Pope Francis sees 'powerful missionary potential' in Philippines

Pope Francis laughing Philippines Mass Catholic News Agency Credit Alan Holdren CNA 11615 Pope Francis laughs during his Jan. 16 homily at Manila's Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. | Alan Holdren/CNA.

Pope Francis on Friday repeated his praise for the Philippines' Christians as he encouraged bishops, clergy, vowed religious and seminarians to proclaim the Gospel, identify with the poor and help the "broken in spirit."

"Filipino culture has, in fact, been shaped by the imagination of faith. Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary," he said in his homily at a Jan. 16 Mass. "This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential."

The Pope celebrated Mass for clergy, religious and seminarians at Manila's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. His homily called his congregation to self-examination and to reach out to all parts of society.

"We proclaim the Good News of God's infinite love, mercy and compassion," he said. "We proclaim the joy of the Gospel. For the Gospel is the promise of God's grace, which alone can bring wholeness and healing to our broken world. It can inspire the building of a truly just and redeemed social order."

The Church in the Philippines is "called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ," the Pope said.

He said individual Christians must follow the Gospel and "live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good." He also emphasized the need to create "circles of integrity" and "networks of solidarity" that can expand to "embrace and transform society by their prophetic witness."

The Pope exhorted bishops, priests and religious to welcome God's "reconciling grace." Citing St. Paul, he said this means "rejecting worldly perspectives and seeing all things anew in the light of Christ." This means "being the first to examine our consciences, to acknowledge our failings and sins, and to embrace the path of constant conversion."

"How can we proclaim the newness and liberating power of the Cross to others, if we ourselves refuse to allow the word of God to shake our complacency, our fear of change, our petty compromises with the ways of this world, our 'spiritual worldliness'?" Pope Francis asked.

He stressed the need to encounter the Lord in daily prayer and to find in community life "the incentive for an ever closer union with the Lord in perfect charity."

Conversion also means "means living lives that reflect the poverty of Christ, whose entire life was focused on doing the will of the Father and serving others."

He warned of the need to avoid materialism and to avoid complacency. This can be done "by becoming poor ourselves" and becoming able to identify with "the least of our brothers and sisters."

"We will see things in a new light and thus respond with honesty and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality."

The Pope especially encouraged young priests, young religious and young seminarians "to share the joy and enthusiasm of your love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers."

He said they should make themselves present to those who are "confused and despondent," who are "broken in spirit" and "tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets."

"Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family. As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God's plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture," he told the young men and women present.

Pope Francis noted the upcoming 500th centenary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines, which will take place in 2021. He voiced "gratitude for the legacy left by so many bishops, priests and religious of past generations."

"They labored not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Church in this country, but also to forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good," he said.

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Later on Friday Pope Francis was scheduled to meet with families at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila. He will depart the Philippines on Monday.

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