Catholic priest Robert Reyes, who is known as the Philippines’ “running priest” for his penchant to run for various causes, said it is time for the Catholic Church in the country “to walk the talk.”
“The Church has lost its moral voice. It is now too complacent, too relaxed, and too devotional that it is losing its capacity to walk with the youth and the poor,” said the priest.
He said most Filipino Catholic faithful “forgot that devotion also involves work, your hands and feet, and not only the mouth.”
“It’s not just about praying, but also walking the talk,” said Father Reyes in an interview with LiCAS News.
On Sunday, June 12, during the occasion of the observance of the country’s Independence Day, the priest led a two-hour religious procession with his “Mission Pilgrim Cross of the Next 500 Years.”
Father Reyes carried a crucifix that shows the three stars and the sun of the Philippine flag. The most striking elements of the crucifix are the missing hands and feet of Jesus.
The priest said he commissioned renowned ecclesiastical sculptor and painter Willy Tadeo Layug to work on a mission cross and gave the artist the freedom to reflect on the situation of the Church.
Father Reyes said he told Layug how the people “cannot rely on the previous 500 years (of Christianity in the country) anymore.”
“So, that’s what [the crucifix] tells us, that we have to work hard to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” said the priest.
He said the crucifix also shows how “the mission is so demanding that it will consume us.”
“If the first 500 years required a lot of preaching, talking, and walking, the next 500 years will demand even more,” said Father Reyes.
He said the “evangelization of social media” is one of the many things that the Church has to work on “in the new era of mission.”
“When you have to tell the truth, you do not only tell it from the pulpit, but you have to also show it on social media,” he said, adding that the youth are “no longer attracted to the Church” because they are online.
“Even if you are preaching the Good News, there’s an organized troll farm who is speaking otherwise, and the youth tend to believe it more,” said Father Reyes.
He said he plans to plant 500 crosses in 500 parishes in the country, and hopefully around the world, and recruit 500 young people who will become missionaries in the next 500 years.
The priest started walking in September last year and had planted 25 crosses in the provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan.
He said he will plant more crosses this month — one on June 19, the birthday of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, while the other one will be planted on June 21, the death anniversary of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila.
“We have to remember history, we have to recover the principles of our heroes and martyrs,” said Father Reyes.
“Now, some people are privileged enough to get tired sitting and watching movies on Netflix and not get tired from walking with the youth and the poor,” he said.
He said he is “not crazy enough” to come up with a timeline, but his wish is to present the 500th cross to Pope Francis in the Vatican.
“It’s not a race against time, I still have 500 years to do it,” said the “running priest.”
The Philippines celebrated 500 years of Christianity in the country in 2021 to mark the arrival of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.