The poor remain “on the margins of the Church”

The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) admitted that the poor remain marginalized, even in the Church.

October 07, 2022

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, president of the Philippine Catholic Bishops’ Conference, at the Manila Cathedral on September 26, 2022. (Photo LiCas News/Archdiocese of Manila)

By Mark Saludes
The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) admitted that the poor remain marginalized, even in the Church.

“It was very humbling to admit that, despite [the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991] vision to promote a Church of the poor, … the poor remained not only on the margins of society but also on the margins of the Church,” said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David de Kalookan, President of CBCP.

In a recent speech at Manila Cathedral, the Prelate said the “most common remark” and the “painful one” that was generated during the synodal process was “the general impression that the poor felt discriminated against in their parishes.

“Many priests and lay leaders tend to be more welcoming to the wealthy and influential…. (The) most painful still was the common remark that many Church leaders, cleric or lay, do not bother to listen to their voice,” Bishop David said.

Bishop David said sectoral dialogues during the synodal process in the Philippines also revealed “a big trend” that many parishes are focusing only on “ecclesiastical” concerns.

“We have tended to limit lay involvement in the Church to service to the Church rather than service to society as members of a servant Church,” he said.

Archbishop David’s speech was part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), which, according to the Prelate, “in fact promotes greater synodality in the Church since its creation”.

He said the FABC has consistently insisted on a triple dialogue – with other religions, culture and the poor – that the Philippine Church must consider “how we got on” while reviewing the synodal experience.

Bishop David said it was ironic that the Philippine Catholic Church is at a disadvantage when it comes to interreligious dialogue due to “the fact that we are a predominantly Christian country.”
“[It] This is precisely why we tend to be less concerned about (dialogue) with other religions,” he said.

The Prelate said other religious communities were surprised “when we took the trouble to contact them” during the synod on synodality.

“Synodality with other religions is actually more than peaceful coexistence or even more than dialogue,” he said.

“It is also about proactively discovering spaces for partnerships and collaboration on opening up our grassroots church communities to promote not only grassroots Christian communities but grassroots human communities,” Bishop David said. LiCAS

Martha J. Finley