POSTSCRIPT / December 27, 2020 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Duterte must heed his own message

“LET us allow Christ into our lives so that we could bring love and cheer not only to our families and friends but also to those who are most in need,” President Duterte said in his Christmas message.

The President’s admonition and his focusing on the loss of lives due to natural causes like the COVID-19 pandemic and calamities reminded us instead of the victims of state brutality and the culture of violence erupting in our midst.

We think the President’s call to “allow Christ into our lives” should be sent back as the people’s message and reminder to him.

By coincidence, Malacañang was jolted on Christmas Day by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake with epicenter in Batangas. Hours later, a quake of magnitude 5.3 hit Davao where Duterte was reportedly with his original wife Elizabeth Zimmerman.

Duterte also said in his message: “Let the story of Jesus Christ’s birth remind us that we should always have hope even in darkness, poverty and suffering. May we all have a meaningful celebration and let us be hopeful for the better days ahead.”

We join men of goodwill in hoping for President Duterte’s conversion and good health. Like many of us in these trying times, the 75-year-old Chief Executive must be very tired.

In the Vatican, meanwhile, Pope Francis delivered the traditional Urbi et Orbi (“To the City [of Rome] and the World”) on Christmas Day in the Hall of Benediction of St. Peter’s Basilica with a limited gathering of the faithful in view of the pandemic.

The Philippines, which is the third among five countries with the biggest Catholic population, merited mention together with Vietnam in a paragraph in the 1,400-word message of the Holy Father.

Near the end, the Pope said: “May the King of Heaven protect all victims of natural disasters in Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines and Vietnam, where numerous storms have caused flooding, with devastating repercussions on families in terms of loss of life, harm to the environment and consequences for local economies.”

The five biggest Catholic nations in the world are:

1. Brazil, with 170 million Catholics, or about 79 percent of its 213 million population, was the first country visited by Pope Francis. In July 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, for the largest World Youth Day in history, about three million people attended.

2. Mexico has 111 million Catholics, comprising 86 percent of its 129 million population. It has been three years since the Pope traveled there and was welcomed by millions.

3. The Philippines, a former colony of Spain for three centuries, has some 87 million Catholics, the biggest number in Asia. Visiting in 2015, Pope Francis was welcomed with great warmth and joy even as a typhoon raged. Some 81 percent of its 109 million population are Catholics.

4. United States, the most populous country in the Americas with more than 331 million, has 55 million Catholics. Many are Hispanic and others descendants of Irish and Italian immigrants.

5. Italy, fifth in the world ranking, is also the European country with the biggest number of Catholics. It has about 50 million baptized Catholics, 83 percent of its 60 million population.

By percentages, however, the country with the highest density of Catholics is the Vatican, with 100 percent of its 802 population Catholic.

In his message, Pope Francis said: “I would like to bring to everyone the message that the Church proclaims on this feast with the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘To us a child is born, to us a son is given.

“A child is born. A birth is always a source of hope; it is life that blossoms, a promise of the future. Moreover, this Child, Jesus, was born ‘to us’: an ‘us’ without any borders, privileges or exclusions. The Child born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem was born for everyone: he is the ‘son’ that God has given to the entire human family. Thanks to this Child, all of us can speak to God and call him ‘Father’.

“At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters. God has made this fraternal unity possible, by giving us his Son Jesus.

“The fraternity he offers us has nothing to do with fine words, abstract ideals, or vague sentiments. It is a fraternity grounded in genuine love, making it possible for me to encounter others different from myself, feeling compassion for their sufferings, drawing near to them, and caring for them even though they do not belong to my family, my ethnic group, or my religion. For all their differences, they are still my brothers and sisters. The same thing is true of relationships between peoples and nations: brothers and sisters all!

“At Christmas we celebrate the light of Christ who comes into the world; he comes for everyone, not just for some. Today, in this time of darkness and uncertainty regarding the pandemic, various lights of hope appear, such as the discovery of vaccines. But for these lights to illuminate and bring hope to all, they need to be available to all.

“Nor can we allow the virus of radical individualism to get the better of us and make us indifferent to the suffering of other brothers and sisters. I cannot place myself ahead of others, letting the law of the marketplace and patents take precedence over the law of love and the health of humanity.

“I ask everyone – government leaders, businesses, international organizations – to foster cooperation and not competition, and to seek a solution for everyone: vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet. Before all others: the most vulnerable and needy!”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 27, 2020)

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