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Lord Save Us! We Are Perishing! (Matthew 8:25)

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Lord Save Us! We Are Perishing! (Matthew 8:25)

Pastoral Letter for the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan to be read as homily for all Masses for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 15 and 16, 2024

 Beloved people of God in the Church of Lingayen Dagupan:

 The threat is no longer imagined.  It is no longer mere conjecture.  There is evidence of insidious attempts by a foreign power that governs by an ideology that recognizes no God and keeps all religion and the practice of faith under the heavy heel of its totalitarian boot to “trample our sacred shores.” 

 China is a Threat

 The network of agents it maintains and is capable of deploying, including those involved in espionage and even subversive activity, will not be denied by anyone who makes it his business to keep himself abreast of disturbing news reports.  The People’s Republic of China shows neither fear nor does it exhibit hesitation in inching menacingly close to the Philippines.  Lately, its provocative actions against the Philippine Coast Guard vessels at the Escoda Shoal place it well within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.  Not only are our maritime zones usurped and our fishermen evicted from their fishing grounds.  Our marine environment is relentlessly wrecked as China endeavors to convert features into islands and militarized platforms.

Even closer to home, the possibility that the government has been infiltrated by persons on Beijing’s payroll or fellow Filipinos who have received favors in various forms from it puts the very sovereignty and independence of our country on the line.  The investigations conducted both by the House of Representatives and the Senate have made clear that due to the lackadaisical, if not criminal, conduct of many government personnel, it is not impossible for foreigners with malicious intent to acquire documentation allowing them not only entry but residence in the Philippines, perhaps even to pass themselves off as natural-born Filipino citizens and thus qualify for public office.

Grave Moral Concerns

These are political, military and security issues, but there should be no doubt that profoundly moral issues are involved.

First:  There is the moral issue of the interests of Filipinos in securing themselves and their future through the resources that the Creator has made available to them and that the laws of humankind recognize to be theirs.  It is certainly a moral issue that many fisher folk have been deprived of the abundance that once allowed them at least a decent existence, and that has now forced them to rummage through the leftovers of Chinese poachers and encroachers.

Second: There is the moral issue of safeguarding a way of life that upholds the right of persons to believe and to practice their faith without any interference from the State, and the right of the Filipino nation to be shielded from the onslaught of agents of an atheistic ideology.  There is the moral issue of jealously guarding that independence by which we have laid down for ourselves a system of law that recognizes fundamental rights and will not sacrifice them at the altar of any political or ideological party.

Third: There is the moral issue underscored by Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Si’, that calls the attention of all Catholics, in fact, of all humanity, to our responsibility for “our common home” and to defend nature against destructive forces – particularly greed and arrogance.

 Our Faith Moves Us to Respond

 The Church must respond – and she must respond as Church.  This means that we will find the confidence to take a firm stand because of our conviction that if God is with us, no power can ever prevail against us!

By Prayer

We recall that at the height of Soviet power, when it seemed invincible and it had won over close to a third of the world’s population to its ideology, we were assured by Our Lady of Fatima that if we armed ourselves with the Rosary, “Russia would be converted” – and the Blessed Mother did keep her promise.  This is not superstition, because it is through meditating on the mysteries of our Salvation, as we move through the beads of the Rosary, that we are configured into the mind and heart of God who has revealed himself in his Son Jesus whose saving work it is on which we meditate.

Even the EDSA people power of 1986 was preceded by the Marian Year of 1985 when we prayed and fasted and lived in solidarity with the poor.

Let us do it again! The rosary is simple and small and powerful like the mustard seed in the Gospel.

I then ask all the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan to join in – and invite others to do likewise – a Rosary Campaign from June 27 to the Solemnity of the Assumption on August 15.

I also appeal to our Catholic faithful to fast whenever they can and to do penance, above all by approaching the Sacrament of Penance, but also by performing other acts of penance and supererogation, with particular intensity, within this same period.

I invite Catholics throughout the country and especially in the Ecclesiastical Province of Lingayen-Dagupan to join us.

By Action

But I also make a call to faith-inspired action:

Dear lawmakers: Be resolute in your investigations and forthright in your report to the nation, and bring to light the extent to which our government and national and local institutions have been infiltrated by agents and lackeys of the People’s Republic of China.

Dear prosecutors and judges: Be loyal to your oaths of office as administrators of justice to see to the prosecution and punishment of all who have made a mockery of legal and administrative processes to enable foreign elements to prejudice our national security and our interests as a nation.

Dear heroic and brave uniformed men and women who patrol our waters, escort our fishermen, assert our claims and defend our territory and its waters. May you receive all the support that the government can give you and that our people are able to. Take courage. Defend our seas and our people. Be the heroes we need now!

Even as I laud the courageous fishermen who joined the recent flotilla – no matter how humble the vessels may have been – in asserting the sovereign rights of the Philippines over the disputed waters, I call on every Filipino, particularly those in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan to stand proud and tall and not to cower in fear lest our sacred rights be trampled on.

Stop the POGOs! It is time to end the regime of Philippine Off-Shore Gaming Operators.  Whatever benefits that allow them to operate may have been promised are overshadowed completely by the threat they carry with them – and in fact, the dreadful harm of their presence.  The recent raids that revealed the extent of the evil at these POGO hubs – including incidences of human trafficking and torture and money laundering – make it a moral imperative that no longer should they be granted the protection of the law and that they, in fact, should be outlawed.

May God be honored by all that we do for our country, our people and their future; for our faith and our Church, for the freedom to believe and the freedom to worship as we believe!

May the power of the rosary preserve our nation’s faith and freedom! May the power of the rosary crush the serpent’s head! May the power of the rosary drive away Satan’s power from our shores!

“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me.

 Amen.”

From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, June 16, 2024, Worldwide Celebration of Fathers’ Day

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

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