Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, warned against “fake news”, urging people to instead help spread the Good News.
In his homily during the first of the traditional Filipino nine-day Christmas Mass on Dec. 16, the cardinal also called on Filipinos to witness and testify for Jesus and the truth.
“We need angels. We need the heavenly hosts … to make that announcement,” he told hundreds of people who attended the Advent recollection.
He asked churchgoers to re-asses their excitement over Christmas, using humor to tell those in attendance that the season is not about gifts and cash bonuses.
“Are you even still excited about Jesus? I think you are excited about the bonus. As long as there’s a bonus, even without Jesus, it’s still Christmas,” he said.
The cardinal said that in some nativity scene displays, the images of the Holy Family are replaced by boxes and gifts.
“Why? Did Mary give birth to a box? Did Archangel Gabriel promised Mary that she will bear a box and we will call him ‘Christmas?'” said Cardinal Tagle, drawing laughter from churchgoers.
He said people should accept the mission to witness and testify for Jesus, not embrace material things or the lies that spread beyond the Christmas season.
He told the congregation that Jesus died because of “false testimonies and false witness.”
The cardinal also warned that when the public propagates false information about others, they somewhat “kill” that person.
“Will you be bearers of false, fake news that brings about death? It would seem that a person is experiencing being ‘killed’ everyday if they become the subjects of false news and testimonies,” he said.
“Even if they are physically alive, you are killing another person because you are killing their peace of mind because of fake news,” he added.
The cardinal said the Simbang Gabi, the traditional nine-day early morning Mass before Christmas, aims to honor the Virgin Mary’s conception of Jesus.
“It’s like we are accompanying Mary in her nine months of carrying Jesus. And while we are accompanying her, we are learning from Mary on how to welcome and to have Jesus in our lives,” he said.
The dawn Masses are also called Misa de Gallo, or Mass of the rooster, because they are celebrated as the rooster crows at the crack of dawn.
The tradition originates from 1587 in Mexico, when the pope granted the petition of Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the convent of San Agustin Acolman, to hold Christmas Mass outdoors.
Soria petitioned the pope for an outdoor Mass to accommodate the huge number of people that overflowed from the church during the evening Mass.
When the Spanish conquistadors landed in the Philippines, the dawn Masses were introduced.