THE CATHOLIC Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has called for creativity in spreading the gospel, as the Church undergoes a “crisis of relevance” in its evangelization efforts.
“Creativity in evangelization is the call of the times,” Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communication, pointed out during the opening of the commission’s three-day National Media Convention in Tagaytay on Monday.
Vergara said the Church as steward of its flock has a major role to play amid reforms sought by President Rodrigo Duterte, which include, among others, eradicating illegal drugs and graft and corruption, improving peace and order and uplifting the economic status of all citizens.
The prelate pointed to anxious and fearful sentiments over extrajudicial killings, the violation of human rights, and the filing of anti-life and anti-family bills like death penalty and divorce.
“With all these issues before us, can the Church still play a pivotal role in asserting her influence to promote the gospel values?” he asked, adding that “The question becomes doubly significant since there seems to be an observation that the Church is currently undergoing a crisis of relevance in her mission of evangelization.”
Vergara narrated an observation by a priest in connection with the last presidential election, that despite voter-education efforts to encourage the faithful in choosing a candidate that would uphold Catholic principles, Duterte still came out as the winner.
It may be recalled that a week before the May 9 presidential election, CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas called on Filipino voters to be discerning, warning them against candidates who were morally unfit.
Villegas did not name names but he was apparently referring to Duterte, who had cursed Pope Francis for causing heavy traffic during his 2015 visit.
During the campaign, Duterte admitted to killing criminals and vowed to wipe out drug addicts and other offenders within three to six months.
“[T]he results of the elections reveal that whatever has been said against him have landed on deaf ears, so to speak. It may be an indication of how distant we are, as Church leaders, from the pulse of the faithful. It seems we are not in touch with the people. Are they still listening to the Church?” Vergara said.
“Are we still relevant as a Church? And if we think and feel we are not, how can we be relevant to face the challenges confronting us? To answer this, let me respond with three words: Identity, Possibility and Creativity,” he added said.
He explained these three points by saying that Christians need to recognize that their identity draws from God’s mercy; that Church leaders need to explore new possibilities that can make their work grow and flourish; and that creativity is needed to evangelize young people immersed in an electronic, digital milieu.
“[I]f we recognize our identity borne out of the mercy and compassion of God, then our way of being social communicators would always be done not out cynicism but sensitivity, not out of rash judgment but understanding and not out of hate but love,” Vergara said.