Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle was not surprised with the way President Benigno Aquino 3rd lashed out at some members of the clergy in front of Pope Francis on Friday during the pontiff’s courtesy call at Malacañang.
Tagle noted that President Aquino’s penchant to blame the previous administration on the problems he has inherited is an old refrain.
“Filipinos can attest to this: In many of his speeches since becoming president, he has always referred to the previous administration on how he has inherited some of the problems that the former administration was not able to address,” Tagle said.
“So I heard of that speech today, while the silence of some bishops was mentioned, I think it was still a commentary on the previous administration,” he added.
He said that Aquino’s motivation to come up with his message to the Pope was deeply personal and shaped by political experience during martial law.
“My impression is this, I think he was coming from a deeply personal experience… his own suffering during martial law and his appreciation for the role of the Church during that time, but also there is that political dimension,” the cardinal explained.
On Friday, Aquino blasted some prelates who have been critical of his administration, but who have been silent during the crisis of the previous administration.
“Perhaps we had grown so accustomed to having this Church, always at the forefront of championing the rights of all, especially those of the marginalized, that we found it hard to understand its transformation. We were taught that the Catholic Church is the true church, and that there is constancy, for it upholds the truth at all times,” Aquino said.
“Hence, there was a true test of faith when many members of the Church, once advocates for the poor, the marginalized, and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration’s abuses, which we are still trying to rectify to this very day. In these attempts at correcting the wrongs of the past, one would think that the Church would be our natural ally. In contrast to their previous silence, some members of the clergy now seem to think that the way to be true to the faith means finding something to criticize, even to the extent that one prelate admonished me to do something about my hair, as if it were a mortal sin. Is it any wonder then, that they see the glass not as half-full, or half-empty, but almost totally empty. Judgment is rendered without an appreciation of the facts.”
Tagle appealed to Filipino people not to give so much attention to Aquino’s speech and instead focus on the apostolic visit of Pope Francis.
He explained that the Pope will not stay for a lifetime in the Philippines, but the president will always be in the country.
“My first appeal to all of us is, while the speech of the president is important, I hope we will not lose focus on the Pope because he would stay for only for a few days while the president is here to stay. We can continue exploring his speech even after the Holy Father returns to the Vatican,” he said.
However, he said that the best person who can explain the speech of the president “is the president himself.”
Meanwhile, Tagle allowed the cancellation of masses in Manila on Sunday due to the scheduled Eucharistic celebra-tion of Pope Francis at the Luneta Park.
In a circular, Tagle noted that the Holy Father will highlight his apostolic visit to the Philippines with a Holy Eucharist at Luneta on January 18, the Feast of the Sto. Niño, at 3:30 p.m.
“We understand the desire of our faithful to be part of this celebration by personally attending this event at Luneta or through television and other live feeds,” Tagle said.
“Thus we are allowing the cancellation of the afternoon masses in all churches, shrines and chapels in the Archdiocese of Manila,” he added.
However, the prelate encouraged priests, rectors and chaplains to inform their parishioners about the cancellation of masses ahead of time, and to celebrate additional masses in the evening of Saturday, January 17.
“By whatever means we join in communion with the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on earth, let us open our hearts to the immeasurable grace of this visit and allow his message of mercy and compassion to enter deep into our hearts and be seen in our lives. Let us accept Jesus in him,” he said.