – Palo, Leyte
15:30 Meeting with the Priests and Religious at Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration (Palo Cathedral) – Palo, Leyte (Speech by Pope Francis)
17:00 Departure for Manila
18:15 Arrival at Manila – Villamor Air Base

Sunday (Jan. 18): 09:45 Brief Meeting with the Religious Leaders
10:30 Encounter with the Youth – Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, España, Manila (Speech by Pope Francis)
Motorcade to Rizal Park, Manila
15:30 Concluding Mass, Rizal Park, Manila (Homily by Pope Francis)

Monday (Jan. 19): 09:45 Departure Ceremony at Villamor Air Base
10:00 Departure for Rome – Villamor Air Base
17:40 Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino Airport

The Silsilah dialogue movement: “Fight soldiers with prayer”
30 October 2014

Zamboanga (Agenzia Fides) – The “Prayer of Harmony”, a chain of prayer among Christians, Muslims and followers of other religions, is the weapon with which to “fight soldiers” and the terrorist ideology of violence and death that crosses Mindanao, the largest island in the southern Philippines. As reported in a note sent to Fides, it is an initiative launched by the “Silsilah”, movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue launched by PIME missionary Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, who founded the “Village of Harmony”, in the city of Zamboanga where Christians and Muslims live together.

The prayer was conceived in 2000 when the then Philippine President Joseph Estrada declared “total war” in Mindanao, trying to defeat the rebel groups with a massive military action. Today, with the spread of the ideology of the IS (“Islamic State”) and of the new militants, the movement launches an appeal to rediscover prayer in all Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and indigenous communities, to spread a culture of peace and ask God for peace, starting from the spiritual “life-in-dialogue” approach. “We dream that, worldwide, the chain of prayer for peace spreads, and we hope that the prayer of Harmony becomes part of the many initiatives of prayer around the world”, says the note by “Silsilah”. Prayer is still used in many institutions and Christian and Muslim schools, in the Philippines and other countries. In this way, the movement supports “the efforts for peace in the southern Philippines, which still requires wisdom and courage on behalf of those who have the responsibility to make decisions for the future of peace in Mindanao”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 30 October 2014)

Pax Christi-affiliated organization in the Philippines issues statement of support for the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)
29 October 2014

Pax Christi Institute, c/o Niall O’ Brien Center for Peace
Rosal cor Tapulanga Sts. Espinos Village 2, Bacolod City 6100

Statement of Support for the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)
October 29, 2014

WHEREAS, Pax Christi Institute is an ecumenical training center rooted in the Catholic church and trains and develops community leaders in conflict transformation and reconciliation
WHEREAS, the Institute believes that an enduring positive peace is the product of equity and harmony over pervading historical trauma and untransformed conflict
WHEREAS, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is a product of a negotiated political settlement towards an equitable and sustainable peace
WHEREAS, a key peace sustaining feature of the draft law is the provision on Alternative Dispute Resolution among others
WHEREAS, the draft BBL is a peace futures creating document that embodies provisions that will sustain the peace brought about by the political settlement of the decades long armed conflict in Mindanao
RESOLVED that, as a peace institute, we wish to express our strong support for the passage of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (HB 4994) at the earliest time possible and even its enhancement by Congress. Furthermore, we recommend that chapter X section 23 be expanded to Traditional/Tribal Justice and Reconciliation Systems.

Source: click here.

The Church supports the campaign against mining exploitation in Flores [Indonesia]
24 October 2014

Flores (Agenzia Fides) – Thousands of priests, religious and laity of all the parishes, secondary school and university students on the island of Flores, the Catholic stronghold in Indonesia, gathered to challenge the mining projects on the island. The awareness campaign against mining exploitation in Flores, which would seriously damage the environment, has been going on for months and found a moment of high visibility on October 13.
As reported by the news service of the Episcopal Conference of Indonesia, consulted by Fides, the local diocese of Ruteng officially reiterated its position contrary to mining projects. The diocese covers an area where almost 700 thousand Catholics live, who make up 93% of the total population. “The Diocese of Ruteng believes that the initiation of mines for the extraction of manganese, gold and iron would cause serious ecological damage and endanger the lives of people in Flores. The mining exploitation will result in a systematic and massive impoverishment of the indigenous population”, with the possible consequence of “triggering social conflict, alter tribal and state laws”. It will also predictably cause, “business companies to hire security teams to intimidate the residents”, reads a document published in 2014 after the Synod of the Diocese of Ruteng. Such dynamics are known and recorded in the neighboring Philippine island of Mindanao.

