THE millions of pesos spent and all the hard work that went with the five-day visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines will be for naught if it will be business as usual for Filipinos after the pontiff goes back to Rome today.
Without mincing words, the Pope has left strong messages to almost all sectors of society. He spoke from his heart, and he made us feel his love and compassion.
His message that reverberates most, I believe, is his challenge to “everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community.”
His denunciation of the “glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities” as well as his call for a “conversion of mind and heart” to reform the social structures that perpetuate poverty ought to be heeded, particularly by government economic planners and corporate leaders.
The 78-year-old Pontiff gave the impression that he has been well aware of what has been happening in the Philippines as he said: “As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good. In this way they will help preserve the rich human and natural resources with which God has blessed this country.”
That statement should have shaken crooked politicians present at the Malacañang Palace Rizal Hall when the Pope delivered it.
It was also an indirect call on the electorate to reject corrupt politicians and vote for those who exemplify honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.
In his homily at the Mass for the religious leaders in Manila Cathedral, the Pope called attention to the gospel for Christians “to live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good.” Tough call indeed.
The Pope’s mention of the “oft-neglected yet real contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live” should draw government attention to at least 15 million Filipinos separated from their families to work overseas and recognize their significant contribution to government coffers of roughly $12 billion a year in remittances.
On the protracted efforts to forge peace in Mindanao, the Pope had this to say: “I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.”
With the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law still being finalized in Congress, the statement should guide policy makers on how to achieve genuine lasting peace in southern Philippines.
Castigating the clergy at the Manila Cathedral, the Pope’s words were resonating: reject worldly perspectives and see things all anew in the light of Christ.
To make sure that his message is understood, he said: “It means being the first to examine our consciences, to acknowledge our failings and sins, and to embrace the path of constant conversion. How can we proclaim the newness and liberating power of the Cross to others, if we ourselves refuse to allow the word of God to shake our complacency, our fear of change, our petty compromises with the ways of this world, our spiritual worldliness.”
Further, he said: “For all of us, it means living lives that reflect the poverty of Christ, whose entire life was focused on doing the will of the Father and serving others. The great danger to this, of course, is a certain materialism which can creep into our lives and compromise the witness we offer. Only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters. We will see things in a new light and thus respond with honesty and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality.”
Obviously annoyed by the issue of same-sex unions, the Pope spoke in all of his public speeches about what he termed as “ideological colonization” in his “Encounter with Families” at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
In his homily at the Cathedral, he mentioned the “confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family” which, he said, “are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”
The humility and charisma with that certain smile endear Pope Francis to people, even non-Catholics. Tens of thousands, probably even millions of Filipinos lined the streets for hours just to catch a glimpse of him as his convoy drove past them at every turn.
Television footages show people wildly cheering for the Pope wherever he went during his five-day state and apostolic visit that ends today. When he started his Homily at the Manila Cathedral mass for the religious leaders with a question, “Do you love me?” the Pope got a roaring “yes” from the crowd gathered inside and outside.
We can only hope that the resounding “yes” would be translated into a commitment and action to keep and live by the Pope’s words.
As the Pope goes back home to the Vatican, it is time to reflect on his words and live with and by those. We cannot just always rant and whine about the past. As Pope Francis said, we must “get up and act.”
Long live Pope Francis! Yes, we love you…very much!