A three-day conference on evangelization took place in Manila during Pope Francis' Philippines visit, exploring the relationship between the beatitudes and evangelization in the southeast Asian nation.

In the light of the "Year of the Poor" and connecting to the papal visit theme "Mercy and Compassion," the second Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE II) explored the eight beatitudes given in the Gospel of Matthew.

More than 5,000 participants from more than 70 dioceses across the Philippines gathered Jan. 15- 17 at the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila.

Speaking to CNA Jan. 17, Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose said, "PCNE II is a spiritual experience that helps the participants understand that we are called to be blessed, in its true meaning, as modelled by Jesus."

"The Beatitudes given by Jesus are the ways and pathways to happiness," Bishop Mallari continued, saying that "what is important is that we have the humility to recognize our worthiness of God's grace, to really allow the grace of God to flow down us."

Bishop Mallari also said the coming of the Holy Father to the Philippines to meet his flock "is a big grace" for the country.

The 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization inspired the Filipino bishops to hold PCNE I the following year, focusing on rekindling the ardor of evangelization and renewal of faith experience in the region, while taking its cue from "Behold, God makes all things new."
PCNE II follows the same track, aiming to respond to the challenges of the first conference and tailoring responses to the Filipino context.

The Filipino bishops were also inspired by the beautitudes theme adopted by Pope Francis for World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016.

"PCNE II is also an opportunity to profoundly enter into a spiritual exercise in concert with Pope Francis' visit to our country, inviting us to concretely understand the terms mercy and compassion," Fr. Leo Distoro, parish priest of Our Lady of Remedios, told CNA Jan 17.

The conference was organized over three days, with the first day exploring the theme of "portrait of blessedness- encounter with Jesus,"  the second day dedicated to "pathways to blessedness- experience of the Church" and the final day focused on "program of blessedness- witnessing and mission."

Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila in his invitation message said  the year had witnessed several natural disasters but was also a "year of many graces."
Among those graces, Cardinal Tagle referred in particular to PCNE I, saying, "it provided hope against the rubble of natural calamities, escalating poverty, scandalizing corruption and worrisome violence."

At the closing of the symposium the participants pledged to use their phones for promoting evangelization, sending text messages of beatitudes to their contacts.