The event was organized on 13 October by the “Justice and Peace” Commission of the Diocese of Ruteng and was carried out in a completely peaceful manner, with spiritual songs and recitation of the Rosary. The Bishop of Ruteng, His Exc. Mgr. Hubertus Leteng, remarked “the duty to protect the integrity of creation”. The protesters called on the government to block local projects and mining permits. They also ask legislators to enact a clear regulation, in order not to leave foreign companies under the arbitrary management of the environment and life of the island. (PCP-PA) (Agenzia Fides 24 October 2014)

Filipino Prisoners Ask Pope Francis to Visit Them
Hope Pontiff Will Stop by New Bilibid Prison During January 2015 Visit
23 October 2014

By Staff Reporter – ROME, October 23, 2014 ( – Excitement continues to build in the Philippines for Pope Francis’ upcoming trip. While an official itinerary of the Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January 2015 has not been released yet, a group of prisoners are hoping that he will visit them. A letter was sent on September 26th to Pope Francis through Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, from the inmates of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. Located roughly 15 miles south of Manila, it is the main penitentiary in the Philippines, housing almost 20,000 inmates. The prisoners expressed their hope that the Holy Father would make a stop there.

“We hope and pray that as you continue God’s mission of loving all His children and inspiring them, you will give us a few minutes of your most precious time during your visit here in January 2015,” the letter stated. “It will be a great blessing for us to have Christ’s disciple and our Father here in our midst, to give us and many other prisoners strength and unwavering hope in God’s love and forgiveness.”

Throughout his pontificate, the Holy Father has called attention to the most marginalized in society, especially those imprisoned. During his July 5th visit to Molise, Pope Francis visited a detention center where he stressed the need for reform and rehabilitation for inmates. “To walk the way of rehabilitation, this is something we all need to do. All. We all make mistakes in life. And all of us must ask forgiveness for these mistakes and make a journey of rehabilitation, to not make any more,” he said. “Some do this at home, at their workplace; others, like you, in a prison. But all, all … anyone who says he does not need this way of rehabilitation is a liar! We all make mistakes in life, and also, all are sinners.”

The murder of the missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio remains unsolved
17 October 2014

Cotabato (Agenzia Fides) – After three years since the killing of the Italian priest Fausto Tentorio, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), killed by a gunman on October 17, 2011, on the island of Mindanao, “we are still here seeking justice for his death, we still do not know the reasons of the murder and there is no trial in court. The case remains unsolved”. This is what is said, in a note sent to Fides Agency, by Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME, a confrere of the murdered missionary and leader of a movement formed spontaneously in the aftermath of the murder, called "Justice for Fr. Pops "(as the missionary was called).
In the note sent to Fides, the members of the movement (Catholics, activists, indigenous people, missionaries, lawyers) expressed deep disappointment at the slow pace of investigations that have been entrusted to a special team, in charge of “unsolved cases”, which deals with numerous extrajudicial killings which have occurred in the country.

The investigations have not yet produced results. The Movement has reported to the police a number of people to be investigated, such as the leader of the “Bagani” paramilitary group who operated in the area of Arakan (province of North Cotabato) where the missionary was killed, and Captain Mark Espiritu, commander of the special Forces of the Philippines, who might be involved. Even the families of the witnesses involved in the investigation – now under surveillance – are exasperated, reports the Movement, and would like to return to a normal life. Investigators, however, have promised to give details of the results by the end of 2014 that may lead to the start of a trial. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 17 October 2014)

“The ideology and money of the IS arrive in Southern Philippines”: the story of a missionary
15 October 2014

Zamboanga (Agenzia Fides) – The ideology and the violent proposal of the Islamic State (IS), the group that operates in Iraq, have arrived in the southern Philippines and is trying to attact converts, thanks to substantial foreign funding: this was confirmed to Fides Agency by Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME, who talks about the delicate situation on the island of Mindanao, where a part of the Philippine population of about six million Muslims lives. In Zamboanga, in particular, explains Fr. D’Ambra, “the wounds are still evident in the severe attack of the rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which took place in September 2013: Many families are still displaced and inter-religious atmosphere has been affected”. Meanwhile, the government has presented a draft peace agreement which is before Parliament: “It is an effort that should be encouraged, but the agreement presents critical issues such as the fact of being limited to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and not to include all the Muslim formations in the South”, the missionary said.

