FOR the first time ever, the chair of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, who is also the Obispo Maximo (Supreme Bishop) of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (which is colloquially referred to as the Aglipayan Church because its first Supreme Bishop was Rev. Monsignor Gregorio Aglipay), has lauded the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church Pope Francis.
In a statement distributed to media titled “Ecumenical Leader in an Inter-Religious Gathering with Pope Francis” and signed by the NCCP Chairperson, The Most Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana, and Rev. Rex RB. Reyes, Jr., called Pope Francis’ meeting with religious leaders of various a significant milestone and praised him for his “generous heart and immeasurable compassion.”
The full text of the NCCP statement follows:
The unprecedented gathering of religious leaders in the Philippines with His Holiness Pope Francis underscores a significant milestone in the ecumenical movement that aims, among others, to foster inter-religious cooperation and unity committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel call to faithfulness and justice.
The Most Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana, Chairperson of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and Obispo Maximo XII of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, expressed his full appreciation of His Holiness’ public emphasis to the importance of the least ones and the Gospel imperative to seek justice and peace in the world.
“We are a country of a few rich and many poor and those who seek to defend the human rights of the vulnerable are now defending themselves from various forms of abuses and perpetrators remain at large with impunity.” shares OM Fajutagana. He further narrates that these injustices and social inequality are the roots of the armed conflict that the people wish to be resolved through the resumption of talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front. OM Fajutagana appeals to His Holiness to add his voice in calling both parties to return to the negotiating table and honor previous agreements in attaining a just and lasting peace in our country.
NCCP has also found a co-servant in rebuilding the lives, shelter and livelihood of those affected by Typhoon Yolanda majority of whom are the poorest. With a country extremely vulnerable to natural disasters exacerbated by government neglect and intrusion of political and vested interests into the relief and rehabilitation response, the cycle of violence and victimization continues unabated. He further praised His Holiness for his generous heart and immeasurable compassion despite the odds of traveling under a bad weather in Leyte last January 17.
“We give thanks to God that you have come among our people with a Gospel heart full of compassion for the poor. We praise God for your humility and faith, and ask God that just as your presence has blessed our nation, that the people of the Philippines may also be God’s blessing to you. Our Council and our member churches will continue to hold Your Holiness in our prayers as you continue to speak truth to power.” discloses Rev. Rex Reyes, NCCP General Secretary.
This memorable gathering of religious leaders paves the way for more opportunities of dialogue and cooperation in the various concerns afflicting the poor and an inspiration to make a pulsating reality the Church of and for the Poor.