.- On May 29, at the Philippine Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Manila, representatives from both the Vatican and the Philippines exchanged an agreement signed April 17, 2007 regarding the care of historic Catholic churches in the region.
The agreement, signed by Pope Benedict XVI and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was ratified at a ceremony which took place at the Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City last month.
At the event, Archbishop Edward J. Adams, Philippine apostolic nuncio, assured the Vatican’s commitment to “mutual cooperation” for the proper care of old churches that the Philippine Catholic church has maintained for the past 400 years.
He continued by explaining to the Filipino Catholic Bishops’ Conference that the agreement is a major move in ensuring the protection of the country’s old churches “which the church continues to utilize for its pastoral activities and evangelization.”
Albert G. Romulo, foreign minister of the Republic of the Philippines, said that both countries have made strides toward preserving the “value of symbols of spirituality.”
“Such symbols of the Filipinos faith remain vital in continuously shaping and molding positive character and strengthening an individual and the people’s beliefs and devotions,” Romulo said.
In addition, the pact also discusses the implementation of the regulation of Church properties through property inventory, restoration, anti-trafficking, custody and security, archiving and promotion of tourism in the heritage sites.
Vatican participants in the ceremony included Cardinal Gaudencio B. Rosales, archbishop of Manila, and Bishop Julito B. Cortes, auxiliary of Cebu and president of the Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church in the Philippines.
Philippine government officials who attended are Carmen Padilla, head of the national commission for UNESCO; Emelita V. Almosara, counselor of the National Historical Institute, and Angel Bautista, head curator of the cultural property section of the National Museum.
The pact went into effect on the day that the agreement was exchanged, May 29.