In addition, “some violent groups and terrorists continue to oppose any suggestion of peace and to make violent propaganda: groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have proclaimed their support to IS that operates in Iraq”, he continues. The phenomenon is worrying “because the fundamentalist Islamic ideology is well-defined with the social and economic dissatisfaction of the local population, and poverty is a fertile ground for the membership of young people: every new militant is rewarded with a lot of money coming from abroad”, says D’Ambra. In this context, the mission of the Center for Muslim-Christian dialogue “Silsilah” (“chain”) continues, founded on the initiative of Fr. D’Ambra. In addition to training programs and awareness-raising in schools, universities, religious leaders, after 30 years since its foundation, in 1984, the movement intends to strengthen its presence in the media and start a radio that, concludes D’Ambra, “aims at being both the voice of dialogue and to promote the values of harmony, friendship, respect, collaboration between Christians and Muslims”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 15 October 2014)

A Jesuit: “A network of solidarity against the network of terror”
1 October 2014

Davao (Agenzia Fides) – “The network of Islamic jihadism and its international implications should be kept under strict control in the southern Philippines” says to Fides Agency the Jesuit Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, Director of the Institute for dialogue at the university of Davao, a city on the island of Mindanao.
In the southern Philippines the terrorist group of Islamic inspiration “Abu Sayyaf” has announced that it has two German hostages (74 and a 55-year old tourists, abducted in April 2014) in its hands, and threaten the beheading if by October 10, Germany will not pay 4 million euro and if it does not stop its cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

“It is true that Abu Sayyaf is a small group. But this adherence to international campaigns is dangerous and should be monitored. It is likely that there is no direct relationship of meetings with other international terrorist groups, it is a relationship mediated by the connections of the mass media and new technologies.
But groups like Abu Sayyaf act by imitation and seem to have regained momentum”, explained Fr. Alejo to Fides. “This way of behaving with the mentality of a network gives rise to concern. Small groups find fertile ground among young Muslims. This network of terror must be opposed with a network of solidarity and dialogue in civil society”, adds the religious. “In the southern Philippines for example, Catholic schools and parishes must be united – continues Fr. Alejo – one has to unite village chiefs. We urgently need a strategy of coordinated communication, to reactivate a circle of positive and constructive communication, because every conflict is the result of a wrong message”. The Jesuit concludes: “It is essential to correct the violent images and prejudices in the southern Philippines, by proposing good practices of dialogue and peace”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 1 October 2014)

Pope’s visit to the Philippines has an official logo (Video)
It’s a representation of the Pope’s arms of mercy and compassion embracing the country
25 September 2014

By Staff – ROME, September 25, 2014 (Rome Reports) – To view the video click here.

Theme Chosen for Pope Francis’ Visit to the Philippines
God’s “Mercy and Compassion” Will Be Focus of Papal Trip
23 September 2014

By Staff Reporter – MANILA, September 23, 2014 ( – The theme of the Pope’s 15-19 January apostolic visit – “Mercy and Compassion” – was announced by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Fides News Agency reports. “With the presence of the Pope, the God of mercy and compassion comes close to us”, said Bishop Mylo Vergara, president of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communication and the media. “This is a great blessing for the Church in the Philippines,” he said in a message to Fides. “Pope Francis’ visit can be considered a visit from God to the Filipino people, in need of His mercy and compassion”. The bishops, he added, have urged the faithful to prepare themselves through the words of Francis, and be apostles through mass media: "We try to make ours the Pope’s messages, quotes, apostolic exhortations on the subject of mercy and compassion,” said Bishop Bergara, adding: “we can collect and share them with others. “Secondly, we invite the faithful to use what we gather and receive on the teaching of Pope Francis as a matter of reflection, prayer and action,” he said. In this way, “mass media and social networks can become a powerful tool for us to practice works of mercy such as visiting prisoners, the sick and the elderly, especially showing compassion towards the poor”.

