The Catholic bishops of the Philippines admitted flaws in their work of evangelization, saying that the Church in the country is still “far from our dream of a Church of the poor.”
“We saw gaps and closed doors in our work of evangelization. We saw shadows,” read a statement released by the Church leaders following the National Synodal Consultation held in Tagaytay City last week.
In 2021, Pope Francis formally opened a two-year process called “a synod on synodality,” officially known as the “Synod 2021-2023: For a Synodal Church.”
The process involves an expansion of an established institution, called the “Synod of Bishops,” with Church leaders around the world consulting with everyone before coming together for a discussion in 2023.
“With hope and faith in the mercy of the Lord, we commit ourselves to Synodality – looking, listening and loving as our way of proceeding, that we may grow into a humble, welcoming and inclusive Church in the Philippines,” read the Philippine bishops’ statement titled “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” from Psalm 133:1.
The bishops admitted that they “do not have all the answers to the many questions of our time” even as they recognize “the goodness and giftedness of our people and those who do not share our faith.”
They vowed to “open doors for us all to go out and set forth once again for mission” and “to seek out those who are far, different, excluded.”
In what they described as a “synodal journey,” the bishops said they will work “to encounter, listen and dialogue with our brothers and sisters of different denominations and faith” and “explore possibilities for positive engagement in the areas of ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, politics and social media.”
They then called for unity, particularly with those in peripheries, as they embarked on a “new mission.”
“We hear Pope Francis constantly calling for a Church whose members strive to live in unity and harmony (communion), participate (participation) in the life of the Church, and do not tire of seeking out the least, the lost and the last (mission),” said the Church leaders.
“This is a call to a Synodal Church – a Church that journeys together,” read the statement signed by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, conference president.
The statement of the Church leaders said they have responded to the call of a “synodal Church” starting in dioceses, prelatures and apostolic vicariates by “listening to one another, from different sectors down to the barangay level, especially those at the peripheries and those excluded from our church communities.”
During the consultations across the country, the bishops said they “heard strong voices calling us, our clergy, consecrated persons and lay collaborators to heed the call to conversion, to go out of our comfort zones, to be welcoming, to be transparent and accountable, to be more compassionate.”
The statement said that it means “opening wide the doors of encounter, listening and dialogue; the door of renewal of ourselves and the clergy; the door to greater witnessing of simplicity and humility; the doors of stewardship, good governance and care for creation; doors towards strengthening the faith formation and empowerment of the laity, and building up of our communities; the door of renewing our structures and ministries, – leaving behind those that do not help and embracing those that make us a community; doors that lead to building bridges, closing the gaps and promoting equality.”