“Mercy and Compassion” is the theme of the Pope’s visit
22 September 2014

Manila (Agenzia Fides) – The theme that will mark Pope Francis’ visit in the Philippines (from 15 to 19 January 2015) is “mercy and compassion”: this was announced, in a note sent to Fides Agency, by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. The Philippine Church has also launched a website ( dedicated entirely to the event, which contains all the necessary information and will monitor all aspects of the Pope’s visit.

“With the presence of the Pope, the God of mercy and compassion comes close to us”, says His Exc. Mgr. Mylo Vergara, Bishop of Pasig and President of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communication and the media in a message sent to Fides. “This is a great blessing for the Church in the Philippines. Pope Francis’ visit can be considered a visit from God to the Filipino people, in need of His mercy and compassion”. The Bishops urge the faithful to prepare themselves through the words of Francis, and be apostles through mass media: "We try to make ours the Pope’s messages, quotes, apostolic exhortations on the subject of mercy and compassion. Through social media – adds Mgr. Vergara – we can collect and share them with others. "Secondly, we invite the faithful to “use what we gather and receive on the teaching of Pope Francis as a matter of reflection, prayer and action”. In this way, “mass media and social networks – the Bishop concludes – can become a powerful tool for us to practice works of mercy such as visiting prisoners, the sick and the elderly, especially showing compassion towards the poor”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22 September 2014)

Peace agreement arrives in Congress, but “the road is still long”
12 September 2014

Manila (Agenzia Fides) – The peace agreement between the government in Manila and Muslim rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which traces the new “Bangsamoro” administrative entity on the island of Mindanao (southern Philippines), has reached the Philippine Congress which will examine and ratify it.
President Benigno Aquino, Jr. reaffirmed his will so that the draft agreement – reached after long negotiations with the MILF – is approved and enters into force. But, according to the PIME missionary Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, initiator of the “Silsilah” movement in Mindanao, “the road is still long”.
In fact, D’Ambra says to Fides, “there are numerous objections already circulating in Congress and it seems that the text will not have an easy life. The government has created a commission of experts and parliamentarians who will examine it in detail”.

The path towards the entry into force is so full of pitfalls and presents several uncertainties, the missionary said. “There is the presence of the other historic Islamic movement, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which claims space and presence. In addition, there is a radical group of the ‘Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters’, that rejects it because it would like a distinctly Islamic entity and could trigger new violence”. In addition, “President Aquino is not experiencing a happy political moment, some are trying to involve him in cases of corruption”, said Fr. D’Ambra. Christians and Muslims of “Silsilah” he concludes, “hope and pray for lasting peace, in respect of all religions and ethnic groups in Mindanao”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12 September 2014)

Silsilah Dialogue Centre advocates harmony in the Year of the Laity
6 September 2014

Zamboanga (Agenzia Fides) – Christians and Muslims must work together to promote a spirit of harmony especially in the difficult world of today faced with a new explosion of sectarian violence and radical Islamism in Iraq. Especially Catholics in the Philippines are called live the Gospel message of compassion in this Year of the Laity to commemorate the first arrival of the Christian faith in the Philippines: Fides received this Appeal from Silsilah Centre for Christian-Muslim Dialogue, in Zamboanga, on the island of Mindanao.

A leaflet distributed by the Centre with the title ‘September time to Remember ‘tells the stories of ordinary people, Muslims and Christians, who experienced the siege on 9 September 2013 in Zamboanga, when the Moro National Liberation Front put the area to fire and sword. Now today Silsilah hopes to underline the importance of harmony, supported with the spirituality of “dialogue –of – life-”. “In prayer we must remember what happened last year and pray for those who died and for those who still suffer the consequences” says Silsilah in the report sent to Fides. “Those events widened the gap between Muslims and Christians here. The new international situation of violence and radicalism is bound to affect the future of peace Mindanao. Silsilah reminds everyone at this critical moment to strive all the more to show reciprocal love and solidarity. We urge everyone to work to spread goodness” the report says.

The message is addressed in particular to local Catholics : Silsilah recalls: “Our Christian spirit is founded on love, compassion, forgiveness, solidarity and harmony. We urge Catholics in particular to live in this spirit, the Year of the Laity which celebrates the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. Lay members of the Church have a vocation to strive for a life of holiness following the spirit of Baptism”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 6 September 2014)